SpaceX launches Dragon on 14th CRS mission

This afternoon SpaceX launched their 14th Dragon mission to the International Space Station from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex 40.

Following a smooth countdown, the nine Merlin 1D engines powered the rocket and its payload to orbit.

This was the 7th launch for SpaceX in 2018, the 52nd Falcon 9 launch and 11th using a Flight Proven booster.  As this was an older Block IV booster SpaceX elected to forgo the landing attempt and instead used the booster to perform testing before it crashed into the ocean.

This was also the 2nd mission for this Dragon Capsule which had previously flown on the CRS-8 mission in 2016.  Now that the capsule is in orbit and the Solar Array’s have successfully deployed it will begin its journey to the ISS which capture and berthing expected on Wednesday morning.

SpaceX launches another 10 Iridium Next satellites

SpaceX successfully launched another 10 Iridium Next satellites from their Vandenburg launch pad today.  The launch was originally scheduled for March 30th but was delayed a day due to a testing issue with one of the 10 satellites that turned out to be a cable issue with the test system.

Following a smooth countdown, the flight-proven booster’s nine Merlin 1D engines ignited and liftoff occurred at 10:13 am EDT.  The 10 satellites were successfully deployed to orbit an hour later.

This was the 5th Falcon 9 launch of 2018 and 51st overall, as with other recent flights SpaceX elected to not recover the first stage booster as it was an older version and instead focused on the payload fairing recovery.  At present we haven’t heard any status other than this from Elon.

The fairing recovery wasn’t successful as shown by this tweet from Elon Musk

Today also marks the one year anniversary of SpaceX’s first flight-proven booster launch and with this launch, they have now reused ten boosters.

The launch broadcast we cut off after the 2nd stage engine cut-off due to a licensing issue with NOAA as seen here.

SpaceX launches Hispasat 30W-6 and sets another record

Early this morning SpaceX successfully launched the Hispasat 30W-6 satellite aboard its Falcon 9 rocket.  This was the 50th launch of the Falcon 9, coming seven years and nine months since the first in 2010, the previous record was held by United Launch Alliance who’s Atlas V achieved the same record in nine years and seven months.

As well as being their 50th Falcon 9 launch this was also the heaviest payload they have launched to a Geostationary Transfer Order at six metric tonnes, the previous heaviest was five and half metric tonnes.

Originally SpaceX was planning to land the first stage, however, the seas out in the Atlantic were too turbulent so they elected to not land the stage.

SpaceX successfully launches Paz satellite and own Starlink Demo satellites

This morning SpaceX successfully launched the Paz satellite for Spanish company hisdeSAT as well as two of their own Starlink demo satellites.

The launch was delayed several times to allow SpaceX engineers more time to ensure the rocket was ready for flight and due to upper-level winds.

This was the 4th launch of 2018 for SpaceX and was the 9th time a previously flown booster was used.  As this was an older booster SpaceX didn’t attempt to recover it, instead choosing to let it crash into the ocean.  They did, however, attempt to recover one half of the payload fairing on their new boat Mr. Steven.  This was the first flight of the new 2.0 fairing which has been modified to allow it to be recoverable.

SpaceX launches first Falcon Heavy

In a major milestone for the company, SpaceX successfully launched their Falcon Heavy rocket today.

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The Falcon Heavy was first proposed in 2011 just after the first flights of Falcon 9 had been completed, however, it has taken seven years for the rocket to go from the drawing board to flight.  During that time SpaceX has made a number of significant improvements to the Falcon 9 that have made some of the flights that were originally planned for Heavy possible on Falcon 9.  The final iteration Block 5 is due to start flying later this year which could improve performance even more, however, at present we don’t have details to specify by how much.

Now that Falcon Heavy is operation SpaceX has the most powerful currently active rocket in the world with 5.1 million pounds of thrust.  This version flew with the older Block 3 setup, future variants could be even more powerful.

Due to the design of the Falcon Heavy and SpaceX’s ability to land their core stages we had the privilege of watching two landings today.  The two side booster separated from the rocket at 2:33 minutes into the flight and returned to the Landing Zones at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.  The center core continued to power the flight until 3:09 minutes before separating from the upper stage and attempting a landing on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship “Of Course I Still Love You”. At present we don’t have a status on the center core, we will update the article once we hear more news from SpaceX.
UPDATE – It is looking increasingly likely that the center core didn’t survive the landing, we will post an official statement from SpaceX once we have it.

In another first for SpaceX, the upper stage will coast for six hours before performing a third burn which will send the payload on a hyperbolic orbit towards Mars.  To enable SpaceX to win contracts for launches directly to Geostationary Orbits, they need to demonstrate the ability to restart the stage once it has traveled through the Van Allen Belts that surround the planet.

For this launch Elon Musk has placed his Ruby Red Roadster on top of the upper stage, aboard the car is a dummy wearing a SpaceX spacesuit.

Starman in Red Roadster

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Elon confirmed that the 2nd burn of the upper stage was successful, we will find out in approximately 5 hours if the 3rd was too.

This was the 3rd launch for 2018 and because two cores landed successfully the 4th landing **

This was the 49th launch since Falcon 9 started flying and 25th landing.

** The GovSat1 launch didn't land on the ASDS, however, the core did survive and we are counting that as a successful landing.

SpaceX launches GovSat 1

SpaceX successfully launched GovSat 1 today for their second launch of 2018, the Falcon 9 first stage used for this launch was previously flown in May 2017 and was disposed of in the Atlantic Ocean after successfully separating from the second stage. The second stage continued to orbit where is successfully delivered the GovSat 1 satellite.

Built by Orbital ATK for LuxGovSat, a joint venture between SES and the government of Luxembourg will provide secure military X-band and Ka-band communications links, helping support Luxembourg’s NATO obligations

Initially, it was thought that SpaceX wasn’t going to attempt any recovery on this mission as they didn’t send out the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship, however, they did send out some of the support ships and now we know why based on this tweet from Elon Musk

SpaceX completes Falcon Heavy Static Fire Test

Despite the uncertainty regarding the fate of the Zuma launch, see the previous post, SpaceX continued their busy year with the first static fire test of their Falcon Heavy Rocket.

The rocket which consists of three Falcon 9 cores mated together giving a total of 27 engines and 5.1 million pounds of thrust was successfully fueled today and the brief static fire test completed.  At present we are not sure if another test will be needed or if SpaceX will proceed to the actual launch later this month.

Once SpaceX has analyzed all the data from this test the next step will be defined and we will post an update here.

The following images were captures from Florida Today’s live stream of the test

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SES and Iridium both show support for SpaceX

After the rumors of the failed Zuma mission, two of SpaceX’s biggest customers announced there continued support for the company, SES having reviewed the data from the Zuma flight said there January 30th launch was still on schedule.

As we have previously posted, news on Zuma is limited, but it seems clear from these customers they are confident in the Falcon 9 rocket and are trusting them to continue to launch payloads.

SES sent the following tweet this week

And Iridium boss Matt Desch tweeted

SpaceX’s Dragon successfully completes CRS-13 mission

The Dragon capsule that was launched late last year completed it’s mission to the International Space Station with a successful splashdown in the Pacific Ocean today.

In another first, this time for NASA and the Canadian Space Agency the Dragon capsule was released by the robotics engineers on the ground instead of using the Astronauts aboard the station as they have for all the previous visits.

This was the second time the vehicle had visited the station also the second time SpaceX has reused a Dragon capsule.  Approximately 4100 pounds of cargo was returned inside the capsule which will now be handed over to NASA.  Check here for more details on what is being returned.

SpaceX confirmed successful completion of the mission at 10:39 AM EST.

SpaceX begin’s 2018 with successful Zuma launch

Following on from a record-setting year SpaceX got an early start to 2018 with the successful launch of the secret Zuma payload.  The launch occurred at 8:00 pm EST from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) Launch Complex (LC) 40 following a smooth countdown.

The launch which was originally scheduled for November last year was delayed due to an issue found while testing payload fair separation data for another customer.  Details of the payload are secret and the broadcast we cut off after the successful landing of the first stage back at CCAFS Landing Zone 1.

We may not get any further updates on the success of the mission, if anything is posted we will update this post.

Update (1/8) – We are hearing rumors that the Satellite may have failed after reaching orbit. No official response yet and no clue if this was an issue during launch or after deployment. We will update the story when we have more information.

Update (1/9) – Due to the secrecy of this mission it is difficult to get true information but multiple sources have said that the Satellite did indeed fail, the two most likely candidates are that it never deployed from the 2nd stage or that it did deploy but didn’t function correctly.

SpaceX released the following statement regarding the launch which indicates that the Falcon 9 performed as expected.

The following statement is from Gwynne Shotwell, President and COO of SpaceX:

“For clarity: after review of all data to date, Falcon 9 did everything correctly on Sunday night. If we or others find otherwise based on further review, we will report it immediately. Information published that is contrary to this statement is categorically false. Due to the classified nature of the payload, no further comment is possible.

“Since the data reviewed so far indicates that no design, operational or other changes are needed, we do not anticipate any impact on the upcoming launch schedule. Falcon Heavy has been rolled out to launchpad LC-39A for a static fire later this week, to be followed shortly thereafter by its maiden flight. We are also preparing for an F9 launch for SES and the Luxembourg Government from SLC-40 in three weeks.”

We will continue to monitor the situation and update if more information becomes available.