BulgariaSat-1 Blazes to Orbit on Used SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket as Breakthrough Booster Lands 2nd Time on Oceanic Platform

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – In another breakthrough milestone aimed at slashing the high cost of rocketry, the innovators at billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s SpaceX successfully launched a ‘used’ rocket for only the second time in history – that blazed a path to orbit with its BulgariaSat-1 commercial comsat payload Friday afternoon, June 23, from the Kennedy Center and just minutes later landed upright and intact on an oceanic platform waiting offshore in the vast currents of the Atlantic ocean.

The post BulgariaSat-1 Blazes to Orbit on Used SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket as Breakthrough Booster Lands 2nd Time on Oceanic Platform appeared first on Universe Today.

2nd SpaceX Recycled Falcon 9 Rocket Launching 1st Bulgarian GeoComSat June 23, Plus Potential Weekend Launch ‘Doubleheader’ – Watch Live

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – For only the second time in history, SpaceX will launch a ‘flight-proven’ Falcon 9 rocket this Friday afternoon and the payload this time for this remarkable and science fictionesque milestone is the first geostationary communications satellite for the nation of Bulgaria. Blastoff of the BulgariaSat-1 communications satellite for commercial broadband […]

The post 2nd SpaceX Recycled Falcon 9 Rocket Launching 1st Bulgarian GeoComSat June 23, Plus Potential Weekend Launch ‘Doubleheader’ – Watch Live appeared first on Universe Today.

Mars at Closest Earth Approach Over SpaceX Recovered Falcon 9 at Sea – Photo

Mars Close Approach over recovered SpaceX Falcon 9 atop droneship at sea on June 1, 2016.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

PORT CANAVERAL, FL – As you may have heard its Mars opposition season. What you may not have heard is that Mars made its closest Earth approach high in the nighttime Sunshine State skies coincidentally at the same time as a sea landed SpaceX Falcon 9 was visible just offshore floating on the horizon below.

Rather miraculously this regular natural occurrence of the dance of the planets Earth and Mars making a close embrace as they orbit around our Sun, was taking place simultaneously with a most unnatural event – namely the return of a used SpaceX Falcon 9 landed on a platform at sea that was briefly hugging the Florida coastline.

And better yet you can see them celebrating this first-of-its-kind celestial event together in the photo above of Mars Close Approach over Falcon – captured by this author around 11 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, June 1 from Jetty Park Pier in Port Canaveral.

By sheer coincidence, the Red Planet was making its closest approach to Earth of this orbital cycle just as the most recently launched and recovered SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage booster was arriving just offshore of Cocoa Beach and the Florida Space Coast earlier this week.

As luck would have it, when I ventured out to watch the boosters hoped for nighttime arrival from Jetty Park Pier in Port Canaveral on Wednesday, June 1, I noticed that Mars and the floating Falcon 9 were lined up almost perfectly.

The Falcon 9 was standing atop the droneship upon which it had landed on May 27 while it was stationed approximately 420 miles (680 kilometers) off shore and east of Cape Canaveral, Florida, surrounded by the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 began its rapid journey to space and back roaring to life at 5:39 p.m. EDT last Friday, May 27, from Space Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL, ascending into sky blue sunshine state skies.

The Falcon 9 was carrying the Thaicom-8 telecommunications satellite to orbit.

On Wednesday night, June 1, Mars was high in the southern night sky, shining brightly almost directly over the spent Falcon 9 booster sailing some 3 miles (5 km) offshore of Cocoa Beach.

Thankfully the weather gods even cooperated by delivering crystal clear nighttime skies.

So with Mars at Opposition and Falcon 9 in view and while awaiting the droneship bringing the booster into Port Canaveral I took some exposure shots of this first totally unique opportunity.

Mars Close Approach took place on May 30, 2016. That is the point in Mars’ orbit when it comes closest to Earth.

The Red Planet was only 46.8 million miles (75.3 million kilometers) from Earth.

“Mars reaches its highest point around midnight — about 35 degrees above the southern horizon, or one third of the distance between the horizon and overhead,” according to a NASA description and the graphic shown below.

Mars is currently visible for much of the night.

Watch for Ken’s continuing on site reports direct from Cape Canaveral and the SpaceX launch pad.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

The post Mars at Closest Earth Approach Over SpaceX Recovered Falcon 9 at Sea – Photo appeared first on Universe Today.

SpaceX Targets Thursday May 26 for Thai Comsat Launch and Tough Sea Landing – Watch Live

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket stands poised for launch on May 26 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL, similar to this file photo.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. – Just three weeks after SpaceX’s last launch from their Florida launch base, the growing and influential aerospace firm is deep into commencing their next space spectacular – targeting this Thursday, May 26, for launch of a Thai comsat followed moments later by a sea landing attempt of the booster on a tough trajectory.

SpaceX is slated to launch the Thaicom-8 telecommunications satellite atop an upgraded version of the SpaceX Falcon 9 on Thursday at 5:40 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

SpaceX is rapidly picking up the pace of rocket launches for their wide ranging base of commercial, government and military customers that is continuously expanding and reaping contracts and profits for the Hawthorne, Calif. based company.

This commercial mission involves lofting Thaicom-8 to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) for Thaicom PLC, a leading satellite operator in Asia.

This also counts as the second straight GTO launch and the second straight attempt to land a rocket on a sea based platform from the highly demanding GTO launch trajectory.

Engineers have a two-hour window to launch the Falcon 9 and deliver Thaicom to orbit.

Thaicom-8 was built by aerospace competitor Orbital ATK, based in Dulles, VA. It will support Thailand’s growing broadcast industry and will provide broadcast and data services to customers in South Asia, Southeast Asia and Africa.

The Falcon 9 launch is the 5th this year for SpaceX.

You can watch the launch live via a special live webcast from SpaceX.

The SpaceX webcast will be available starting at about 20 minutes before liftoff, at approximately 5:20 a.m. EDT at SpaceX.com/webcast

The two stage Falcon 9 rocket has a two-hour launch window that extends until Thursday, May 26 at 7:40 p.m. EDT.

The path to liftoff was cleared late last night the company completed the customary pre-launch static fire test of the rocket’s first stage upgraded Merlin 1D engines for several seconds at pad 40.

The nine engines on the 229 foot tall Falcon 9 rocket generate approximately 1.5 million pounds of thrust.

Engineers monitored the test and after analyzing results declared the Falcon 9 was fit to launch Thursday afternoon.

The weather currently looks very good. Air Force meteorologists are predicting a 90 percent chance of favorable weather conditions at launch time Thursday morning with a minor concern for ground winds.

The backup launch opportunity is Friday, May 27. The weather outlooks is somewhat less promising at a 70 percent chance of favorable conditions.

After the Falcon 9 rocket delivers the satellite into its targeted geosynchronous transfer orbit it will enter a 30-day testing phase, says Orbital ATK.

Following in-orbit activation and after reaching its final orbital slot, Orbital ATK will then turn over control of the satellite to Thaicom to begin normal operations.

THAICOM 8’s orbital location will be positioned at 78.5 degrees east longitude and the satellite is designed to operate for more than 15 years.

Thaicom-8 is a Ku-band satellite that offers 24 active transponders that will deliver broadcast and data services to customers in Thailand, Southeast Asia, India and Africa.

Thaicom-8 has a mass of approximately 6,800 pounds (3,100 kilograms). It is based on Orbital ATK’s flight-proven GEOStar-2TM platform.

“We built and delivered this high-quality communications satellite for Thaicom PLC two months ahead of schedule, demonstrating our ability to manufacture reliable, affordable and innovative products that exceed expectations for our customer,” said Amer Khouri, Vice President of the Commercial Satellite Business at Orbital ATK.

“As one of Asia’s leading satellite operators, we are grateful for Thaicom’s continued confidence and look forward to more successful partnerships in the future.”

Thaicom-8 will join Thaicom-6 already in orbit. It was also designed, manufactured, integrated and tested by Orbital ATK. at the firm’s state-of-the-art satellite manufacturing facility in Dulles, Virginia.

Thaicom PLC commissioned Thaicom-8 in 2014, shortly after SpaceX launched the THAICOM 6 satellite into orbit in January 2014.

Watch for Ken’s on site reports direct from Cape Canaveral and the SpaceX launch pad.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

………….

Learn more about SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, ULA Atlas rocket, Orbital ATK Cygnus, ISS, Boeing, Space Taxis, Mars rovers, Orion, SLS, Antares, NASA missions and more at Ken’s upcoming outreach events:

May 25/26: “SpaceX, ULA, SLS, Orion, Commercial crew, Curiosity explores Mars, Pluto and more,” Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, evenings

The post SpaceX Targets Thursday May 26 for Thai Comsat Launch and Tough Sea Landing – Watch Live appeared first on Universe Today.

Amazing Time-lapse Shows Recovered SpaceX Falcon 9 Moving To Land After Port Canaveral Arrival

First stage booster from the SpaceX JCSAT-14 launch was moved by crane on May 10, 2016 from the drone ship OCISLY to a work pedestal on land 12 hours after arriving back in Port Canaveral, Florida.  See Time-lapse below. Credit: Jeff Seibert/AmericaSpace

The recovered SpaceX first stage booster that nailed a spectacular middle-of-the-night touchdown at sea last week sailed back to Port Canaveral, Florida, late Monday and was transferred by crane on Tuesday from the drone ship to land – as seen in an amazing time-lapse video and photos, shown above and below and obtained by Universe Today.

The exquisite up close time-lapse sequence shows technicians carefully hoisting the 15-story-tall spent booster from the drone ship barge onto a work pedestal on land some 12 hours after arriving back in port.

The time-lapse imagery (below) of the booster’s removal from the drone ship was captured by my space photographer friend Jeff Seibert on Tuesday, May 10.

https://youtu.be/Yjy5Oed826g

Video Caption: 20X time-lapse of the first stage booster from the SpaceX JCSAT-14 launch being transferred on May 10, 2016 from the autonomous drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” (OCISLY) to a work pedestal on land 12 hours after arriving at the dock. Credit: Jeff Seibert

Towards the end of the video there is a rather humorous view of the technicians climbing in unison to the bottom of the hoisted Falcon.

“I particularly like the choreographed ascent by the crew to the base of the Falcon 9 near the end of the move video,” Seibert told Universe Today.

The move took place from 11:55 AM until 12:05 PM, Seibert said.

The booster was towed into the space coast port around 11 p.m. Monday night, as seen in further up close images captured by my space photographer friend Julian Leek.

Leek also managed to capture a stunningly unique view of the rocket floating atop the barge when it was still out at sea and some 5 miles off shore waiting to enter the port at a safe time after most of the cruise had departed – as I reported earlier here.

The 156 foot tall booster safely soft landed on the drone ship named “Of Course I Still Love You” or “OCISLY” barely nine minutes after liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 last week on a mission to deliver the Japanese JCSAT-14 telecom satellite to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO).

The upgraded SpaceX Falcon 9 soared to orbit on May 6, roaring to life with 1.5 million pounds of thrust on a mission carrying the JCSAT-14 commercial communications satellite, following an on time liftoff at 1:21 a.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl.

The first stage then carried out a propulsive soft landing on the ocean going platform located some 400 miles off the east coast of Florida.

To date SpaceX has recovered 3 Falcon 9 first stages. But this was the first one to be recovered from the much more demanding, high velocity trajectory delivering a satellite to GTO.

The first rocket was flying faster and at a higher altitude at the time of seperatoin from the second stage and thus was much more difficult to slow down and maneuver back to the ocean based platform.

Thus SpaceX officials and CEO Elon Musk had been openly doubtful of a successful outcome for this landing attempt.

“First landed booster from a GTO-class mission (final spacecraft altitude will be about 36,000 km),” tweeted SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk.

The commercial SpaceX launch lofted the JCSAT-14 Japanese communications satellite to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO) for SKY Perfect JSAT – a leading satellite operator in the Asia – Pacific region.

The landing counts as another stunning success for Elon Musk’s vision of radically slashing the cost of sending rocket to space by recovering the boosters and eventually reusing them.

The next step is to defuel the booster and remove the landing legs. Thereafter it will be tilted and lowered horizontally and then be placed onto a multi-wheeled transport for shipment back to SpaceX launch facilities at Cape Canaveral for refurbishment, exhaustive engine and structural testing.

The newly recovered first stage will join a fleet of two others recovered last December and in April.

“May need to increase size of rocket storage hangar,” tweeted Musk.

If all goes well the recovered booster will eventually be reflown.

The next SpaceX commercial launch is tentatively slated for the late May/early June timeframe.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

https://youtu.be/zPAFx4_vax8

Video caption: SpaceX Falcon 9 launch of JCSAT-14 on May 6, 2016 from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

The post Amazing Time-lapse Shows Recovered SpaceX Falcon 9 Moving To Land After Port Canaveral Arrival appeared first on Universe Today.

SpaceX Trying Ambitious 2nd Rocket Recovery Landing in 4 Weeks

SpaceX Falcon 9 completes static fire test at California pad on Jan. 11 in advance of Jason-3 launch for NASA on Jan. 17, 2016.   Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX is on course to move ahead with an ambitious spaceflight agenda, trying a 2nd rocket recovery landing of their Falcon 9 booster in barely 4 weeks time and upcoming this Sunday, Jan. 17, says Elon Musk, the billionaire founder and CEO of SpaceX.

Musk confirmed that SpaceX plans to launch and subsequently land the first stage of its next Falcon 9 rocket on a “droneship” at sea this weekend.

“Aiming to launch this weekend and (hopefully) land on our droneship,” Musk tweeted.

The path forward follows a successful static fire test of the Falcon 9 boosters first stage engines at the firms West Coast launch pad on Monday evening, Jan. 11. Engineers are painstakingly reviewing the data today to fully confirm the rocket is healthy to launch.

SpaceX is now aiming to chalk up two successful rocket launches and landings in a row – if all goes well with the liftoff of the Falcon 9 slated for Jan. 17 from Space Launch Complex 4 on Vandenberg Air Force Base (VAFB) in California.

Just before Christmas, SpaceX successfully accomplished history’s first ever intact and upright landing recovery of an orbit class rocket with their Falcon 9 booster when it flew to the edge of space and back on Dec. 21 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

In contrast to last month’s successful soft landing on the ground at the Cape, the next landing on Sunday will be sea based attempt on an ocean going barge off the California coast bevause of the higher in flight velocity of the Falcon 9.

“Ship landings needed for high velocity missions,” Musk elaborated.

The primary goal of the Jan. 17 blastoff is to carry NASA’s Jason-3 Earth-observing satellite to orbit.

“Next launch is a @NASA science mission from VAFB California on Sunday,” says Musk.

Liftoff is scheduled for the opening of the 30-second launch window on Sunday morning, Jan. 17 at 10:42:18 a.m. PST (1:42:18 EST).

The backup launch window for a second attempt, if needed, is on January 18 at 10:31:04 a.m. PST.

During Monday’s test firing, the Falcon 9 first stage rocket was restrained by hold down clamps for a full duration engine test at the Vandenberg launch pad in California.

“Full-duration static fire complete at our California pad,” SpaceX confirmed. “Preliminary data looks good in advance of Jason-3 launch.”

The static fire test is a routine prelaunch check with a fully fueled Falcon 9 held down on the pad and conducted by SpaceX prioir to every launch to confirm the readiness of the rocket. It simulates a launch countdown.

“The static test fire was completed Monday at 5:35 p.m. PST, 8:35 p.m. EST,” according to a NASA a statement.

“The first stage engines fired for the planned full duration of 7 seconds. The initial review of the data appears to show a satisfactory test, but will be followed by a more thorough data review on Tuesday.”

If engineers give the go ahead, Jason-3 will be bolted to the top of the Falcon 9 later today. The probe itself is ready for liftoff, sitting inside its payload fairing since Friday.

“With this test complete, the next step in prelaunch preparations is to mate the rocket and the Jason-3 spacecraft, which is encapsulated in the payload fairing. This also is planned to occur as soon as Tuesday,” NASA explained.

If everything continues on target, the final review, the Launch Readiness Review, will be held at Vandenberg on Friday, Jan. 15.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

The post SpaceX Trying Ambitious 2nd Rocket Recovery Landing in 4 Weeks appeared first on Universe Today.

Huge Rocket Recovery Strides Accomplished, SpaceX Drone Ship Back in Port

“Huge strides towards [rocket] reusability” were achieved, says SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, following Saturday morning’s (Jan. 10) flawless launch of his firms Falcon 9 rocket on a critical resupply mission to the space station for NASA, which also had a secondary objective of recovering the boosters first stage via an unprecedented precision guided landing on […]

SpaceX Successfully Launches Cargo Ship to Station and Hard Lands Rocket on ‘Drone Ship’

SpaceX successfully launched their Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo ship on a mission for NASA bound for the space station this morning, Jan. 10, while simultaneously accomplishing a hard landing of the boosters first stage on an ocean floating platform in a very good first step towards its recovery and reuse in the future.(…)Read […]

SpaceX Launch and Historic Landing Attempt Reset to Jan. 10

The oft delayed launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on the CRS-5 cargo resupply mission for NASA to the International Space Station (ISS) has been reset to Saturday, Jan. 10. Liftoff is currently targeted for 4:47 a.m. EST Saturday, Jan. 10, from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, […]

Drone Ship at Sea Preparing for Bold SpaceX Rocket Recovery Landing Attempt

Aiming to one day radically change the future of the rocket business, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has a bold vision unlike any other in a historic attempt to recover and reuse rockets set for Jan. 6 with the goal of dramatically reducing the enormous costs of launching anything into space. Towards the bold vision of […]