Ownerless Super Secret Zuma Spysat Set for Dark Veiled Dark Night SpaceX Blastoff and Land Landing Nov. 16: Watch Live

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – The super secret ‘Zuma’ mission claimed by no U.S. government entity – not even the elusive NRO spy agency ! – and whose goals are veiled in virtually complete darkness– is poised for a dark of night blastoff on a SpaceX Falcon rocket Thursday evening, Nov. 16, from the Florida […]

The post Ownerless Super Secret Zuma Spysat Set for Dark Veiled Dark Night SpaceX Blastoff and Land Landing Nov. 16: Watch Live appeared first on Universe Today.

Spectacular Imagery Showcases SpaceX Thaicom Blastoff as Sea Landed Booster Sails Back to Port: Photo/Video Gallery

Launch of SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying Thaicom-8 communications satellite to orbit on May 27, 2016 at 5:39 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl.  Credit: Julian Leek

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, FL – Spectacular imagery showcasing SpaceX’s Thaicom blastoff on May 27 keeps rolling in as the firms newest sea landed booster sails merrily along back to its home port atop a ‘droneship’ landing platform.

Formally known as an Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS) the small flat platform is eclectically named “Of Course I Still Love You” or “OCISLY” by SpaceX Founder and CEO Elon Musk and is expected back at Port Canaveral this week.

Check out this launch gallery of up close photos and videos captured by local space photojournalist colleagues and myself of Friday afternoons stunning SpaceX Falcon 9 liftoff.

The imagery shows Falcon roaring to life with 1.5 million pounds of thrust from the first stage Merlin 1 D engines and propelling a 7000 pound (3,100 kilograms) commercial Thai communications satellite to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO).

The recently upgraded Falcon 9 launched into sky blue sunshine state skies at 5:39 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL, accelerating to orbital velocity and arcing eastward over the Atlantic Ocean towards the African continent and beyond.

Relive the launch via these exciting videos recorded around the pad 40 perimeter affording a “You Are There” perspective!

They show up close and wide angle views and audio recording the building crescendo of the nine mighty Merlin 1 D engines.


Video caption: Compilation of videos of SpaceX Falcon 9 launch of Thaicom 8 on 5/27/2016 from Pad 40 on CCAFS, FL as seen from multiple cameras ringing pad and media viewing site on AF base. Credit: Jeff Seibert

Watch from the ground level weeds and a zoomed in view of the umbilicals breaking away at the moment of liftoff.


Video caption: SpaceX Falcon 9 lifts off with Thaicom-8 communications satellite on May 27, 2016 at 5:39 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl, as seen in this up close video from Mobius remote camera positioned at pad. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

After the first and second stages separated as planned at about 2 minutes and 39 seconds after liftoff, the nosecone was deployed, separating into two halves at about T plus 3 minutes and 37 seconds.

Finally a pair of second stage firings delivered Thaicom-8 to orbit.

Onboard cameras captured all the exciting space action in real time.

When the Thai satellite was successfully deployed at T plus 31 minutes and 56 seconds exhuberant cheers instantly erupted from SpaceX mission control – as seen worldwide on the live webcast.

“Satellite deployed to 91,000 km apogee,” tweeted SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk.


Video caption: SpaceX – “Falcon In” “Falcon Out” – 05-27-2016 – Thaicom 8. The brand new SpaceX Falcon 9 for next launch comes thru main gate Cape Canaveral, just a few hours before Thaicom 8 launched and landed. Awesome ! Credit: USLaunchReport

Both stages of the 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 are fueled by liquid oxygen and RP-1 kerosene which burn in the Merlin engines.

Less than nine minutes after the crackling thunder and billowing plume of smoke and fire sent the Falcon 9 and Thaicom 8 telecommunications satellite skyward, the first stage booster successfully soft landed on a platform at sea.

Having survived the utterly harsh and unforgiving rigors of demanding launch environments and a daring high velocity reentry, SpaceX engineers meticulously targeted the tiny ocean going ASDS vessel.

The diminutive ocean landing platform measures only about 170 ft × 300 ft (52 m × 91 m).

“Of Course I Still Love You” is named after a starship from a novel written by Iain M. Banks.

OCISLY was stationed approximately 420 miles (680 kilometers) off shore and east of Cape Canaveral, Florida surrounded by the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean.

Because the launch was target Thaicom-8 to GTO, the first stage was traveling at some 6000 kph at the time of separation from the second stage.

Thus the booster was subject to extreme velocities and re-entry heating and a successful landing would be extremely difficult – but not impossible.

Just 3 weeks ago SpaceX accomplished the same sea landing feat from the same type trajectory following the launch of the Japanese JCSAT-14 on May 6.

The May 6 landing was the first fully successful landing, brilliantly accomplished by SpaceX engineers.

With a total of 4 recovered boosters, SpaceX is laying the path to rocket reusability and Musk’s dream of slashing launch costs – by 30% initially and much much more down the road.

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.

Thaicom-8 is the fifth operational satellite for Thaicom.

It now enters a 30-day testing phase, says Orbital ATK.

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

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 Spectacular Imagery Showcases SpaceX Thaicom Blastoff as Sea Landed Booster Sails Back to Port: Photo/Video Gallery appeared first on Universe Today.

What’s Ahead for Recovered SpaceX Falcon 9 Booster?

Falcon 9 first stage in pad 39A hangar at Kennedy Space Center following upright landing recovery from launch  on Dec. 21, 2015.  Credit: SpaceX

Now that SpaceX has successfully and safely demonstrated the upright recovery of their Falcon 9 booster that flew to the edge of space and back on Dec. 21 – in a historic first – the intertwined questions of how did it fare and what lies ahead for the intact first stage stands front and center.

Well the booster is apparently no worse for the wear of the grueling ascent and descent and will live to fire up again one day in the not so distant future at a former shuttle launch pad at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, following thorough inspections by SpaceX engineers.

“No damage found, ready to fire again,” reports SpaceX billionaire founder and CEO Elon Musk.

“Falcon 9 back in the hangar at Cape Canaveral.”

To prove his point about the recovered boosters viability, Musk has released new wide angle and up close photos of the first stage, pictured above and below.

Musk’s space vision is to radically slash the costs of launching people and payloads to space by recovering and reflying rockets – built individually at great expense – rather than completely discarding them after a single use.

Musk’s long term dream is to enable “A City on Mars” – as I reported earlier here.
The Dec. 21 upright landing recovery of the intact Falcon 9 first stage counts as a game changing achievement in the history spaceflight on the once fantastical road to rocket reusability and “A City on Mars.”

“I think quite vital to that goal is reusability of an orbit class rocket. It’s really fundamental to that goal, without which it would be unaffordable,” Musk said at a post launch and landing media telecon on Dec. 21.

Furthermore, Musk indicated at the media briefing that the near term fate of the recovered booster would likely be to serve as a pathfinder stage for use in a full fledged hold down, static hot fire test at historic Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center.

“We want to confirm that all systems are good, and that we’re able to do a full thrust hold down firing of the rocket,” Musk explained.

Sometime later this year, the booster will be rolled out from the hanger with a newly constructed transporter- erector and moved up the ramp to pad 39A. Technicians have already begun exercising the transporter- erector, practicing back and forth movements and raising the assembly to launch position.

The Falcon 9 first stage will be recycled to test out equipment, propellant loading, launch procedures and first stage ignition of the boosters upgraded Merlin 1D engines.

SpaceX is refurbishing pad 39A under a long term lease from NASA for use as a launch site starting in 2016 for the firms Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9 vehicles.

Following its spectacular blastoff from the Florida space coast on Dec. 21, the 156 foot tall booster gently touched down vertically with a rocket assisted soft landing some ten minutes later at Landing Zone-1 (LZ-1) on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

The entire out of this world event was webcast live by SpaceX and looked like a scene cut straight out of a science fiction movie – only it was real and thrilled on-site spectators and webcast viewers worldwide.

Soon after touchdown, Musk and his team visited LZ-1 for a preliminary assessment of the boosters fiery race to space and back. Workers used a crane to tilt the spent booster horizontally, cradle it onto a lengthy multi-wheeled trailer and tow it some ten miles north to its temporary home at a spanking new hanger just built by SpaceX at historic Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center.

The video below shows the booster as its about to enter the gigantic new processing hanger that SpaceX has just constructed at the front entrance to Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center.


Video caption: SpaceX Falcon 9 chance sighting as it was being transported to the new SpaceX Hanger located at the former LC39A Shuttle Launch Facility. Credit: Shannon Gordon

The huge new SpaceX hanger at Launch Complex 39A is intended to process both the existing medium lift Falcon 9 rocket and the new heavy lift Falcon Heavy rocket – which is essentially a tripled barred Falcon 9.

Furthermore SpaceX also intends to use pad 39A to launch astronauts on the commercial crew version of the firms Dragon spacecraft staring in 2017, under a Commercial Crew Program (CCP) development contract with NASA.

Musk added that he prefers to save this first recover Falcon booster for historical reasons and likely put it on display somewhere.

“I think we’ll probably keep this one on the ground just because it’s kind of unique. It’s the first one that we brought back.”

The Falcon 9 booster landed nearly dead center at LZ-1.

The primary goal of the Dec. 21 ‘Return to Flight’ launch was carrying a constellation of 11 ORBCOMM OG2 commercial communications satellites to low Earth orbit.

About 3 minutes into the flight the first stage separated from the upper stage which continued to orbit with the 11 Orbcomm satellites. Engineers then reignited a first stage Merlin 1D engine several times to successfully make the propulsive ground landing about 10 minutes later at LZ-1 at the Cape, some six miles south from the SpaceX launch pad at Space Launch Complex-40 (SLC-40).


Video caption: Mobius remote video camera positioned at launch pad showing blastoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 Orbcomm-2 mission on December 21, 2015. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

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

Ken Kremer

The post What’s Ahead for Recovered SpaceX Falcon 9 Booster? appeared first on Universe Today.

SpaceX Targets Dramatic Nighttime Falcon 9 Launch and Daring Cape Canaveral Landing on Dec. 20

Artist’s concept shows SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage descending to Landing Zone 1 complex at  Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Credit: SpaceX

A “significantly upgraded” SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket stands erect on the Florida space coast today, Sunday, Dec. 20, and is poised to make history this evening with a spectacular nighttime blast off and daring first ever surface landing attempt of the boosters first stage at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, that could be accompanied by sonic booms – if all goes well.

Sunday’s night launch of the 229 foot tall Falcon 9 rocket with a fleet of eleven commercial communications satellites for Orbcomm from Space Launch Complex-40 (SLC-40) on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. is set for 8:29 p.m. EST.

This Falcon 9 launch will be the first for SpaceX since the catastrophic mid-air destruction of the rocket six months ago on June 28, 2015 on a cargo mission for NASA bound for the International Space Station (ISS).

Liftoff of the two stage Falcon 9 is slated for the opening of the 60-second launch window at 8:29 p.m. EST under currently cloudy to sunny Florida skies.

The bold and history making landing attempt of the boosters first stage back at the Cape at Landing Zone would come after high altitude separation from the upper stage and around 10 to 20 minutes after launch, and has garnered much attention. The goal is to recover and eventually reuse the boosters in order to significantly cut the cost of access to space, as often stated by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

You can watch the dramatic events unfold via a live SpaceX webcast available at SpaceX.com/webcast.

The SpaceX webcast is planned to start about 25 minutes before liftoff, beginning at approximately 8:05 p.m. ET on Sunday, Dec. 20.

“Currently looking good for a Sunday night attempted orbital launch and rocket landing at Cape Canaveral,” SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk tweeted on Saturday, Dec 19.

A backup launch opportunity is available on Dec. 21 if needed.

Air Force meteorologists are currently predicting a 90 percent chance of favorable weather conditions at launch time with the primary concerns being cumulus clouds.

The Falcon 9 rocket is flying in a newly upgraded configuration and is poised for blastoff.

Technicians will start fueling operations with liquid oxygen and RP-1 propellants this afternoon.

The primary mission is to carry a payload of eleven small commercial communications satellites for Orbcomm on the second OG2 mission. They are fueled and stacked on the satellite dispenser and encapsulated inside the payload fairing.

The secondary test objective of SpaceX is to land the Falcon 9 rockets first stage on land by a pinpoint propulsive soft landing for the first time in history at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 complex, located several miles south of launch pad 40 at Cape Canaveral.

Because of the proximity to populated areas, SpaceX required special approvals for the surface landing test from the Air Force and the FAA. And much of the military base and NASA installations have been evacuated for safety reasons. Media are also not allowed to watch and photograph from their customary locations on site at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

SpaceX has built Landing Zone 1 by renovating and furbishing an area previously known as Space Launch Complex 13 (SLC-13). They installed several concrete landing pads for use as a landing site by the firms Falcon 9 and triple barreled Falcon Heavy boosters.

Launch Complex 13 is a former U.S. Air Force rocket and missile testing range last used in 1978 for test launches of the Atlas ICBM and subsequently for operational Atlas launches.

“SpaceX is attempting a secondary test objective of landing the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket on land for the first time at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1,” SpaceX said in a statement.

“Previous attempts to recover the first-stage of the Falcon 9 have been attempted out at sea using the company’s Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ships.”

“If successful, this test would mark the first time in history an orbital rocket has successfully achieved a land landing.”

SpaceX also informed local Florida area residents that the landing could be accompanied by a sonic boom, just as occurred routinely when NASA space shuttle orbiters returned from missions to space to land at the shuttle landing strip on the Kennedy Space Center.

“There is a possibility that residents of northern and central Brevard County, Fla. may hear a sonic boom during landing. A sonic boom is the thunder-like noise a person on the ground hears when an aircraft or other type of aerospace vehicle flies overhead faster than the speed of sound,” noted SpaceX.

“Residents of the communities of Cape Canaveral, Cocoa, Cocoa Beach, Courtenay, Merritt Island, Mims, Port Canaveral, Port St. John, Rockledge, Scottsmoor, Sharpes, and Titusville in Brevard County, Fla. are mostly likely to hear a sonic boom, although what residents experience will depend on weather conditions and other factors.”

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

Ken Kremer

The post SpaceX Targets Dramatic Nighttime Falcon 9 Launch and Daring Cape Canaveral Landing on Dec. 20 appeared first on Universe Today.

SpaceX Dragon Destroyed in Catastrophic Explosion Soon After Florida Blastoff

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo ship loaded with critical supplies for the International Space Station (ISS) were destroyed by a catastrophic explosion starting approximately 148 seconds after a successful blastoff today, June 28, From Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at […]