Musk’s Era of Routinely Re-flown Rockets (ala SpaceX) a ‘Major Sea Change Getting Closer Every Day’ Says SES CTO Halliwell: SES-11 Launch Gallery

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – Elon Musk’s extraordinary vision of an era when re-flown rockets are offered as a ‘routine service’ rather than the exception is a ‘major sea change getting closer’ to fruition with each passing day thanks to SpaceX, said SES CTO Martin Halliwell in an exclusive interview with Universe Today, following the stunning sunset blastoff of the SES-11 UHDTV commercial satellite on another ‘flight-proven’ Falcon 9 booster that also re-landed – thus completing another remarkable round of rocket recovery and recycling or ‘launch, land and relaunch!’

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SpaceX Dragon Splashes Down in Pacific with 2 Tons of NASA Space Station Science

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – Concluding a month long stay at the International Space Station (ISS) a SpaceX Dragon cargo freighter loaded with some two tons of NASA research samples, hardware and micestonauts returned home to make a successful splashdown in the Pacific on Sunday, Sept. 17.

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Secret X-37B Military Mini-Shuttle Set for SpaceX Blastoff/Landing Sept. 7 as Cat 5 Hurricane Irma Forces Florida State of Emergency – Watch Live

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – Although its far from sunny in the so called ‘Sunshine State’ the secret X-37B military mini-shuttle is set for a SpaceX blastoff and booster landing combo Thursday, Sept. 7 – even as the looming threat from Cat 5 Hurricane Irma forced Florida’s Governor to declare a statewide ‘State of Emergency.’

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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

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Elon Musk Releases Dramatic Imagery of Mostly Successful Falcon 9 1st Recovery Attempt, Hard Landing on Drone Ship

Dramatic new photos and video of the daring and mostly successful attempt by Space X to land their Falcon 9 booster on an ocean-going “drone ship” were released this morning, Friday, Jan. 16, by SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk. Musk posted the imagery online via his twitter account and they vividly show just how […]

Watch the Falcon 9 Rocket Booster Descend into the Ocean for its “Soft” Landing

SpaceX today released video from the Falcon 9 first stage flyback and landing video from the July 14 launch of six ORBCOMM advanced telecommunications satellites. This was a test of the reusability of the Falcon 9′s first stage and its flyback and landing system. It splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean, and SpaceX called it […]