Space Launch Complex-40 (SLC-40) is back in business after supporting a successful Falcon-9 static test fire on Dec 6 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, where SpaceX is currently preparing the booster to launch an un-crewed Dragon spacecraft with about 4,800 pounds of goods to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA.
SLC-40 has been out of service for over a year, since Sep 2016, when another Falcon-9 rocket exploded on the pad during a similar countdown “dress rehearsal”, taking their customer’s AMOS-6 satellite with it.
BELOW: SpaceX CRS-13 Test Fire
Improvements to the Transporter-Erector, flame trench and water system will help the new pad withstand more abuse, longer test fires and support a higher launch rate. SpaceX hopes to turn the pad around between launches in as little as a week, according to Muratore.
Crew Dragon and Falcon Heavy missions will all launch off nearby pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
A successful static test fire at SLC-40 on Dec 6 now paves the way to a launch attempt for their 13th commercial resupply services mission for NASA (CRS-13), scheduled for no earlier than Dec. 12 at 11:46 a.m. EST.
The mission will mark the fourth Dragon to fly this year, which will double the number of fully successful Dragon missions ever flown by SpaceX in a single calendar year. Both the CRS-13 rocket and Dragon capsule are used too, with the rocket having previously launched CRS-11 in June 2017 and the Dragon having flown mission CRS-6 in spring 2015.
Following liftoff, the rocket’s first stage will return to Earth to attempt a vertical landing back at Cape Canaveral AFS “Landing Zone 1”, after delivering Dragon to low-Earth orbit, inclined 51.6 degrees to the equator where it will follow a two-day rendezvous profile to reach the ISS.
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