SpaceX continued its 2018 launch campaign with the successful launch of the Bangabandhu Satellite-1 aboard its first Block 5 Falcon 9.
The Block 5 variant of the Falcon 9 has been designated as the final version and incorporates a number of changes designed to allow multiple flights to be performed by each booster with minimal to no changes needed. During a conference call today Elon Musk explained that the changes also addressed all of NASA Crew requirements.
The most obvious visual changes are the black interchange at the top of the first stage, the larger landing legs, which are now retractable. Other changes that have been detailed include upgraded Engines to address a cracking issue in the turbopump blades and also increases the thrust by 8%, new Composite Overwrapped Pressure Vessel (COPV) tanks.
With this launch, SpaceX returned to fast fueling process with both the RP-1 and LOX loading starting at T-35m. This was the process was in use when the AMOS-6 incident happened, SpaceX stopped using it after that until now.
After successfully completing its job of boosting the rocket towards orbit the first stage successfully landing on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS) “Of Course I Still Love You” in the Atlantic Ocean.
This was the 9th launch of 2018 and 54th overall for Falcon 9, and the 5th landing of 2018 and 25th overall.
This evening SpaceX successfully launched the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) telescope this evening.
SpaceX’s eighth launch of the year and 53rd overall for Falcon 9 lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) Launch Complex (LC)-40 following a smooth countdown. The TESS telescope was delivered to orbit approximately 48 minutes later to begin on-orbit operations.
The first stage of the rocket successfully landed on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS) “Of Course I Still Love You” marking the fifth landing of the year and 24th overall.
The launch was originally scheduled for Monday 16th but was delayed 48 hours to allow SpaceX more time to perform Guidance Navigation and Control analysis to ensure a successful mission today.
For more information on TESS check out their web page here.
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 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.
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.
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 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
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.
SpaceX concluded it’s launch manifest for 2017 with the successful launch of the 4th Iridium Next and deployment of another ten Iridium Next satellites. The booster used for this mission previously launched ten Iridium Next satellites in June of this year.
This was the 18th launch this year for SpaceX and 45th Falcon 9, unlike previous Iridium launches SpaceX didn’t land the booster instead letting is splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.
SpaceX continued their record settings year with the launch of the Koreasat 5A payload today from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. This was the 16th launch of the year for SpaceX doubling last years launch total with potentially three more to come and was the 13th landing with the first stage returning to the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship “Of Course I Still Love You”.
Following a smooth countdown, the Falcon 9 lifted off at 3:34 pm EDT from LC-39A and successfully delivered the payload to orbit 35m 38s later.
SpaceX Launch/Landing Stats can be found here
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