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Falcon 9 rocket test-fired ahead of station cargo launch – Spaceflight Now

A plume of exhaust appears from the pad 40 Friday evening as the SpaceX test-fires the Falcon 9 rocket's nine Merlin engines. Credit: Steven Young / Spaceflight Now

SpaceX test-fired and Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral Friday evening, igniting nine Merlin engines for several seconds while hold-down restraints kept the launcher on the ground. (19659003) The instantaneous launch opportunity Wednesday is set for 6:24 pm EDT (2224 GMT), roughly the moment Earth's rotation brings Cape Canaveral under the orbital plane of the International Space Station

A Dragon cargo capsule previously flown on two resupply missions to the station in April 2015 and December 2017 will ride into orbit on top of the Falcon 9 launcher. If the launch and rendezvous go according to plan, the automated supply carrier will arrive at the space station early Friday with several tons of cargo, food and experiments.

It's the first time that SpaceX has flown a Dragon Capsule three times. Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX's vice president of construction and flight reliability, said earlier this year that the first-generation Dragon Spacecraft – set for retirement next year – is capable of flying to three missions in space.

18th launch to resupply the space station under a $ 3.04 billion freight transport contract with NASA. First signed in 2008, the deal covers 20 resupply missions, and SpaceX also holds separate multibillion-dollar NASA contracts for additional supply deliveries in the early 2020s, and for the development of the Crew Dragon Capsule designed to carry both cargo and astronauts [19659003] SpaceX will return the Falcon 9 launcher to its hangar at pad 40 over the weekend for attachment of the Dragon cargo craft.

The Falcon 9's first stage will return to Cape Canaveral for a racket-assisted touchdown at Landing Zone 1 around eight minutes after liftoff Wednesday evening.

The hold-down firing occurred at 6 pm EDT (2200 GMT) Friday after SpaceX worked through technical issues that delayed the test from earlier in the week. SpaceX originally planned to conduct the static fire test Tuesday, and the Falcon 9 launch team loaded the rocket with propellants before apparently aborting the mock countdown.

The troubles that delayed the static fire test also forced SpaceX to push back the mission's launch from Sunday to Wednesday.

Items drained for delivery to the station inside the Dragon's pressurized cabin include a 3D BioFabrication Facility developed by Techshot, an Indiana-based company that demonstrates printing soft tissue in microgravity, and capability researchers view as a stepping stone

A habitat carrying 40 female mice will also launch within SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft. The capsula will return to Earth with 30 of the mice to Earth after approximately one month in orbit, and specimens from the mice will be distributed to medical and biologists to investigate how spaceflight affected the animals

The other 10 mice will remain on

The third International Docking Adapter, designed to accommodate commercial crew vehicles built by Boeing and SpaceX, was loaded inside the trunk of the SpaceX's Dragon cargo ship in June. Credit: NASA / Isaac Watson

The Dragon will also deliver a new docking adapter that will be used by SpaceX and Boeing commercial crew capsules to link up with the space station

The International Docking Adapter-3, or IDA- 3, was built by Boeing to replace a unit lost during a SpaceX launch failure in 2015. SpaceX successfully delivered IDA-2 to the station in 2016, and the new docking mechanism was first used in March by SpaceX's Crew Dragon Spacecraft on an unpiloted test

The robotic arm's space station will pull IDA-3 out of the Dragon's cargo capsule's rear payload bay and place it on the space-facing zenith port of the Harmony module's space station, allowing Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter : @ StephenClark1 .

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