Saturday, December 04, 2010
A private rocket destined for trips to resupply the International Space Station performed a successful engine test this morning just days before it's launch.
A private company known as SpaceX is developing their Falcon 9 rocket in support of lofting an unmanned cargo craft to the space station in 2011, and human space flights over the next decade.
The engine test occurred at 10:50 am EST, and last a few seconds before computer commands were sent to shut the engines down.
Scheduled for launch on Tuesday, the Falcon 9 will carry a dummy test payload known as the the Dragon C resupply craft.
The launch window will run from 9:00 am thru 12:22 pm EST, on December 7.
The nearly ten-foot high Dragon is a capsule styled module designed to carry several tons of supplies to station; and according to the company's founder Elon Musk, it will begin carrying as many as seven astronauts into orbit by 2014.
The 180-foot tall rocket uses nine Merlin 1C main engines as it rises from launch complex 40 here at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and arcs out over the Atlantic waters.
Each Merlin 1C is fueled by a mixture of liquid oxygen and kerosene, and burn for nearly the first three minutes of ascent.
The first stage will then separate and the second stage's single engine will begin it's five minute burn.
SpaceX reminded this reporter that both the first and second stages are reusable, and following splash down can be recovered for a future flight.
According to SpaceX, the Falcon 9 is rated to carry as much as 23,050 pounds into low earth orbit, and up to 10,000 pounds into geostationary orbit.
NASA is watching over the shoulder of SpaceX as the space agency looks at using private companies in launching their astronauts and supplies to the Space Station.
In 2008, NASA approved for the company to pick up where the space shuttle will leave off in delivering supplies to earth's orbital outpost in space.
Currently, NASA has a contract with the Russian Space Agency in which American astronauts will use their Soyuz to reach earth's orbital outpost. NASA's direction under the Obama administration is to privatize space flight so that American's can ride their own vehicle's into earth orbit in the coming years beginning with Falcon 9.
The NASA directed Constellation program was scaled back to a lighter version of the Orion crew module, and will likely begin flying no earlier than 2015 from Kennedy Space Center.