SpaceX Tests Falcon 9-R Advanced Reusable Prototype Rocket

by Nancy Atkinson on June 5, 2013

First firing of the Falcon 9-R advanced prototype rocket. Via Elon Musk on Twitter.

First firing of the Falcon 9-R advanced prototype rocket. Via Elon Musk on Twitter.

Over the past weekend, SpaceX fired up a new version of the Falcon 9, known as the Falcon 9-R, with “R” being for “reusable.” It was the first-ever firing their new advanced prototype rocket. SpaceX told Universe Today the hold-down firing occurred on Saturday, and it lasted for approximately 10 seconds. Elon Musk had tweeted the image above earlier this week, but the company doesn’t normally discuss testing or results, so have not said much about it.

But SpaceX’s communications director Christina Ra did tell us that the Merlin 1D engines used on the test is the same as what’s used on Grasshopper, which is the 10-story Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) vehicle that SpaceX has designed to test the technologies needed to return a rocket back to Earth intact.

While the Grasshopper uses just one Merlin 1D engine, the Falcon 9-R uses nine, which Musk said via Twitter provides over 1 million pounds of thrust, “enough to lift skyscraper.”

While most rockets are designed to burn up in the atmosphere during reentry, SpaceX’s is hoping their new rocket can return to the launch pad for a vertical landing.

At the end of April Musk had shared another image of first test of the Falcon 9-R ignition system.

Word on the street is that the next test will be a full 3-minute test firing.

Here’s the Grasshopper test flight in April:


Nancy Atkinson is Universe Today's Senior Editor. She also works with Astronomy Cast, and is a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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