A detailed update on the Falcon 9 return-to-flight

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Link here. It appears that SpaceX hopes to complete the following launches in quick order::

1. November 24: First Falcon 9 upgrade launch: 11 Orbcomm low-orbit satellites
2. December 15: Last old Falcon 9 launch: Jason 3
3. December 27: Second Falcon 9 upgrade launch: SES-9 geosynchronous communications satellite
4. Early January: Third Falcon 9 upgrade launch: Dragon and the Bigelow BEAM inflatable module to ISS

All these dates are of course subject to delays. Launches 1 and 3 will definitely attempt vertical landings of the first stage on a barge.

The main point of the article above was to note that the SpaceX is now ready to do a full thrust test firing of the first stage that will be used in the November 24 launch, doing that test at its McGregor, Texas, test facility. As noted, “All Falcon stages pass through the Texas site, allowing them to be fired up and tested for any issues prior to continuing their journey to the launch site.” The article then described one case where the testing successfully spotted an issue that was fixed prior to launch.

I think this speaks volumes about the robustness of SpaceX’s manufacturing process. Their rockets are built in one place, shipped to another for testing, and then shipped to a third for launch. And all within mere weeks. This robustness also suggests that the rocket’s first stage will be able to withstand its vertical landing and be able to be reused, as planned.

The article also provides some further insights in why the company switched the SES-9 and Orbcomm launches.

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