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Falcon 9 Rocket Test Launch Before Space Station Cargo Mission

Ground crews hoisted a Falcon 9 rocket upright on its launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Wednesday for an engine test-firing and final cargo loading before liftoff Saturday on a resupply voyage to the International Space Station ending a two-month SpaceX launch drought. Late Tuesday night, SpaceX hauled the Falcon 9 rocket out of its hangar near pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center, propelled by a reused first stage booster.The launcher was then erected vertically atop the beachfront compound on Wednesday.

Wednesday evening, the Falcon 9 rocket and its Cargo Dragon payload, 215 feet (65 meters) tall, went through a rehearsal countdown. At 9 p.m. EDT Wednesday (0100 GMT Thursday), SpaceX’s launch team loaded densified, super-chilled kerosene and liquid oxygen into the two-stage rocket and lighted its nine Merlin 1D main engines for 10 seconds for a pre-flight test-firing.SpaceX expects to clear the autonomous cargo mission for launch at 3:37 a.m. EDT (0737 GMT) Saturday, assuming engineers discover no issues in a post-test data check. It will be SpaceX’s 21st Falcon 9 launch of the year, and the first since June 30, a historically highly long gap between missions.

Launches of SpaceX’s Starlink internet satellites have been postponed as the company works on new laser link terminals that will allow the spacecraft to beam broadband signals to one another in orbit. In the first half of the year, the Starlink missions accounted for most Falcon 9 launches. The Starlink launches from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California are set to restart in September.The Supply Dragon spacecraft, recycled from a previous cargo mission in December, is set to dock with the space station at 11 a.m. EDT (1500 GMT) Sunday with several tonnes of supplies and experiments after an on-time launch Saturday. Before the launch attempt on Saturday morning, ground teams will put time-sensitive cargo into the Dragon spacecraft. The Cargo Dragon will bring a variety of technology demonstrations, materials research, and biomedical experiments to the space station in addition to fresh food and spare parts.

A tiny robotic arm from GITAI Japan Inc. will be used to showcase in-space duties that may lead to the creation of future robots to help humans on long-duration space trips. Inside the commercial Bishop airlock-owned Nanoracks, the arm will perform its demonstrations, including switch and cable operations and in-space assembly tests. According to GITAI, some duties will be autonomous, while others will be teleoperated from Nanoracks’ Houston location.

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