SpaceX test fires one of its recovered first stages

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The competition heats up: SpaceX has completed a full duration test firing of one of its recovered first stages.

The JCSAT-14 stage [which was the third recovered stage and the second to land on a barge] isn’t expected to fly again due to the initial evaluations into damage received via its high-velocity return. However, it will still provide useful test data. “Most recent rocket took max damage, due to very high entry velocity,” noted Elon Musk. “Will be our life leader for ground tests to confirm others are good.”

That testing on the JCSAT-14 booster began on Thursday, with the stage placed on the test stand at McGregor – ironically after the stand was vacated by the JCSAT-16 first stage – which recently completed testing and has since been shipped to Florida for its launch next month. The returned stage is also sported a new cap, which may be providing some simulated weight to aid the required data gathering during the test firing.

The booster conducted a long firing of 2 minutes 30 seconds (the duration of first stage flight), that began around 7pm local time on Thursday (per L2 McGregor), which will provide vital data on the returned stage as SpaceX continue preparations for validating one of its recovered booster for a re-launch later this year.

It is once again important to point out that SpaceX’s engineers here have an enormous advantage over every other rocket engineer who has ever lived. They have in hand a recovered first stage that was actually used to launch a satellite into orbit, giving them the ability to test it and find out precisely how such equipment fares during launch. This will give them the ability, unavailable to others, to make engineering improvements that will make future first stages even more reliable and reusable.


  • “It is once again important to point out that SpaceX’s engineers here have an enormous advantage over every other rocket engineer who has ever lived.”

    Indeed, that is an enormous advantage, both for advancing the field, but competitively. It’s easy to imagine schools starting majors in Reusable Space Launch Systems. It’s also easy to imagine a time soon coming when that field is an industry.

    Nearly everything Space X does makes me want to say Yes! I think that it may just be possible that America will get a chance to to be the dominant economic power in the Near Solar System, but it’s a horse race.

  • Dick Eagleson

    With almost every passing day SpaceX seems to be grinding just a little more of the Old Order into a fine powder and watching as it blows away. Heckuva show.


    What other horses do you see in the race? There are least three horses vying to be the leader within America – SpaceX, Blue Origin and ULA. A number of others are back in the paddocks or still on the farms and will join the Derby in a near-future year. But I don’t see any real competition for the U.S. at the national level.

  • Edward

    I would include Orbital ATK, as they intend to turn their Cygnus cargo module into a small space habitat for cislunar operations.

    Sierra Nevada is also in the race. They may have gotten a slow start, when they didn’t receive a crewed transport contract from NASA, but in my mind, the commercial resupply contract, which they recently received, took them off the farm and directly into the competition.

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