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The Space Shuttle Integrates Advanced Technology Demonstration (ATDI) spacecraft is delivered to the Verne-Liangton launch complex at Vandenberg Air Force Base during a December 2002 launch. Credit: NASA/Ron Miller

At 17:53 p.m. PST Sunday (03:53 a.m. Sunday GMT Monday), the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will be delivered to orbit from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 40. SpaceX is targeting the blastoff as soon as Thursday at a new safety altitude for prelaunch preparation testing to help NASA and the US military learn more about how to safely use the core stage engine for re-entry into Earth's atmosphere.

A brief SpaceX teleconference at 12:40 UTC Sunday afternoon will see launch manager Arianespace decide when to insert the 100-foot-tall (30-meter-tall) Falcon 9 rocket's Merlin 1C first stage engine into the firm synthetic-gravity environment of polar orbit. The injector will attach to a precise point on the upper stage rocket's 154-foot-tall (45-meter-tall) payload fairing at the very tip. The last-minute trick will allow the rocket to complete a series of configuration tests to confirm the best combination of payload hardware, hydraulic lines, fuel lines, high-altitude balloon and ground and launch operations are in place.

The successful integration of the ATDI spacecraft aboard the rocket will be of great strategic interest to NASA's Comeback Vehicle program. CRV is a rooftop observation satellite designed to function on steerying solar power and reducing photometric radiation that could damage the spacecraft. The next-generation spacecraft extends the operation of the Dynetics laboratory's SpaceAscent platform underway at the Cape's Space Station Processing Facility (SSPF) to deploy and manage satellites in our global network.

Work is now underway to assemble the imaging spectrometer aboard CRV and software drivers from Ariane 5 and Falcon 9 partnerships experienced at Five Stars. Ariane 5 rocket deliveries from Europe's Arianespace and Proton rocket deliveries from Russia's NPO Lavochkin are targeted for May 26 after the results of a launch readiness review to install the new cryogenic propellant motor packed to Ferrari specification. Meanwhile, the Janus objective propellant motor now slated to deliver onboard Falcon 9 will undergo a series of flight test and model changes to prepare for launch in early June. By mid-August the project should have broad agreement on its first Transporter/Erector/