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After the successful ORBCOMM OG2 mission on a Falcon 9 v1.1 Full Thrust (aka 1.2, aka 'just' Falcon 9) and the recovery of its first stage at LZ-1, SpaceX indicated it survived well, and trucked it to the HIF (Horizontal Integration Facility) at LC-40.

SpaceX initially said they intended to hot fire the stage to demonstrate the engines were still good, even after a full flight including RTLS, at LC-39A. This had the added benefit of not affecting flight operations at LC-40, and would allow some dry runs, with no real time constraints for LC-39A.

But then, suddenly, images of the stage on a truck, driving to LC-40 arrived (Imagine the F-9 stage 1 as Slim Pickens and the truck as the nuclear bomb) on the web. Then we found out they were going to hot fire it at LC-40, and sneak it in before the SES-9 launch end of January.

After the move, we started to hear that the SES-9 flight was delayed for undisclosed reasons. But regardless, why the switch from LC-39A to LC-40 for the hot fire?

Possible theories abound:

  • LC-39A ground support equipment (GSE) not ready
  • LC-39A supply of LOX/RP1 not ready, or not on hand in time.
  • Other LC-39A issues.
  • With delay of SES-9 known earlier to SpaceX, LC-40 was free and would provide another dry run of the GSE for sub-cooled LOX and RP1 adding to the confidence of an on-time launch for SES-9
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According to this article, LC-39a isn't ready for testing at this time. SpaceX wanted to also do an integration test at that site using the new rocket, but were unable to do so, and they really want to see it fire sooner than later. With the delay of SES-9, there is a sufficient time window to test at LC-40, and it seems they wanted to take advantage of that time window.

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