SpaceX continues 2016 launch campaign

Thaicom8SpaceX continued it’s 2016 campaign with the successful launch of the Thaicom 8 satellite this evening.

Originally scheduled for yesterday 5/26 the launch was postponed to allow more time to investigate an issue found during the countdown.

Today’s countdown proceeded smoothly before the Falcon 9’s engines roared to life at 5:39 pm EDT, following a 2:35 minute burn the first stage completed it’s job and returned to the droneship “Of Course I Still Love You”, while the second stage propelled the satellite to orbit.

As with the previous two launches SpaceX returned the first stage to the droneship and again completed a successful landing.  As with the JCSAT landing this was made more difficult due to the speed of the first stage during re-entry.

Video of the launch

SpaceX nails the GTO Landing

SpaceX successfully launched the JCSAT 14 satellite this week for SKY Perfect JSAT, and once again landed the Falcon 9 first stage on the ASDS “Of Course I Still Love You”.

Unlike the landing during the CRS-8 mission this was more complicated due to the speed of the first stage booster at separation. According to a SpaceX spokesperson during the live broadcast the stage was travelling twice as fast. This required that three of the engines be used for the landing burn instead of the one previously.

During the broadcast it almost looked like the first stage had crashed into OCISLY but once the smoke cleared and the lights on the drone ship came on it was clear that the stage was sitting almost in the center of the landing zone. This is the third landing of the Falcon 9 first stage and as Elon Musk tweeted they are going to need to find more space if they keep this going.

Video of the Launch and Landing can be found here

SpaceX CRS-8 launches successfully – First Stage Lands

crs8patchTen months after the failed CRS-7 launch SpaceX resumed their servicing missions to the International Space Station today with the successful launch of their Dragon spacecraft.

Following a smooth countdown the Falcon 9 lifted off at 4:43 pm EDT to begin a 10 minute climb to orbit.

As with previous launches SpaceX also attempted to land the first stage on the Drone Ship after it had completed it’s job getting the 2nd stage and Dragon on their way.  Unlike previous attempts to land on the Drone Ship this time they were successful.

Dragon is now in orbit and making it’s way towards a capture on Sunday.

Launch Video

Landing Video

Progress MS-02 launches to ISS

The Russian Progress MS-02 spacecraft launched successfully today beginning a two day journey to dock with the International Space Station.

Roscosmos elected to do the two day journey to allow time to fully test all the upgraded systems on the newer MS version of the vehicle.  The first Soyuz MS crewed mission is due to launch in June and validation of the systems is required before that can occur.

This is the second of three cargo vehicles scheduled to travel to the station in less than a month.

ULA launches Cygnus OA-6 to ISS

orbitalatk_cygnus_oa6patch01-lgLast night United Launch Alliance (ULA) launched an Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft towards the International Space Station (ISS).  This is the second Cygnus that has launched on an Atlas V rocket and will be the heaviest payload the Atlas V has ever launched. Even with the heavier payload ULA didn’t require any Solid Rocket Boosters as Cygnus is only launching to Low Earth Orbit.

Continuing in the tradition of previous Cygnus launches Orbital ATK named this vehicle the S.S. Rick Husband in honor of Col. Rock Husband USAF.

Update: After the launch a number of people noticed that the burn time on the Centaur upper stage was almost a minute longer than originally planned.  ULA has since announced that this was caused by the first stage RD-180 engine shutting down 5 seconds earlier than originally planned requiring the Centaur to compensate for the difference.  They are investigating why the engine shutdown early and don’t currently know if this could impact the next Atlas V launch.

SpaceX launches SES-9

SpaceX_SES-9SpaceX continued it’s 2016 launch campaign today with the successful delivery of the SES-9 satellite to orbit.  This was the third successful launch since the June 2015 failure and the second launch of the Falcon 9 Full Thrust version of the rocket.

SpaceX attempted the launch several times but had to scrub due to several reasons including LOX cooling/loading issues, wayward boats and severe wind sheer.

The vehicle lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 18:35 EST today following a smooth countdown.  Once in orbit the second stage re-started to allow the payload to be delivered to the desired orbit.

To allow SES to make the SES-9 satellite operational as quickly as possible SpaceX forgo the chance to return the first stage to the Cape and instead elected to attempt another landing at sea on there Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship “Of Course I still Love You”.

Below are screen grabs of the launch

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SpaceX achieve another important milestone

While driving to work this morning I heard how SpaceX suffered another setback yesterday due to the destruction of the first stage after it landed.

It seems to me that people are focusing on the wrong thing here, yes the end result of the EXPERIMENTAL LANDING was a failure because they were not able to recover the first stage.

First Stage approaching Drone Ship
First Stage approaching Drone Ship

However SpaceX did achieve an important milestone yesterday, they were able to land the first stage on the Drone Ship which was floating in the pacific ocean, this in itself is an amazing achievement and further proves that they are moving in the right direction.

The reason the first stage was lost was due to the failure of one of the landing legs to log into place correct, as explained by Elon Musk himself.

I have no doubt that SpaceX will determine what changes are needed to the landing leg system to ensure that that the failure can’t happen again.

So in summary yes another destroyed first stage but also further progress in recovering them.

SpaceX returns to flight and sticks the landing

SpaceX returned to flight operations yesterday after an almost six month break following the June CRS-7 accident.  During that time SpaceX took the opportunity to upgrade the rocket the changes which included denser liquid oxygen, longer second stage allowed them to provide more thrust (approx 30%) while also keep enough fuel to attempt a landing back at Cape Canaveral.

The upgraded rocket known as the Falcon 9 Full Trust performed flawlessly delivering the 11 ORBCOMM satellites to there designated orbits as well as landing the first stage, something that they had attempted at sea several times but never actually achieved with the flight F9.

We haven’t heard if the second stage re-light test was successful or not, this wasn’t needed for this flight but will be important for the SES launch coming up soon.

An exciting new era is space launch has opened up with this landing and despite the war of words between Amazon’s Jeff Bezos (whose Blue Origin recently landed there own first stage) and SpaceX’s Elon Musk on which achievement was more technically challenging we are going to see changes in the industry because of it.

First British Astronaut arrives at the #ISS

European Space Agency Astronaut Tim Peake of the UK arrived at the International Space Station today following a smooth launch and four orbit accelerated rendezvous.  Tim and fellow travelers NASA’s Tim Kopra and RSA’s Yuri Malenchenko lifted off from Baikonur Cosmodrome at 6:03 AM EST today and once in orbit begun there four orbit, six hour journey to the station.

The crew had to perform a manual docking after the KURS automated docking was aborted when the craft was just 20 metres away from the station.

Tim’s mission called Principia will see him stay at the station for six months during which time he will perform numerous experiments including interacting with two Raspberry PI’s that were recently launched to the station aboard the Cygnus spacecraft.  The PI’s will be executing programs created by school children around the UK which were selected during a competition.

Tim is the second UK astronaut to travel into space and the first to the ISS, the previous traveler Helen Sharman visited the Mir station.

Current station commander Scott Kelly posted the following picture of the launch captured from the station today.

Video of launch

Video of arrival and docking

Video of the hatch opening

Orbital ATK’s CRS Cargo Missions resume

More than a year after the catastrophic failure of the Antares Launch vehicle which resulted in the lose of the Cygnus Cargo vehicle and its payload Orbital’s enhanced Cygnus vehicle lifted off from Cape Canaveral today with the help of an United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.  The launch which was delayed three times due to inclement weather finally lifted off this afternoon when the Atlas V RD-180 came to life.

Orbital elected to purchase two Atlas V launches to allow it to resume its Commercial Resupply contract with NASA for the International Space Station while the enhancements to its Antares rocket continue.  Orbital were also able to introduce there enhanced Cygnus vehicle which can carry an additional 1,200-1,500 kg of cargo depending on launch vehicle.