In anticipation of next week’s Falcon 9 launch, SpaceX has completed launch preparations with the test firing of the rocket’s nine Merlin engines. The test which occurred at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California is the final stage of testing before a launch and is used to ensure that all systems aboard the rocket are operating within thresholds.
Although just a test, with the rocket firmly held in place with restraints, SpaceX launch personnel throttled up the 9 Merlin engines to their 1.7 million pounds of thrust launch-ready limits. The test only lasts for a few seconds but the bone-chilling roar from the engines is more than enough to get one excited for the upcoming launch.
Following the successful test fire, the rocket has been removed from the launch pad in order for engineers to attach the Falcon 9’s payload. The launch will feature Taiwan’s Formosat 5 spacecraft that is equipped with a satellite designed by the country’s aerospace agency. The satellite will be capable of collecting a range of black-and-white, and colour imagery of Earth. According to Taiwan’s National Space Organization, the Formosat 5 weighs 475 kilograms with a full fuel load which is well within the cargo capabilities of SpaceX’s Falcon 9.
Liftoff is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 24, at 11:50 a.m. PDT (2:50 p.m. EDT; 1850 GMT). This launch time marks the opening of a 44-minute launch window. Once launched, the Falcon 9 will transport the Formosat 5 into a 720-kilometer sun-synchronous orbit. The orbit passes near Earth’s poles. Following a successful launch, SpaceX plans to land the Falcon 9’s first stage on a drone ship downrange in the Pacific Ocean. The stage will then be refurbished and reused, a process that allows the company to drastically reduce the cost of its launches.
Next week’s launch will mark SpaceX’s 14th Falcon 9 Launch of the year and the 40th in the company’s history.