SpaceX Releases F9R Flight Test Video Hours Before Orbital Launch

One perplexing item regarding today’s SpaceX CRS-3 launch to ISS, and subsequent first stage landing recovery attempt, was the fact that we had yet to see any flight test of the new F9R test vehicle, with the only released video having been a ground level static fire.  It seemed therefore, that even if first stage re-ignition and recovery went better than expected, once the rocket descended close to the surface of the ocean, it would be in uncharted territory.

Apparently not, as this undated video released shortly before today’s launch indicates. Note the Falcon 9R has absolutely no trouble landing with its set of flight weight legs which are considerably smaller than the “training wheels” on its Grasshopper predecessor.

SpaceX description:

“Video of Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R) taking its first test flight at our rocket development facility. F9R lifts off from a launch mount to a height of approximately 250m, hovers and then returns for landing just next to the launch stand. Early flights of F9R will take off with legs fixed in the down position. However, we will soon be transitioning to liftoff with legs stowed against the side of the rocket and then extending them just before landing.

The F9R testing program is the next step towards reusability following completion of the Grasshopper program last year (Grasshopper can be seen in the background of this video). Future testing, including that in New Mexico, will be conducted using the first stage of a 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.”

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