Commercial Space

First SpaceX Falcon 9 Erected at Historic Launch Pad 39A for Feb. 18 Blastoff

First SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket stands erect atop Launch Complex 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center on 10 Feb 2017 as seen from Playalinda Beach, Fl. This is the first rocket to stand on pad 39A since the retirement of NASA’s Space Shuttles in July 2011. Liftoff to the ISS is slated for 18 Feb 2017 on the CRS-10 resupply mission for NASA. Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – The first SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket ever to grace historic launch pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida was erected this afternoon, Friday, Feb. 10, to prepare the booster for a critical static fire sometime Saturday, and a launch to the space station next weekend – if all goes well.

This marks the first time any rocket has stood on pad 39A since the retirement of NASA’s Space Shuttles in July 2011.

Liftoff of the Falcon 9 is slated for no earlier than next Saturday, 18 Feb 2017 on a critical cargo flight for NASA to deliver over two and a half tons of science and supplies to the six person crew living and working on the International Space Station (ISS).

The rocket – minus the payload comprising the Dragon cargo spacecraft – was rolled out of the SpaceX processing hangar at the perimeter fence and then up the incline to the top of pad 39A this morning using a dedicated transporter-erector.

A wider-angle shot from the top of the CBS bureau at KSC showing the first SpaceX Falcon 9 atop pad 39A 3.1 miles away on Feb 20, 2017. Credit: Bill Harwood/CBS News

The booster was then hoisted into launch position this afternoon.

The scene was viewed by spectators including my space journalist colleague Jeff Seibert.

First SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket stands erect atop Launch Complex 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center on 10 Feb 2017 as seen from Playalinda Beach, Fl. This is the first rocket to stand on pad 39A since the retirement of NASA’s Space Shuttles in July 2011. Liftoff to the ISS is slated for 18 Feb 2017 on the CRS-10 resupply mission for NASA. Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

The historic NASA launch pad was formerly used to launch both America’s space shuttles and astronauts on Apollo/Saturn V moon landing missions.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk also posted a photo on instagram with this caption:

“Falcon 9 rocket now vertical at Cape Canaveral on launch complex 39-A. This is the same launch pad used by the Saturn V rocket that first took people to the moon in 1969. We are honored to be allowed to use it.”

First SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket stands erect atop Launch Complex 39-A at the Kennedy Space Center on 10 Feb 2017. The photo was posted to Instagram by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. Credit: Elon Musk/SpaceX

After the successful completion of the static fire test, the booster will be rolled back to the big processing hangar and the Dragon resupply ship will be integrated on top.

During the brief static fire test, all 9 Merlin 1D first stage engines are ignited for a few seconds to confirm they and the rocket are suited for liftoff while hold down clamps restrain the rocket on the pad.

Dragon will be loaded with more than 5500 pounds of equipment, gear, food, supplies and NASA’s Stratospheric Aerosol Gas Experiment III (SAGE III) ozone mapping science payload.

Engineers at work processing NASA’s Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment III, or SAGE III instrument inside the Space Station Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida during exclusive visit by Ken Kremer/Universe Today in December 2016. Technicians are working in a super-clean ‘tent’ built in the SSPF high bay to protect SAGE III’s special optics and process the Ozone mapper for upcoming launch on the SpaceX CRS-10 Dragon cargo flight to the International Space Station in early 2017. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Pad 39A has lain dormant for launches for nearly six years since Space Shuttle Atlantis launched on the final shuttle mission STS 135 in July 2011.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

SpaceX crews are renovating Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center for launches of commercial and human rated Falcon 9 rockets as well as the Falcon Heavy, as seen here during Dec 2016 with construction of a dedicated new transporter/erector. New rocket processing hangar sits at left. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Ken Kremer

Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, research scientist, freelance science journalist (KSC area,FL) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calendars including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, FOX, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now, Science and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral, NASA Wallops, NASA Michoud/Stennis/Langley and on over 80 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight - www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter

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