Saturday, December 4, 2010

Testing 1, 2, 3 ...

Click the above arrow to watch video of the SpaceX Falcon 9 test-fire. Adobe Flash Player required.

It's final exam time for the fall semester, and it seems to be final exam time in the space business too.

After a couple of aborts, SpaceX successfully completed a test fire this morning of its Falcon 9 rocket at Launch Complex 40. The first attempt yesterday was aborted due to a high-pressure reading in one of the Merlin engines. A second attempt at 9:30 AM today aborted due to a low-pressure reading in the same engine. But attempt #3 at 10:50 AM was successful.

Up the Cape Road at Launch Complex 39-A, it's still an incomplete grade for STS-133 with Discovery. NASA has been unable to determine the cause of small cracks in the foam on the external tank. Mindful that a chunk of foam broke off shortly after the STS-107 liftoff which eventually led to the destruction of Columbia upon re-entry, NASA wants to completely understand this phenomenon before proceeding with a launch.

The earliest Discovery can launch is February 3, pushing back STS-134 with Endeavour to April.

Launched last April 22, the Air Force's X-37B landed at Vandenberg AFB on December 3 from its lengthy test flight. The unmanned military spaceplane's mission is classified.

The X-37B is a descendant of the X-20 Dyna-Soar project which ran from October 1957 until December 1963. It never flew, but the Dyna-Soar was envisioned to be an orbital military spaceplane. It's the ancestor of the Space Shuttle orbiter design as well.

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