Today SpaceX once again made history with the first launch of a previously flown first stage booster. The Falcon 9 lifted off at 6:27 pm EDT today with the SES-10 payload.
The booster was previously used for the SpaceX CRS-8 mission on 8th April 2016, the booster was the first to successfully land on an Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS). Following a comprehensive review of the booster, SpaceX was confident that it was ready for a second mission which it completed today with the successful launch and landing this time back on the ASDS “Of Course I Still Love You”.
During a press briefing after the successful mission, Elon Musk revealed that the payload fairing had been successfully recovered to making yet another milestone in the march towards rapid reusability.
The SES-10 payload was successfully deployed to orbit 32 minutes after liftoff making this the fourth successful mission of 2017.
Following a delay to resolve an issue with the Delta 4 launcher ULA resolved the issue and delivered the WGS 9 satellite to orbit this evening.
After several delays originally for the static fire test and then the weather SpaceX successfully completed its third launch of 2017 this morning with the delivery of the EchoStar 23 payload to orbit. Liftoff occurred at 02:00 with the ignition of the nine Merlin 1D engines that propelled the towards orbit. 35 minutes later confirmation of payload separation was posted by SpaceX.
Due to the weight and destination of the payload there was no attempt to land the rocket either on land or the ASDS.
The full launch video from SpaceX is below, liftoff occurred at 12:00 minutes in.
Following a smooth countdown this morning United Launch Alliance launched an Atlas V 401 carrying a classified payload for the National Reconnaissance Office.
Due to the nature of this launch the live broadcast was terminated after the payload separation occurred.
This morning SpaceX made history once again as it made its first launch from Launch Complex 39A at Kennedy Space Center. The pad that had previously been used by NASA for Apollo and Space Shuttle launches has been refurbished by SpaceX over the last couple of years.
Designed to support the launch of Falcon Heavy, National Security Payloads and Crewed Missions 39A was called into duty following the September, 1st 2016 accident that resulted in the loss of LC-40 at neighboring Cape Canaveral.
The launch was originally scheduled to lift off yesterday but during to a 2nd Stage Thrust Vector issue they decided to scrub to allow time to investigate further. The issue was resolved overnight and the countdown proceeded this morning to a 9:38 am EST launch when the nine merlin engines roared to life to propel the rocket to orbit. Following completion of the first stage burn, the booster returned to Landing Zone 1 (LZ1) and landed making this the third time SpaceX has returned to LZ1.
United Launch Alliance began their 2017 launch manifest with the successful delivery of the Air Force’s Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) GEO-3 satellite.
The launch was originally scheduled to launch yesterday but was delayed due to a sensor issue on the RD-180 engine the Atlas V 401 and then a fouled range with an aircraft encroaching on the keep out zone.
The countdown today proceeded smoothly with an on time launch occurring at 7:41 pm ET from Space Launch Complex (SLC) 41 at Cape Canaveral and delivered the payload to orbit 43 minutes later.
This afternoon SpaceX successfully returned to flight operations following the September 1st anomaly with the successful launch of ten Iridium Next satellites. The launch was delayed several times due to the investigation into the anomaly, as well as the unfavorable weather around Vandenburg this week.
As a result of the investigation into the anomaly, there were several changes to the countdown process for this launch, the first and most obvious was the lack of payload during the static fire test. Less obvious was the change to the fueling process in previous launches the RP-1 and LOX were loaded at the same time in the last 35 minutes of the countdown. However for this launch the RP-1 loading started 70 minutes before launch with the LOX being loaded as before with 35 minutes left.
Following a smooth countdown the rocket lifted off on time and successfully deployed the ten satellites, however due to a ground station issue confirmation of the successful deployments took longer then expected. The first stage also successfully landed on the ASDS in the pacific ocean.
Following a four month investigation into the September 1st anomaly that resulted in the lose of a Falcon 9 rocket with it’s payload the Spacecom Amos 6 satellite and significant damage to Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral, Florida. SpaceX announced this week that they have completed the investigate (see report here) and are ready to return to flight operations started on Sunday 8th January with the first of seven launches for Iridium.
SpaceX are able to resume flight operations without having to make design changes to the rocket by changing their propellant loading operation to avoid the scenario that most likely caused the anomaly. They have indicated that longer term they will make design changes to the COPV tanks to resolve the issue which will allow them to resume faster loading operations.
The flight of the Falcon 9 with ten Iridium Next satellites is currently scheduled for 10:28:97 PST on Sunday 8th January from Space Launch Complex 4E in Vandenberg, CA. However this is still subject to the results of the Static Fire test scheduled for Tuesday 3rd and flight readiness review.
This morning during their standard Static Fire test procedure the Falcon 9 tasked with launching the Spacecom Amos-6 satellite exploded during the countdown to the static fire.
SpaceX have confirmed that the Amos-6 payload was lost due to the explosion, however there were no personnel lost due to standard procedures during tanking operations.
At present there is no information available as to the cause of the explosion or what impact this will have on the aggressive launch schedule that SpaceX has. It can be assumed there will be some impact but will depend on a number of factors including:
- How much damage was caused to the pad?
- The visible damage to the pad doesn’t look too bad, however it is very likely that significant damage was caused to the infrastructure aroundthe pad which will take time to replace/repair.
- How much damage was caused to the strongback part of the Transporter Erector Launcher?
- The strongback took the brunt of the explosion and looks to be severe damaged and may not be salvageable. This would need to be replaced as it is unlikely that the spare at 39A will work on SLC-40.
- What caused the explosion?
- Unconfirmed reports indicate that the issue was internal to the 2nd stage of the rocket. Elon Musk tweeted that it originated around the Oxygen tank but no further details yet available.
We can be sure that SpaceX will recover from this just as they did after the CRS-7 launch in June 2015, they will determine what caused the issue, what needs to be done to address it and when they can resume operations. In the meantime they will need to do damage control with there customer especially those who were counting on launches this year that could be delayed now.
Once further information is available we will post it here.
Update 9/1/2016 @ 1:19pm EDT
Update 9/2/2016 @ 8:30am EDT
Based on the amount of damage likely at SLC-40 it will be quite some time before SpaceX can launch from there again, however that may not be as significant an issue as it could have been because they have a second launch pad nearby a LC-39A. At present this pad is still be refurbished ready to support Falcon Heavy and Falcon crewed launches however it is likely this could be finished sooner than any repairs at SLC-40.
In the first of two International Space Station Cargo launches this weekend the Russian Progress 64P was successfully delivered to orbit today by it’s Soyuz booster.
Following a smooth countdown the Soyuz rocket lifted off at 5:41pm EDT.
This is the third flight of the MS version of the Progress Cargo vehicle and will be using a two day rendezvous profile with arrival at the station expected on Monday 18th at 8:22 PM EDT.