It’s got legs, it’s got fire . . .

The Falcon 9.1.1 rocket was test-fired last Saturday in preparation for the CRS-3 flight by SpaceX.  This will be the fourth flight of this model Falcon 9, but the first for NASA and the first to sport landing legs, previously only flown on the Grasshopper test article.  They will not be used to land the first stage, which will be conducting a flyback test but splashing down in the ocean; the purpose of attaching them now is to validate the rocket’s behavior with the extra weight and aerodynamic shapes and to verify the landing gear deployment process; if all goes well, the legs will deploy moments before splashdown.

spacex-falcon-9-landing-legs

This will be the second test of flyback capabilities, but SpaceX has no word on when the first all-up flyback test will come.  They are progressing in an iterative manner, and are planning more tests like Grasshopper (but on a larger scale) before attempting it on an actual orbital mission.

CRS-3 is presently scheduled for March 16.  It will be bringing up a great deal of supplies and experimental samples, as well as the first new complete EMU since the end of the Shuttle program.  The faulty suit that nearly drowned Luca Parmitano will be going back down to Earth in the same harness that the new suit is riding up in.  Many components of that suit were already brought down for testing; now the rest of it is going back.

http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2014/03/falcon-9-v1-1-static-fire-crs-3-mission/

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