SpaceX completes Crewed Dragon mission

This morning the first Crewed Dragon mission came to an end with a successful splashdown in the Atlantic Ocean. The spacecraft which was launched last Saturday spent five days docked to the International Space Station during which time the crew spent time unloading and loading cargo and performing tests and inspections.

The hatches between the two vehicles were closed yesterday and autonomous departure occurred this morning complete another important test.

This mission included a number of first for SpaceX. This was their first crewed rated vehicle, their first autonomous docking, first splashdown in the Atlantic ocean.

With the successful completion of this mission, SpaceX will now refurbish the Dragon which will be used again for the inflight abort test where the eight SuperDraco engines on the capsule will fire while the rocket is at Maximum Dynamic Pressure (MaxQ) to verify the abort system. This is tentatively scheduled for June.

This then sets up Crewed Dragon for its first crewed mission which is tentatively scheduled for July this year, however that is subject to change as the data from these tests are completed and ISS schedules aligned.

Hatches Open on Crew Dragon

In another critical milestone the hatches between the International Space Station and Crewed Dragon were opened at 8:07 am EST today.

We were also treated to amazing views from inside the Dragon vehicle as the hatches were opened, the first time for a capsule docked to the station.

Over the next few days the crew will spend time unloading and loading cargo that is also being carried inside the vehicle.

Undocking and splashdown is expected in five days.

SpaceX begins 2019 with successful Iridium Next launch

SpaceX completed the last of there contracted launches for Iridium Next with the successfully delivery of 10 satellites to orbit this morning.

The launch which had been delayed several times due to satellite and vehicle technical issues successfully lifted off at 10:31 AM EST.

This was the 2nd flight of the booster 1049 which again successfully landed this time on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone (ASDS) Ship Just Read The Instructions, having previously launched from the east coast and landed on ASDS Of Course I Still Love You.

The ten satellites were successfully deployed to orbit 71 minutes after launch concluding another successful mission for both SpaceX and Iridium.

SpaceX successfully launches SAOCOM-1A

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.

https://youtu.be/vr_C6LQ7mHc

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 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.

SpaceX completes Iriduim-3 launch

This morning SpaceX completed the third of their Iridium Next launches delivery another ten satellites to orbit.

As with the previous Iridium launches the rocket lifted off from SpaceX’s Vandenburg launch site at 8:37 am EDT.  Once in orbit, the ten satellites were delivered to their destinations successfully.  After separation, the first stage of the rocket landed back on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship “Just Read The Instructions”.

This was the 14th launch for SpaceX in 2017 and 42nd overall for the Falcon 9.  This was the 11th landing this year with a total of 17 to date.

 

SpaceX launches OTV-5

SpaceX completed another important milestone with the successful launch of the U.S. Air Force’s X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle 5 (OTV-5) today. Despite the weather showing only a 50% chance that it would cooperate SpaceX was able to lift off at 10:00 am EDT.

Due to the secrecy of the launch, SpaceX only showed the launch until stage separation and the landing of the stage.

This was SpaceX’s 13th launch of 2017 and 10th landing.

We are not sure at this time if there will be further updates from SpaceX or USAF on the status of the X-37B, if they are posted we will update the article.

SpaceX launches CRS-12 mission

SpaceX resumed their 2017 launch campaign today with the successful launch of the Dragon vehicle for the CRS-12 mission to the International Space Station.  As with previous CRS launches the first stage returned to land at Landing Zone 1.

This launch comes after a month break to allow the 45th Space Wing to perform maintenance needed around Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Base.

This was SpaceX’s 11th launch this year and 8th landing.

SpaceX launches Intelsat 35e

This evening SpaceX completed it third launch in twelve days as it successfully delivered the Intelsat 35e satellite to orbit. The expendable Falcon 9 launched at 7:37 pm EDT and successfully delivered the payload to its Geostationary Transfer Orbit.

The launch was originally scheduled for the 2nd but was delayed due to a GNC criteria issue with just 10 seconds left in the countdown, the next attempt on the 3rd was also aborted at 10 seconds resulting in SpaceX taking the 4th to review the rocket and pad systems before attempting again today.

This was the tenth launch in 2017 for SpaceX, who at this point have launched more than any other country.

Due to range maintenance in Florida, there will be no more launches in July but you can be sure that SpaceX will be busy during that time as they are still actively working on fixing LC-40 and there is also a possibility that the Crew Access Arm may be installed on Pad-39A.

The next SpaceX launch is currently scheduled for August 10th with the CRS-12 Cargo Mission.