Elon Musk announces SpaceX will resume test flights after ‘long road’

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Elon Musk announced Saturday that SpaceX would “restart” its test flight program on Monday, meaning that a rocket carrying four astronauts safely back to Earth has finally been launched. It marks a milestone for the growing space program, which had been going through a string of delays. The first test launch, set for October 2017, failed as it was returning from a launchpad that had housed Space Shuttle foam. Two flights were completed in 2018, before SpaceX launched their first Dragon crew capsule to the International Space Station.

F-381 will return four astronauts to Earth pic.twitter.com/meFpUYnQYZ — Elon Musk (@elonmusk) April 14, 2018

The $20 billion Space Launch System, which will fly even more astronauts into space than NASA’s Space Shuttle era ever did, was successfully tested after a successful static fire test on March 23. The rocket, designed to be reusable, was fueled to try and push its rocket engines out of touch, and on March 27 it successfully completed what is called a “free flight” carrying just the core of the rocket. “We actually had the engine fire and engine burn right at liftoff,” Musk had said to NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

SpaceX announced a tentative schedule to return to flight in May, but the second test launch was rescheduled several times before they finally achieved a successful test. The average amount of delays that go into a launch are the equivalent of 10 years, according to SpaceX.

SpaceX plans to try and return to flight for a third time on June 14, and they plan to launch at least three times in the next 18 months. If successful, this will be the first time that NASA astronauts have visited the International Space Station since the space shuttle retired in 2011.

“It’s been a long road and a lot of work,” Bridenstine had said. “But I’m pleased with the progress made.”

Read the full story at The Washington Post.

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