SpaceX started up the nine-engine first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket Saturday as part of a preflight rehearsal for the March 16 launch on Sunday of nearly 5,000 pounds of experiments and supplies to the International Space Station.
The brief ignition of the Falcon 9’s nine Merlin 1D engines happened with the rocked tightly fastened to SpaceX’s Complex 40 launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Fla. The engines generate about 1.3 million pounds of thrust at sea level per Space.com.
The engine firing came at the end of a long multi-hour countdown, in which the SpaceX launch team loaded kerosene propellants and liquid oxygen into the two-stage Falcon 9 booster. The exercise, known as static fire, was a practice for engineers and helped ground crews discover and address any problems with the rocket before its launch date this weekend.
A spokesperson for SpaceX said the static fire was a success.
Engineers usually spend several days reviewing data from these tests before giving the rocket an “ok” for takeoff. A launch readiness review is scheduled for next week to give the formal go-ahead for the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket with SpaceX’s dragon spaceship, an automated cargo craft to deliver and return supplies to and from the space station.
Workers will also add sensitive experiment samples, perishables, and fresh food to the Dragon capsule’s pressurized module. Most of the mission’s 5,000-pount load has already been packed inside the spacecraft.
The launch is scheduled for 4:41 a.m. EDT (0841 GMT) on March 16 from Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Two days after its launch, following a series of course-correction burns to adjust its orbit, the Dragon spacecraft will arrive in the vicinity of the space station, starting a laser-guided final approach toward the complex.
Astronauts Koichi Wakata and Richard Mastracchio will monitor the Dragon.