SpaceX Successfully Lands Falcon Rocket

About six months after one of their unmanned rockets blew up on a supply mission to the International Space Station during the summer, SpaceX is back at it. Just minutes ago (about 5:20PM Pacific Time/8:20 Eastern) one of their Falcon 9 rockets successfully put 11 small ORBCOM communications satellites into orbit, and them more remarkably, landed vertically back on Earth (like in an old 1950's sci-fi movie with the rocket coming down atop a pillar of flame). SpaceX has been trying to do that for a year. Hopefully it is a first step towards making very expensive rocket boosters reusable.
(Dec 22, 2015 03:09 AM)Yazata Wrote: [...] and them more remarkably, landed vertically back on Earth (like in an old 1950's sci-fi movie with the rocket coming down atop a pillar of flame).

Finally. Something bigger than an unmanned space probe lander or manned LEM doing that on Earth from an orbital height.
Besides launching the eleven little ORBCOM satellites, which is what SpaceX had been paid to do, SpaceX accomplished two very important technical objectives for the company.

One obviously was the landing of the used first stage back at Cape Canaveral. The other was the shutoff and restart of the second stage in orbit.

While putting satellites into low earth orbit is cool, the real money in commercial space launching is in putting satellites into much higher geo-stationary orbit.

The older version of the Falcon 9 rocket could do the latter, but not while retaining enough fuel to do the landing. But the new thoroughly upgraded version of the Falcon 9 can do both. Just to text that capability, launch controllers ordered the second stage to restart its engine after deploying the 11 satellites it was carrying, enabling it to ascend to a geostationary orbit.

Here's more information about what went down:

The eleven ORBCOM satellites were designed for 'machine to machine' communication and built by Sierra Nevada Corporation. There are now 17 of these satellites in ORBCOM's 'constellation', six having been launched previously.

The Falcon 9 first stage landed at Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral, formerly Launch Complex 13 which has been unused for 40 years, since the USAF used it for missile tests. I'm trying to find more information about this, since the Falcon 9 was presumably moving very rapidly downrange when its second stage separated. So did it turn around somehow? That sounds like a huge waste of fuel to me. I'd like to see some account of the path it took from space back to Canaveral. Landing it on a downrange barge makes sense, returning it to Cape Canaveral doesn't, so apparently I'm not understanding things correctly. Perhaps the first stage had lost so much mass, both the second stage which had been riding atop it and a good proportion of the fuel and oxidizer that it had been carrying, that dramatic velocity reversal became possible.

The launch took place a day later than planned, since static testing took longer than expected and Elon Musk said they were 'punting 24 hours'.

The vehicle lifted off ar 8:29 PM EST, from Launch Complex 40.

The timeline:

T minus 34 minutes - The Launch Conductor carried out the Launch Readiness Poll.

T minus 30 minutes - RP1 rocket grade kerosine and lox began loading.

T minus 10 minutes - Fueled vehicle enters 'chill phase'.

T minus 2 minutes - Range Safety Officer announces that the range is clear

T minus 1 minute, 30 seconds - SpaceX Launch Conductor cleared mission to proceed

T minus 1 second - Flight Control Computer begins automated pre-flight checks. Propellant tanks are pressurized.

T minus 30 milliseconds - Flight Control Computer orders 9 Merlin 1D rocket engines to ignite and monitors their status as they power up

T minus zero - Vehicle launched

T plus 1 minute - ascending vehicle encounters maximum aerodynamic stresses (Max-Q)

T plus 2 minutes 20 seconds - Main engine cutoff (MECO)

T plus 2 minutes 24 seconds - Second stage separation

T plus 2 minutes 35 seconds - Second stage engine ignites

T plus 4 minutes - First stage reignites, commencing Boost Back Burn

T plus 8 minutes - First Stage Reentry Burn

T plus 10 minutes - First stage successfully lands on Landing Zone 1 at Cape Canaveral. Simultaneously Second Stage Cuttoff (SECO) occurs.

T plus 12 minutes - Second stage payload fairing jetissoned

T plus 15-20 minutes - Satellite deployment

T plus 26 minutes - Satellites begin deploying their solar arrays

T plus 31 minutes - All satellites alive in orbit and are communicating with Earth.

The recovered first stage is to be moved to Kennedy Space Center Launch Complex 39A. SpaceX says that it isn't likely to be reused. I'm guessing that it will be disassembled piece-by-piece, looking for any signs of damage incurred during the launch, flight and landing.

Elon Musk says that a Falcon 9 costs $60 million to build but $200,000 to fuel. If rockets can be reused, the cost savings are obvious.
I was trying to find images of its trajectory and I'm not sure what it did.  One image must have been an older and now an obsolete one because it shows the first stage booster rocket landing on a barge.  If the general idea of that is true, the first stage booster did retro rocket itself, which initially sent it higher as it disipated it forward momentum.  Then I'm guessing further that it basically backtracked and landed like you mentioned.

I remember a barge attempt recently that almost worked.  It looks they figured just go ahead and come just about completely all the way back during the successful try and omit the barge landing.

Possibly Related Threads…
Thread Author Replies Views Last Post
  Another Falcon Heavy Launch Coming Up Yazata 27 964 Jun 26, 2019 08:59 PM
Last Post: Yazata

Users browsing this thread: 1 Guest(s)