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.
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
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.