Just received from SpaceX's Christina Ra:

SpaceX completed first-stage development testing on June 19 with a test fire.  This test achieved all verifications needed following earlier stage testing, and with this test we have achieved the equivalent of nearly two full mission duty cycles on the integrated stage.  We are now moving into the stage acceptance tests and final preparations for flight.

It's those last three words that are highly interesting to me. Ra has steadfastly ducked questions on whether these tests have anything to do with the upcoming launch of the Canadian CASSIOPE satellite set for this summer (at an as-yet undetermined date) from SpaceX's new launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California — a launch that is supposed to be the first for the upgraded Falcon 9 v1.1.

Particularly ducked have been questions on whether the Falcon 9-R (with the "R" standing for "reusable") being tested at the McGregor site is the v1.1 under a new name, or something else, perhaps an experimental vehicle along the lines of Grasshopper ("it has elements of v1.1" was the most I could get from her after company CEO Elon Musk posted the first F9R photo on Twitter).

If I'd seen this earlier, I'd've had a better clue:

During the NASA/SpaceX teleconference on the CRS-2 mission, Elon Musk confirmed the rumors that they will do a propulsive return test on the upcoming flight of the new Falcon V1.1. He expanded on this to say they will continue doing such tests until they can do a return to the launch site and a powered landing.

Sounds almost... reusable.

So I think we can now say with more certainty that CASSIOPE is indeed going to be launched on an F9R. (UPDATE: Make that certainty, period. Ra just replied confirming this is the CASSIOPE launch vehicle.)

UPDATE 2: The above paragraph originally said,"...and that part of the reason the launch date hasn't been set yet is that they were waiting on these tests to conclude." Ra called back to object: The date has been set independently of the tests, she said, but is not being made public yet; because the client is a private company — Canadian aerospace company MDA Corp. — most details are being kept very, very close to the vest, as opposed to taxpayer-funded launches for NASA which call for more transparency.

She did confirm again that the first stage being tested is the one that will be used for the CASSIOPE launch.

Speaking of launches: SpaceX has yet another new customer, with three German military satellites now set to go up on the Falcon 9.

Stay tuned...

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