This evening SpaceX successfully delivered the SAOCOM-1A, a radar observation satellite for Argentina to orbit and performed their first Return To Launch Site (RTLS) on the west coast.
This was the 17th launch this year for SpaceX and 10th landing and was the 62nd launch for Falcon 9 and 30th landing.
Last Sunday Blue Origin successfully launched their 8th New Shepard mission as they continue their march towards sub-orbital crewed missions.
This was the first launch of 2018 for Blue Origin and was announced several days before by Jeff Bezo’s via Twitter.
Once launched the booster successfully deployed the crew capsule before coming back for a safe landing, the crew module achieved an apogee of 351,000 feet before descending to a successful landing under its parachutes.
At present Blue Origin hasn’t announced when it will begin crewed flights but each test they complete brings them one step closer to achieving that goal.
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.
Ten 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.
SpaceX 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
This morning SpaceX launched their latest mission to the International Space Station, unfortunately during the first stage flight the rocket exploded causing lost of Falcon, Dragon and the cargo it was carrying
Among the cargo that Dragon was carrying was the first of two International Docking Adapters for the station which will be used by Boeing and SpaceX to dock their crewed vehicles in the future. They were also flying the Meteor experiment which was originally launched on the fated Orb-3 mission last year but lost when the rocket exploded. For further details of the cargo manifest check out this pdf file.
Below are screen grabs of the launch captured from the Webcast
Blue Origin completed the first test flight of there New Shepard rocket yesterday, the New Shepard rocket uses their BE-3 engine which recently completed testing. The rocket is design to be fully re-usable, unfortunately they were not able to recover the main stage this time due to a hydraulic issue after the crew capsule was released.
The New Shepard system is design to carry six crew members on a sub-orbital flight and return to earth by parachute. The main stage of the rocket is designed to release the capsule and then propulsively return to the launch pad, below is a quote from Blue Origin’s press release regarding the status of this and future flights.
In fact, if New Shepard had been a traditional expendable vehicle, this would have been a flawless first test flight. Of course one of our goals is reusability, and unfortunately we didn’t get to recover the propulsion module because we lost pressure in our hydraulic system on descent. Fortunately, we’ve already been in work for some time on an improved hydraulic system. Also, assembly of propulsion module serial numbers 2 and 3 is already underway – we’ll be ready to fly again soon.
– Jeff Bezos
As was previous announced by United Launch Alliance (ULA) and Blue Origin they are also working on a more powerful rocket engine called the BE-4 which will be used by the new Vulcan rocket from ULA.
In related news Blue Origin also revamped there Web Site providing a lot more details on the New Shepard System and allow an opportunity to reserve tickets for future flights.
Below is a video of the test
SpaceX has completed their 5th launch of the year with the delivery of the TurkmenAlem52E/MonacoSat satellite to orbit.
The launch was delayed several weeks to allow SpaceX time to investigate issues they found with Helium bottles back at the factory and to allow the CRS-6 mission to take off on time. With this launch SpaceX once again broke there turn-around record with just 13 days between launches.
Due to the weight of the satellite and it’s destination orbit SpaceX flew the Falcon 9 without the landing hardware to lower the weight of the vehicle. The next launch that will attempt a landing will be the CRS-7 mission in June.
This is the first satellite launched for Turkmenistan.
Here is a video of the launch
SpaceX completed it’s fourth launch of 2015 with the liftoff of the CRS-6 Dragon capsule towards the International Space Station. SpaceX confirmed that after separation from the second stage the Dragon spacecraft successfully deployed it’s Solar Array’s and is now heading towards the International Space Station. It is scheduled to arrive at approximately 7:00 a.m. EDT on April 17.
Originally planned for 10th April the launch was delayed to allow SpaceX time to ensure the Helium tanks on their flight vehicles were okay after an issue was found back in the factory. An attempt to liftoff yesterday was scrubbed just before liftoff due to lightning near the launch pad.
The Dragon spacecraft is carrying 4387 pounds of equipment to the station including Planetary Resources Arkyd 3 Reflight (A3R) spacecraft, the original was destroyed when the Orbital CRS launch failed. For more details on what Dragon is carrying check out NASA fact sheet here.
SpaceX again attempted to land the Falcon 9 first stage on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS), update from Elon Musk shows they again made it to the ship but didn’t land successfully.
Another update from Elon shows that the first stage did actually land on the barge but then tipped over, images included. They will have video when the drone ship gets back to port.
Another update has been provided by SpaceX, captured by the chase plane just before landing looks like the first stage leaned over significantly before landing.
In related SpaceX news, last week they rolled out a modified version of the Falcon 9 at Vandenberg which will be used for the In-flight abort test for Dragon 2 later this year. As the rocket’s payload will not be going into orbit for this test it only has three Merlin 1D engines instead of the typical nine. The actual test is scheduled for no earlier then (NET) July this year but could be subject to change depending on other missions.
Below are images from the launch today
The first one year mission on the International Space Station begun this afternoon with the launch of the Soyuz TMA-16M spacecraft from the Baikonur Cosmodrome.
Following a smooth countdown the three crew members Gennady Padalka, Mikhail Korniyenko of the Russia Federal Space Agency and Scott Kelly of NASA lifted off at 3:42 p.m. EDT. Once in orbit the spacecraft deployed its solar arrays and antennas before performed the first of several burns to take it to the space station later today.
Unlike previous missions to the ISS Mikhail Korniyenko and Scott Kelly will not be returning to Earth aboard the TMA-16M vehicle but will instead spend a year on board the station and eventually return in March 2016 aboard the TMA-18M vehicle. During their time aboard the station the crew members will be subject to a number of tests to determine the long-term effects of working in space and while this has been done before aboard the MIR space station it is the first time aboard the ISS. However the experiments are not limited just to the two in space, Scott’s identical twin brother Mark Kelly a former NASA Astronaut will also be under going tests during the same time period. This will allow NASA a unique opportunity to study the differences between being on Earth and on ISS.
While a lot of focus for this mission has been on Korniyenko and Kelly, we shouldn’t forget that Padalka will be setting a record while on orbit, the most time ever spent in space. The record of 803d 9h 39m, which is currently held by Russian Sergei Krikalev, will be passed by Padalka on 5th July this year.
While this isn’t the first time a human has spent a year in space, it has been 25 years since it was last done and technology has changed a lot since then allowing more in depth studies to be performed that were not possible then.
Below are screen grabs of the launch, we will post a follow up article this evening after the docking and hatch opening.