Fire in the Hole! Credit : SpaceX


SpaceX Completes Hotfire, Congress Set to Torch Commercial Crew

SpaceX successfully completed a 2 second “hotfire” test of its Falcon 9 booster at Cape Canaveral yesterday, setting the stage for Friday’s launch to the International Space Station. This mission, known as CRS-2 is the second under the $1.6 billion Commercial Resupply Services Contract which calls for a minimum of 12 flights to the orbiting outpost.

Following Monday’s test, Elon Musk tweeted that everything looked good with “parameters nominal, “ and the engines generating 433 tons of thrust. In the wake of an apparent thrust chamber breach on the most recent flight to ISS, it is a safe bet that the last segment of the first stage burn will be of particular interest. If all goes as planned, this will be the last launch of the first edition Falcon 9 V1.0 and the Merlin 1c engine, which is due to be replaced in June by a Falcon 9 V1.1, powered by the new Merlin 1D engine.

Besides any extra scrutiny brought on by the engine issue, Friday’s launch is also likely to generate an unusual degree of interest, coming as it will, only two days after a press conference scheduled for tomorrow at the National Press Club in which Dennis Tito is expected to announce plans for a privately funded Mars flyby mission beginning in January 2018. According to reports, the 501 day mission would be launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon Heavy with a crew of two, aboard a specially modified version of the manned Dragon capsule, called DragonRider.

As if that were not enough, the launch also comes on the day of the deadline for budget sequestration making for a stark contrast between one government program which has produced impressive results on a comparative shoestring budget; NASA’s COTS and CRS, and an overall budgetary process which has become a national embarrassment.

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