The Beast is Breathing – Venting Observed as SpaceX ConductsFalcon Heavy Cryogenic Propellant Loading But Scrubs 1stStatic Fire Attempt: Gallery
Ken Kremer -- Space UpClose -- 11 Jan 2018MERRITT ISLAND NATIONAL WILDLIFE REGUGE/PLAYALINDA BEACH, FL – SpaceX’s new Falcon Heavy is a “beast of a vehicle” and today, Thursday, Jan. 11, we observed the triple core rocket ‘breathing’ for the first time as SpaceX engineers loaded cryogenic propellants into the mammoth rocket for the first time at historic pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida - in anticipation of conducting the first ever Static Fire Test of all 27 first stage engines at once followed by the debut launch bylate January.
Although good progress was made today – as evidenced by our observing significant venting of the loaded cryogenic propellants - the first real attempt at carrying out a Falcon Heavy Static Fire Test was aborted just moments before the opening of the test window.
Today’s test window extended from 1-7 p.m. EST (1800-0000 GMT). The hot fire test has thus shifted to Friday, Jan. 12.
Enjoy our Space UpClose gallery of high resolution images showing the venting and more photos and videos herein of the rocket raised vertical on pad 39A.
They were taken today Jan. 11, from our vantage point at Merritt Island National WildlifeRefuge and Canaveral National Seashore watching testing of the first fully integrated SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket standing erect at Launch Complex 39A.
I observed hefty vapor venting of the propellants for at least several seconds at about 12:20 p.m. EST, to relieve pressure buildup inside the three cores as the cryogenic fueled warms up.
But no further significant venting events were seen and the test was scrubbed for the day at around 1 p.m at what would have been the earliest ignition time for all 27 first stage Merlin 1D engines according to the countdown sequence.
We should have seen a continuing series of venting events, but none were visible from our vantage point some 4 miles (6 km) away.
Myself and a small group of space journalist colleagues gathered to witness the historic static hot fire test first hand. It was originally planned to be conducted as early as yesterday, Wed. Jan. 10, - as we waited and watched - but has now slipped to Friday, Jan. 12 at the earliest. See our earlier Space UpClose stories.
Watch this video of the Falcon Heavy raised on pad 39A
Caption: Falcon Heavy wet dress rehersal Day 1. Credit: Jeff Seibert
The 23-story tall, triple core Falcon Heavy stack was moved to Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) on Monday, Jan. 8, and raised to vertical launch position to ready the mammoth rocket for a crucial test firing of all 27 first stage engines simultaneously for the very first time.
It’s not known why the test firing was scrubbed or if the SpaceX engineering team completed a full cryogenic propellant load into the first and second stages.
"We’re stepping through this carefully, it’s a beast of a vehicle," said SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell today, as tweeted by space journalist Eric Berger, who is attending the Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas annual meeting.
The rocket was fueled with liquid oxygen and RP-1 propellants in what amounted to a Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR) which nevertheless represented very good progress towards eventually achieving the inaugural launch.
SpaceX engineers are now reviewing the valuable data gained today.
A successful static fire test is one of the last major milestones required before SpaceX can attempt to really launch the Falcon Heavy on its maiden demonstration mission of this very complicated vehicle.
Whenever it does launch the SpaceX Falcon Heavy will instantly take the title of World’smost powerful rocket.
KSC employees were notified of the static fire test today and roadblocks to pad 39A were installed to prevent access to all but authorized personal.
After loading the cryogenic propellants into the Falcon Heavy first and second stages, SpaceX was planning on conducting the Static Fire Test this afternoon at some time between 1-7 p.m. EST (1800-0000 GMT).
The gigantic two stage Falcon Heavy stands more than 229 feet (70 meters) tall and measures 39.9 feet wide (12.2 meters). It also features a dozen grid fins and a dozen landing legs attached to the first stage boosters in an attempt to soft land all three cores– by land and by sea.
The Falcon Heavy first stage will generate 5.1 million pounds of liftoff thrust fueled by liquid oxygen and kerosene propellants, when it blasts off from pad 39A.
Watch for Ken’s continuing onsite coverage of SpaceX Zuma, Falcon Heavy, ULA and NASA and space mission reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
Stay tuned here for Ken's continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com – www.spaceupclose.com