SpaceX Completes Static Fire Test of 1st Upgraded Block 5 Falcon 9 booster for Bangabandhu-1 Launch in May: Gallery

SpaceX team conducts hold down static fire test of first
stage engines on the first upgraded Block 5 Falcon 9 booster prior to launch of
the Bangabandhu-1 communications
satellite from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in
Florida in May 2018. 
Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Ken Kremer 
  
SpaceUpClose.com     4 May 2018

PLAYALNDA BEACH CANAVERAL
NATIONAL SEASHORE, FL –  After working
all afternoon to ready their newest rocket SpaceX engineers finally completed the
critical hold down static hot fire test of the first upgraded Block 5 version
of their Falcon 9 booster standing vertical at historic pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy
Space Center (KSC) at sunset Friday evening, May 4, near the end of the eight
hour long testing window – and under beautiful skies on the Florida Space Coast.

Conducting the engine
test is one of the final hurdles required to clear the path to launch – in this
case for the Bangabandhu-1 satellite, the first
geostationary
communications satellite
for the nation of Bangladesh.

This engine test and
subsequent launch is also of extremely great importance and significance to
NASA because the Block 5 Falcon 9 will be used by SpaceX to launch American astronauts
back to space and the International Space Station (ISS) from American soil and thereby
end our 100% dependence on the Russian Soyuz for seats to orbit and back.  



Thus a lot is riding
on the upgraded Falcon 9 – which is also the final upgrade for this rocket, according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and VP
Hans Koenigsmann. 
The upgrades increase the reliability and reusability
of the Falcon 9 including faster turnaround with less maintenance and fewer refurbishments.



Although blastoff of the
Bangabandhu-1 comsat had been slated for May 4 and then May 7, it is now
expected to be delayed a few days to perhaps late next week since the test fire
was also delayed multiple times to give the SpaceX team sufficient time to
ensure the rocket was truly ready.

The high stakes
engine test on the fully fueled SpaceX Falcon 9 booster took place at approximately
7:25 p.m. EDT with the sudden ignition of all nine Merlin 1D engines bolted
onto the base of the first stage for about 3 seconds while raised erect atop
Launch Complex 39A at KSC.

Venting of oxygen propellant
as
SpaceX
team conducts hold down static fire test of first stage engines on the first upgraded
Block 5 Falcon 9 booster prior to launch of the Bangabandhu-1 communications satellite from Launch
Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida in May 2018. 
Credit: Ken
Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com

Space UpClose was on
hand to witness the key event from an excellent vantage point only few miles
away – out on the causeway leading out to Playalinda Beach.

The engine exhaust cloud
completely enveloped the rocket within seconds. But then completely dissipated within
2 minutes and revealed the rocket was still standing and apparently in great
condition.

Check out our eyewitness
gallery of photos and video of the hold down static fire engine test.  Check back as the gallery grows.

SpaceX team conducts hold down static fire test of first
stage engines on the first upgraded Block 5 Falcon 9 booster prior to launch of
the Bangabandhu-1 communications
satellite from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in
Florida in May 2018. 
Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com



SpaceX team conducts hold down static fire test of first
stage engines on the first upgraded Block 5 Falcon 9 booster prior to launch of
the Bangabandhu-1 communications
satellite from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in
Florida in May 2018. 
Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com


Vigorous venting from
the second stage became apparent at about T minus 20 minutes and T Minus 5 minutes
– a clear indication that the test firing could be imminent. Scrubs are of
course always possible.  And for a time
it seemed like it would be postponed again.

A few hours after the
test SpaceX confirmed via twitter the engine test was completed and that they
will take a few more days to examine the data and confirm all is well.

“Falcon 9 Block 5 static
fire test complete ahead of next week’s launch of Bangladesh’s first geostationary communications satellite,” SpaceX
tweeted.

“Vehicle is healthy. Data
review will take a few days—will confirm a target launch date once that review
is complete.



Unofficially a tentative
launch target date of May 12 is mentioned by Bangladeshi news media.

Watch this video of the static fire test from Jeff Seibert:


Video Caption: First SpaceX Block 5 Falcon 9
Rocket Test Fire on 39A
. Credit: Jeff Seibert



SpaceX team conducts hold down static fire test of first
stage engines on the first upgraded Block 5 Falcon 9 booster prior to launch of
the Bangabandhu-1 communications
satellite from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in
Florida in May 2018. 
Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com/spaceupclose.com


The static fire test
is routinely run by SpaceX to check the health of the rocket and all its
systems and confirm its readiness for launch.

The rocket had been
rolled out to the pad late Thursday afternoon, May 3. It was only raised erect
about 5 a.m. Friday morning, May 4.

The short burst of Merlin
engine ignition lasted about 3 seconds – which is about normal for these type
tests. Although occasionally the tests run longer varying between 7 or 8
seconds or more to as much as 12 seconds or more.  

Since this was the first
on pad test of the newly upgraded Block 5 Falcon 9 extra precautions were taken
by team but the length and timing of the test was not known since SpaceX doesn’t
not publicly reveal these details ahead of time.

During Friday’s hold down static
fire test, the rocket’s first and second stages are fueled with liquid oxygen
and RP-1 propellants just like an actual launch, and a simulated countdown is
carried out to the point of a brief engine ignition.  

After
ignition the rocket remains held down on the pad by bolts and does not lift
off.

The test
is run minus the payload with the second stage capped on top. 

The rocket
will now be rolled back into the horizontal integration facility processing hanger
located just outside at the pad 39A perimeter fence.

The Bangabandhu-1 communications satellite encapsulated inside the payload
fairing will then be bolted on top and the entire 23 story tall rocket will be
rolled back out to pad 39A.

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX,
ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Orbital ATK and more
space and mission
reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station,
Florida and Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing
Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com –
twitter @ken_kremer –
ken
at kenkremer.com



Ken Kremer

Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of NASA, SpaceX, ULA, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and more space and mission reports direct from Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news. Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics. Ken’s photos are for sale and he is available for lectures and outreach events.

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