SpaceX released video Friday evening of a test — date unknown — of its Falcon 9R prototype, the vertical-takeoff-and-landing successor to its Grasshopper testbed. The 5-second engine firing was a preliminary to later tests in which the craft will take flight.
This statement accompanied the video:
SpaceX successfully test fired the first stage of F9R—an advanced prototype for the world's first reusable rocket—in preparation for its first test flight in the coming weeks. Unlike airplanes, a rocket's thrust increases with altitude; F9R generates just over a million pounds of thrust at sea level but gets up to 1.5 million pounds of thrust in the vacuum of space.
The F9R testing program is the next step towards reusability following completion of the Grasshopper program last year. Future testing, including that in New Mexico, will be conducted using the first stage of a Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R) as shown here, which is essentially a Falcon 9 v1.1 first stage with legs. F9R test flights in New Mexico will allow us to test at higher altitudes than we are permitted for at our test site in Texas, to do more with unpowered guidance and to prove out landing cases that are more-flight like.
Meanwhile, via Zero-G News: The U.S. Air Force says repairs to the radar installation whose electrical fire has delayed at least two launches from Cape Canaveral, Fla. — including SpaceX's cargo run to the International Space Station that was set to take off Sunday — will take at least three weeks, although a currently inactive station may be activated to allow launches sooner.
The upcoming SpaceX flight is also set to test the capability to recover an intact Falcon 9 first stage from an ocean splashdown, which SpaceX was almost able to do in a September flight.