It’s been five months since private space firm SpaceX has launched a rocket, following a failure in June that led to a crash of an unmanned craft.
The company is gearing up to debut a “significantly improved” version of its Falcon 9 rocket, as part of a static fire test of the Falcon 9's first stage engines on its launch pad at Cape Canaveral, Fla. If everything goes well, the company reportedly hopes to attempt a real launch within the next week. News of the upcoming launch comes form Orbcomm, which plans to attach a satellite to the mission.
SpaceX has essentially been grounded since the June 28 launch failure of a cargo mission heading toward the International Space Station. The crash was reportedly caused when a strut holding down a helium bottle within a propellant tank in the rocket's upper stage broke, causing the tank to over-pressurize and burst.
As for the new-look Falcon 9, founder Elon Musk said he believes they should make the rocket safer and more effective: The rocket will have increased thrust, an improved stage separation system and a stretched upper stage that can hold additional propellant.
“There are a number of improvements in the rocket,” Musk said in a Dec. 15 talk at the Fall Meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) in San Francisco via Space. “I think it's a significantly improved rocket from the last one.”
Though the company took some time off to regroup and re-examine its processes, it’s encouraging to see SpaceX jumping back on that horse. Though companies like SpaceX are leading the charge, that launch failure shows we still have a long way to go until we reach a level of safe and secure space travel.