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New SpaceX Rocket Booster Completes ‘Full Mission Duration’ Firing Test

The Falcon 9-R during a 10-second test in June 2013. Credit: Elon Musk on Twitter

The Falcon 9-R during a 10-second test in June 2013. Credit: Elon Musk on Twitter

A new booster forming the heart of a next-generation SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket underwent a three-minute test this week ahead of another of its type launching the Canadian Cassiope satellite this fall.

“Just completed full mission duration firing of next gen Falcon 9 booster,” wrote CEO Elon Musk on Twitter on Monday. “V[ery] proud of the boost stage team for overcoming many tough issues.”

SpaceX declined to elaborate on what the issues were in a statement to Space News, saying that the testing program is preliminary. (The company rarely comments on what goes on during tests.)

The firm has been steadily ramping up testing experience on the booster, as well as the Merlin-1D engine that powers it. In early June, it ran a brief 10-second test, then increased that to a 112-second test a week later. Check out the foom factor from that test below.

We’re still waiting for SpaceX to post pictures or video from the latest full mission test, but we’ll put them up if they become available.

SpaceX uses the same engines in the Grasshopper, a 10-story Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) vehicle.

One of Grasshopper’s goals is to help SpaceX figure out how to bring a rocket back to Earth, ready to lift off again. A single Merlin 1D engine is enough to power Grasshopper. The new Falcon 9-R (R means “reusable”) requires nine.

Falcon 9-R is slated to loft Cassiope, a Canadian satellite that will observe space weather, in September.

About 

Elizabeth Howell is the senior writer at Universe Today. She also works for Space.com, Space Exploration Network, the NASA Lunar Science Institute, NASA Astrobiology Magazine and LiveScience, among others. Career highlights include watching three shuttle launches, and going on a two-week simulated Mars expedition in rural Utah. You can follow her on Twitter @howellspace or contact her at her website.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Aqua4U July 17, 2013, 6:19 PM

    So cool! GO Space-X! A minor nit pick? You wrote above that the CASSIOPE mission will be launched with a Falcon 9-R (Reusable) booster… whereas I read that it will be launched with a Falcon 9 using upgraded Merlin 1D engines, but no mention was made of that booster being reusable. Hope I’m wrong because I’d REALLY like to see that concept fly!

    I wonder what the neighbors think of night time tests… or the neighbor’s cows?? MOO! Milkshakes?

    • Torbjörn Larsson July 17, 2013, 6:54 PM

      Muskology is the latest trend, but FWIW I think they moved from naming the new version F9 v1.1 to F9-R. It is potentially reusable, i.e. actualized reusability has no longer anything to do with the R-for-reusability letter.

      Good thing too, since they intend to evolve the reusability in stages. (And may stop at any stage due to mounting investments and diminished returns.)

      • The Latinist July 17, 2013, 7:03 PM

        Actually, according to Wikipedia, they are conducting 1st-stage propulsive return tests over water starting with the CASSIOPE mission.

        • Aqua4U July 18, 2013, 3:40 PM

          I have been and will be ultra jazzed about the success of this concept! LONG overdue it just makes too dang much sense… On a side note, be careful using Wiki knowledge as it’s not always spot on. That is to say, I guess I have a beef with those who use it as their sole source of information, can you tell?

          • Amerman July 21, 2013, 10:27 PM

            LONG overdue it just makes too dang much sense…

            ===== =

            40 years ago, big govt cold war legacy federal agency Nasa promised a gullible Congress and America ‘cheap, safe, reliable access to space’.. at $7 million/launch..

            Nasa delivered a $1.6 billion/flight Space Shuttle which killed 2 crew and had chronic and multi-year service outages…

            While Nasa was failing miserably at it’s failed/cancelled $20 billion Constellation project, SpaceX produced vastly superior boosters/capsules for $1 billion…. and now produces the reusable booster technology which will open space for all Americans, not just a few hundred Govt selected ‘astronauts’ at over $1 billion each.

          • Aqua4U July 22, 2013, 4:34 AM

            Umm.. NASA’s original design for the shuttle was for a MUCH more robust ship with a reusable booster. The Nixon admin. put the kahbosh on that.. had a war to pay for in Nam.. remember?

          • Amerman July 25, 2013, 3:01 AM

            There is no excuse for Nasa’s incompetence.. the Shuttle design was ALWAYS doomed… a dead end $200 billion boondoggle, and a waste of 40 years from another bloated, pork driven, incompetent Federal Agency…
            Even after the Shuttle white elephant, Nasa blew $20 billion more on the failed Constellation… No one now working at Nasa has EVER designed a successful rocket, or managed or flown a deep space mission…

            Face it.. we should have produced Falcon type cheap multi-purpose boosters in the 1970s… we could have had Americans on Mars, had lunar colonies, trips to asteroids DECADES AGO.. for a fraction of what Nasa wasted.
            Enough big govt bloat, waste, pork, incompetence… time for private enterprise innovation, efficiency, spirit.

          • Aqua4U July 25, 2013, 3:55 PM

            ‘The problem’ with NASA is not incompetent engineering. The problem is that NASA is often used as a political tool and the appointee’s are not always the best match for the job. They are instead political functionaries for whatever party is in power at the White House. Long term goals should be plainly stated and sought after no matter WHO is in office.

            Take a look at this Wiki list? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Administrators_and_Deputy_Administrators_of_NASA

            I think the NASA administrator should not be chosen by the administration. Instead I suggest they be chosen by popular election from a ‘most qualified’ list of candidates. I like Charlie Bolben.. he’s been there in the trenches. Another example was O’Keefe who turned out to be an embarrassing example of incompetence… James Fletcher, a Nixon appointee was at the helm when the shuttle’s original design concept was gutted…

          • Amerman July 27, 2013, 10:51 PM

            Aqua4U
            Those who adore and worship big govt can invent a myriad of excuses for Govt’s failures….. but the FACT is that NASA is just another bloated, pork driven Federal Agency….
            And like the rest of Govt, NASA CAN’T BE FIXED…
            I have no patience for Nasa apologists who want to ‘double down’ on more decades and $100s of billions wasted on big govt Federal Agencies.
            The US space program is too important to be further entrusted to our Federal Govt and Nasa.

    • The Latinist July 17, 2013, 7:00 PM

      As I understand it, the first stage of every Falcon 9 launch going forward will be equipped with fuel and guidance for a propulsive return. As far as I know, they are still intending to do a propulsive return test with the CASSIOPE mission — over water for safety reasons, as they anticipate failure on the first several attempts.

    • ILikeFish July 17, 2013, 7:49 PM

      The only difference between the final reusable version and the upgraded one they are using on every flight from now on is the reusable one will have landing legs.

    • JW July 18, 2013, 10:07 AM

      The 5 miles away neighbors get annoyed but used to it, often with some warning via signage around town. The 25 miles away neighbors still occasionally call the police unaware of why there is a 100+ second dull roar. It’s also really affected by cloud cover and humidity bouncing the sound around and keeping it lower to the ground. (I’m a 15mi neighbor). There was a contract signed this week to keep the lease out there and it renegotiated the times certain engine configs could be tested. 10p for some test instead of midnight in the past.

  • Torbjörn Larsson July 17, 2013, 6:50 PM

    I love the sight of kerosene in the sky.

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