by Katrina Hapner, Contributing write for Telegraph Local
Ahead of the weekend, on Friday the 13th of December, SpaceX test-fired the Falcon 9 rocket. The rocket has been used twice and is planned for a third use this week to launch a very hefty next communications satellite into orbit. The test-fire took place at the Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Friday’s test-fire occurred at approximately 1:20 p.m. EST. This short test-fire is known as a static-fire test and is something that is done during every prelaunch. At some point while the test is taking place, the rocket’s first stage is held down so that the engines can be fired up briefly so that launch crews can make sure that the rocket is working correctly and is ready to go for launch.
Falcon 9 is a two-stage-to-orbit medium lift launch vehicle designed and made by SpaceX. The Merlin Engines, also a SpaceX product, powers the Falcon 9 burning liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene. Its makers named it after the Millennium Falcon. Falcon 9 is the “first orbital class rocket capable of reflight” according to SpaceX website. For SpaceX, the breakthrough of resuseable rockets is key for the goal of reducing the cost of space travel and exploration and habitation of other planets.
The first time this reuse of a rocket was achieved was December of 2015 with flight 20. Before this, rockets were expendable launch systems and not resuseable. Falcon 9 is capable of launching up to 50,300 pounds to a low orbit of Earth. SpaceX was given a Commercial Resupply Services contract in 2008 with NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services to deliver cargo to the International Space Station using Falcon 9. The goal for SpaceX is to have the Falcon 9 become certified for human-rated transportation to carry NASA astronauts to ISS as part of the Commercial Crew Development Program. At the moment, the rocket carries the category 3 certification, which allows it to be used to launch the most expensive and important NASA missions.
Tonight between 7 and 8 p.m. EST, the Falcon 9 will be used to launch the CSAT 18/Kacific 1 commercial communications satellite. This satellite will give broadband coverage to the Pacific Islands as well as Japan. The satellite that was built by Boeing and owned by Kacific Broadband Satellites Group weighs in at 15,335 pounds. It will be put into geostationary orbit during separation from the Falcon’s second stage. The Kacific1 satellite will allow under-covered nations with spread out populations to gain broadband connectivity. In a news release, Kacific stated that “Many of these nations are archipelagos or have rugged mountain ranges and large rural territories, making satellite technology the best – and sometimes only – way to connect to the internet and phone networks.” This satellite will be vital for healthcare workers, and during natural disasters that plague the areas. The test-fire on the 13th of December was apparently a success according to a tweet sent out by SpaceX , and the launch set for tonight will proceed as planned.