Officials with the Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) in Hawthorne, California, announce that a test firing of the first stage on their medium-lift delivery system went on flawlessly on Saturday, March 8. The Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to launch towards the International Space Station (ISS) on March 16, carrying the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft on its third resupply mission.
As its name suggests, Falcon 9 features nine main engines on its first stage. Ahead of every launch, SpaceX engineers test fire the motors in order to make sure that their performances are nominal. During Saturday's tests, all Merlin 1D engines fired perfectly as the rocket stood on its designated launch pad, at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, in Florida.
During the very brief ignition, the motors generated around 590,000 kilograms (1.3 million pounds) of thrust, enough to easily loft the 2,270 kilograms (5,000 pounds) of cargo on the Dragon capsule into low-Earth orbit. Falcon 9 is powered by a combination of liquid oxygen and kerosene. Propellant was loaded into the vehicle during a multi-hour process that culminated in the static test fire.
This will be the third ISS resupply mission for the Falcon9/Dragon combo. SpaceX is under a Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract with the American space agency to conduct a series of at least 12 such flights over the next few years. The contract is valued at $1.6 billion (€1.15 billion), Space reports.