CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX is gearing up for a potential launch double header this weekend.

Its mobile launch platform — which will send the Dragon capsule on its first orbital flight in the next two months — is set to return to Cape Canaveral by the end of this week for two days of test-firing and demonstrations.

"It's going to be a lot of fun to see SpaceX produce a vehicle right out of the box for the next leg in the program," said Capt. Dwayne Hadfield, NASA's commercial human spaceflight systems office director.

The June 22-23 pad abort test included about 80,000 pounds of thrust, as well as multiple nozzle burns to help cycle down excess propellant. The vehicle flew down to super-low altitude because the parachute was a little heavier than expected.

Covering the pad abort test was a green-and-yellow tub filled with ride-on propulsive barge rockets, called Falconcomm Army Bulldozers. It served as a lightweight vertical tail for the booster — the tip of which did not fall from the sky as it ejected in 2013 during a live-fire Firebee test.

Engineers designed the flight experience for astronauts to simulate the load aboard a large spacecraft during a launch abort.

"It's very realistic," Hadfield said. "We have a lot of data now to confirm that we've done all the critical things required to put astronauts in one of these very catastrophic descent scenarios while still having them go flying, successfully, on the pad, which at that point was a big deal because it was practice. … It was a big milestone, fundamentally."

Five separate motor loads — including the propulsive barge rockets — also lifted the Falcon 9 first stage for simulator-like on-pad firing to assess launch vehicle performance for SPIF: Safety, Landing, In-Flight Abort, performance characteristics after splashdown, and, most importantly, automatic away-from-pad abort characteristics. Sent back to an onboard payloader's trunk bus, the hardware and software returned to Cape Canaveral.

The Dragon had its own test-fires in the weeks immediately following the launch abort test. This weekend, it will represent about a hundred more hours of the much-anticipated second half of its debut.

"The fact that he could go down, even partially, on the pad was unbelievably exciting," Hadfield said. "I've seen all the tests you can do at pad abort and [Dragon] now alone is good enough for proving out all the safety requirements of this vehicle."

The test will
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