SpaceX has announced that its Falcon 9 rocket may head back into space on Sunday after being grounded for nearly six months due to a mid-air explosion. The improved version of the booster carried out a static test firing on Friday at Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in preparation for the mission to send 11 Orbcomm OG-2 communication satellites into low Earth orbit. If the results of the test prove positive, the launch will go forward on December 20.
The news came after a tension-filled day as the already postponed static firing test was beset by further delays due to difficulties with the cryogenic system. After the firing finally took place, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk tweeted, "Static fire test looks good. Pending data review, will aim to launch Sunday."
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A static firing is a standard test to determine the fitness of a rocket system for launch. Today's firing marks a major step for the return of the Falcon 9 after the spectacular failure of the CRS-7 mission in June. This saw the rocket blow up in midair due to a faulty strut failing, which allowed a helium bottle to break free and overpressurize an oxygen tank. The resulting explosion destroyed the booster and led to the destruction of the unmanned Dragon space capsule.
There is still no official word as to whether SpaceX will attempt a powered landing of the booster at Cape Canaveral, though NASA confirmed earlier that SpaceX had requested permission to do so.
Source: SpaceXView gallery - 2 images