SpaceX Test Fires Recovered Falcon 9 Booster in Major Step To Reusable Rockets

Recovered Falcon 9 first stage standing on LZ-1 at Cape Canaveral after intact landing on Dec. 21, 2015. Credit: SpaceX

In a major advance towards the dream of rocket reusability, SpaceX successfully test fired the first stage engines of the Falcon 9 booster they successfully recovered last month – following its launch to the edge of space and back that ended with a history making upright landing at Cape Canaveral.

The re-firing of the engines from history’s first recovered rocket took place Friday evening, Jan. 15.

And the test results were initially confirmed by Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX vice president for mission assurance during a media briefing, moments after it occurred.

“Apparently it went very well,” said Koenigsmann, at the pre-launch briefing for NASA’s Jason-3 mission set for blastoff on a Falcon 9 on Sunday, Jan. 17, at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The static fire test of the 156-foot-tall first stage involved ignition of all nine Merlin engines and was carried out at the same pad from which it launched on Dec. 21, 2015 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla and soft landed about 10 minutes later.

Proving that the recovered rocket can be refurbished with minimal maintenance and eventually reflown is critical to demonstrating the rocket reuse is economically viable.

The successful outcome of the test was announced by SpaceX billionaire founder and CEO Elon Musk.

“Conducted hold-down firing of returned Falcon rocket,” Musk tweeted overnight after an initial data review.

“Data looks good overall.”

During the static fire test, the Falcon 9 was held down in place at the launch pad at Space Launch Complex-40, as is customary, as the engines fire for several seconds.

However the duration of this particular test firing is not known at this time.

Musk noted that although the “data looks ok” there was an issue with one of the nine Merlin 1D engines, which are attached at the boosters base in an octoweb arrangement.

“Engine 9 showed thrust fluctuations,” Musk stated.

“Maybe some debris ingestion. Engine data looks ok.

Engineers are now inspecting the engine to precisely determine its condition.

“Will borescope tonight. This is one of the outer engines.”

Conducting the test at pad 40, amounted to a change in plans from what Musk had announced last month.

During a post launch briefing on Dec. 21, Musk stated that SpaceX was conduct the test firing of the recovered first stage at the Kennedy Space Center on historic Launch Complex 39A.

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”

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

Ken Kremer

https://youtu.be/l2s9CtJdRAE

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

The post SpaceX Test Fires Recovered Falcon 9 Booster in Major Step To Reusable Rockets 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.

https://youtu.be/CIiY6wC6RDY

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).

https://youtu.be/l2s9CtJdRAE

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.

“The Falcon Has Landed” – SpaceX Soft Lands Rocket after Launch in Historic Feat

The SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage landing is confirmed back at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Dec. 21, 2015. Second stage continued nominally to orbit.  Credit: SpaceX

“The Falcon Has Landed!” gushed exuberant SpaceX officials following tonight’s (Dec 21) history making ground landing of the firms spent Falcon 9 boost stage barely 10 minutes after if launched on a critical mission to deliver a constellation of communications satellites to Earth orbit.

Breaking News: Check Back later for more

Following a spectacular nighttime blastoff from Cape Canaveral, Fla, SpaceX has just successfully recovered and soft landed the 156 foot tall first stage of their Falcon 9 rocket back on the ground at the Cape – in a monumental and historic space feat that will reverberate around the world.

Local area spectators cheered the launch and clearly saw the landing. They said several sonic booms could be heard. It was one of the most amazing sights they had ever seen, many folks said.

The upgraded SpaceX Falcon 9 launched a fleet 11 ORBCOMM OG2 communications satellites to orbit on Monday, Dec. 21 at 8:29 p.m. from Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

The stunning liftoff and landing marked the Falcon 9 boosters ‘Return to Flight’ and is the first launch for SpaceX since the catastrophic mid-air destruction of the rocket six months ago on June 28, 2015 – after launching from the same pad as today – on a cargo mission for NASA bound for the International Space Station (ISS) and her six person crew.

About 3 minutes after liftoff, the spent first stage separated from the second stage which continued to orbit with the Orbcomm satellites.

The history making landing attempt of the boosters first stage took place back at the Cape at the SpaceX Landing Zone 1 site at about 8:39 p.m. EST after high altitude separation from the upper stage and around 10 minutes after launch.

The entire event from launch to landing was shown via a live SpaceX webcast.

The goal is to recover and eventually reuse the boosters in order to radically cut the cost of sending payload and people to space, as often stated by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

Landing the Falcon 9 rockets first stage on land at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 complex by a pinpoint propulsive soft landing was the secondary test objective. Landing Zone 1 is located some six 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). Landing Zone 1 measures about 282 feet in diameter and is constructed of reinforced concrete. Space has actually built several of the concrete landing pads for use as a landing site by the firms Falcon 9 as well as the triple barreled Falcon Heavy boosters which may debut in 2016.

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.

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

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

Ken Kremer

The post “The Falcon Has Landed” – SpaceX Soft Lands Rocket after Launch in Historic Feat appeared first on Universe Today.

“The Falcon Has Landed” – SpaceX Soft Lands Rocket after Launch in Historic Feat

The SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage landing is confirmed back at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Dec. 21, 2015. Second stage continued nominally to orbit.  Credit: SpaceX

“The Falcon Has Landed!” gushed exuberant SpaceX officials following tonight’s (Dec 21) history making ground landing of the firms spent Falcon 9 boost stage barely 10 minutes after if launched on a critical mission to deliver a constellation of communications satellites to Earth orbit.

Breaking News: Check Back later for more

Following a spectacular nighttime blastoff from Cape Canaveral, Fla, SpaceX has just successfully recovered and soft landed the 156 foot tall first stage of their Falcon 9 rocket back on the ground at the Cape – in a monumental and historic space feat that will reverberate around the world.

Local area spectators cheered the launch and clearly saw the landing. They said several sonic booms could be heard. It was one of the most amazing sights they had ever seen, many folks said.

The upgraded SpaceX Falcon 9 launched a fleet 11 ORBCOMM OG2 communications satellites to orbit on Monday, Dec. 21 at 8:29 p.m. from Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

The stunning liftoff and landing marked the Falcon 9 boosters ‘Return to Flight’ and is the first launch for SpaceX since the catastrophic mid-air destruction of the rocket six months ago on June 28, 2015 – after launching from the same pad as today – on a cargo mission for NASA bound for the International Space Station (ISS) and her six person crew.

About 3 minutes after liftoff, the spent first stage separated from the second stage which continued to orbit with the Orbcomm satellites.

The history making landing attempt of the boosters first stage took place back at the Cape at the SpaceX Landing Zone 1 site at about 8:39 p.m. EST after high altitude separation from the upper stage and around 10 minutes after launch.

The entire event from launch to landing was shown via a live SpaceX webcast.

The goal is to recover and eventually reuse the boosters in order to radically cut the cost of sending payload and people to space, as often stated by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

Landing the Falcon 9 rockets first stage on land at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 complex by a pinpoint propulsive soft landing was the secondary test objective. Landing Zone 1 is located some six 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). Landing Zone 1 measures about 282 feet in diameter and is constructed of reinforced concrete. Space has actually built several of the concrete landing pads for use as a landing site by the firms Falcon 9 as well as the triple barreled Falcon Heavy boosters which may debut in 2016.

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.

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

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

Ken Kremer

The post “The Falcon Has Landed” – SpaceX Soft Lands Rocket after Launch in Historic Feat appeared first on Universe Today.

“The Falcon Has Landed” – SpaceX Soft Lands Rocket after Launch in Historic Feat

The SpaceX Falcon 9 first stage landing is confirmed back at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Dec. 21, 2015. Second stage continued nominally to orbit.  Credit: SpaceX

“The Falcon Has Landed!” gushed exuberant SpaceX officials following tonight’s (Dec 21) history making ground landing of the firms spent Falcon 9 boost stage barely 10 minutes after if launched on a critical mission to deliver a constellation of communications satellites to Earth orbit.

Breaking News: Check Back later for more

Following a spectacular nighttime blastoff from Cape Canaveral, Fla, SpaceX has just successfully recovered and soft landed the 156 foot tall first stage of their Falcon 9 rocket back on the ground at the Cape – in a monumental and historic space feat that will reverberate around the world.

Local area spectators cheered the launch and clearly saw the landing. They said several sonic booms could be heard. It was one of the most amazing sights they had ever seen, many folks said.

The upgraded SpaceX Falcon 9 launched a fleet 11 ORBCOMM OG2 communications satellites to orbit on Monday, Dec. 21 at 8:29 p.m. from Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.

The stunning liftoff and landing marked the Falcon 9 boosters ‘Return to Flight’ and is the first launch for SpaceX since the catastrophic mid-air destruction of the rocket six months ago on June 28, 2015 – after launching from the same pad as today – on a cargo mission for NASA bound for the International Space Station (ISS) and her six person crew.

About 3 minutes after liftoff, the spent first stage separated from the second stage which continued to orbit with the Orbcomm satellites.

The history making landing attempt of the boosters first stage took place back at the Cape at the SpaceX Landing Zone 1 site at about 8:39 p.m. EST after high altitude separation from the upper stage and around 10 minutes after launch.

The entire event from launch to landing was shown via a live SpaceX webcast.

The goal is to recover and eventually reuse the boosters in order to radically cut the cost of sending payload and people to space, as often stated by SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.

Landing the Falcon 9 rockets first stage on land at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1 complex by a pinpoint propulsive soft landing was the secondary test objective. Landing Zone 1 is located some six 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). Landing Zone 1 measures about 282 feet in diameter and is constructed of reinforced concrete. Space has actually built several of the concrete landing pads for use as a landing site by the firms Falcon 9 as well as the triple barreled Falcon Heavy boosters which may debut in 2016.

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.

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

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

Ken Kremer

The post “The Falcon Has Landed” – SpaceX Soft Lands Rocket after Launch in Historic Feat appeared first on Universe Today.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket and Landing Zone 1 Ready for Historic Dec. 21 Blastoff – Live Webcast

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for Orbcomm OG2 launch slated for Dec. 20 stands vertical at pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, Fla.  Credit: SpaceX

All is “GO” in the final hours of the countdown to leading up to tonight’s, Dec. 21, the high stakes blastoff of an upgraded SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral on its ‘Return to Flight’ mission carrying a flock of commercial satellites to orbit that also features a breathtaking and history making flyback of the rockets first stage to a soft landing on the ground that could open a majestic era of Rocket Reusability – if all goes well.

Local space coast area residents might hear a sonic boom as the first stage propulsively steers back to Cape Canaveral.

The timing of Monday’s dramatic 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. has been revised to 8:29 p.m. EST.

Liftoff of the two stage Falcon 9 is slated for the opening of a newly revised and slight longer launch window which extends for five minutes under currently cloudy Florida skies.

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 8:10 p.m. ET on Dec. 21.

Air Force meteorologists are currently predicting an 80 percent chance of favorable weather conditions at launch time.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will deliver 11 satellites to low-Earth orbit for ORBCOMM, a leading global provider of Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communication and Internet of Things (IoT) solutions.

The history making landing attempt of the boosters first stage back at the Cape at Landing Zone 1 would come after high altitude separation from the upper stage and around 10 minutes after launch, and has gathered significant notoriety.

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.

Here is the Mission Timeline from SpaceX

COUNTDOWN

Hour/Min Events
– 00:34 Launch Conductor takes launch readiness poll
– 00:30 RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) and liquid oxygen (LOX) loading underway
– 00:10 Falcon 9 begins engine chill prior to launch
– 00:02 Range Control Officer (USAF) verifies range is go for launch
– 00:01:30 SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch
– 00:01 Command flight computer to begin final prelaunch checks
– 00:01 Pressurize propellant tanks
– 00:00:03 Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start
00:00:00 Falcon 9 liftoff

LAUNCH AND FIRST-STAGE LANDING

Hour/Min Events
00:01 Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)
00:02:20 1st stage engine shutdown/main engine cutoff (MECO)
00:02:24 1st and 2nd stages separate
00:02:35 2nd stage engine starts
00:03 Fairing deployment 00:04 1st stage boostback burn
00:08 1st stage re-entry burn
00:10 2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO)
00:10 1st stage landing
00:15 ORBCOMM satellites begin deployment
00:20 ORBCOMM satellites end deployment
00:26 1st satellite completes antenna & solar array deployment & starts transmitting
00:31 All satellites complete antenna & solar array deployment & start transmitting

Technicians will load the rocket with liquid oxygen and RP-1 propellants.

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.

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

Ken Kremer

The post SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket and Landing Zone 1 Ready for Historic Dec. 21 Blastoff – Live Webcast 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 Sets Dec. 20 For ‘Return to Flight’ Launch and Historic Rocket Ground Landing Recovery Attempt – Watch Live

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket for Orbcomm OG2 launch slated for Dec. 20, 2015 stands vertical at pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, Fla.  Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX CEO Elon Muck announced today (Dec. 19) that his company plans to launch an upgraded version of its Falcon 9 rocket on Sunday night, Dec. 20, from Cape Canaveral, Florida – for the first time since it failed in flight six months ago on a mission for NASA to the space station – after successfully completing a crucial test of the rockets engines late Friday night.

Furthermore, SpaceX confirmed it will conduct a historic first ever attempt to recover the commercialrocket’s first stage by a soft landing on the ground at a special SpaceX site called Landing Zone 1 on the Cape’s Air Force Station.

“Currently looking good for a Sunday night attempted orbital launch and rocket landing at Cape Canaveral,” Musk tweeted today.

The path to Sunday’s ‘Return to Flight’ launch was cleared after SpaceX successfully conducted a static hot fire test of the Falcon 9 first stages engines at the Florida space coast launch pad last night.

“Static fire test looks good,” Musk confirmed via Twitter. “Pending data review, will aim to launch Sunday.”

Sunday’s launch of the 229 foot tall Falcon 9 from Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. is slated for 8:29 p.m. ET.

The primary mission of the liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 – in a newly enhanced upgraded configuration – 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 Falcon 9 will launch eleven next generation OG2 satellites as part of ORBCOMM’s second and final OG2 Mission at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida,” says Orbcomm.

A successful launch is critical to SpaceX which has a fully booked manifest of more than 50 launches waiting in line and worth billions of dollars in needed revenue to the firm.

The launch window lasts 60 seconds launch and opens at 8:29 p.m. ET.

A live webcast will be available at SpaceX.com/webcast beginning at approximately 8:05 p.m. ET on Sunday, Dec. 20.

If needed, SpaceX says a backup launch opportunity is available on Dec. 21.

Air Force meteorologists are predicting a 90 percent chance of favorable weather conditions at launch time.

After the Falcon 9 rocket was rolled out to pad 40 on Wednesday, Dec. 16, SpaceX engineers carried out a fueling and countdown test in anticipation of conducting the critical static fire test of the first stage Merlin engines.

But technicians soon encountered a variety of technical issues that postponed the test completion until Friday evening. This subsequently forced a 1 day launch delay from Saturday, Dec. 19 to Sunday Dec. 20.

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

All SpaceX launches ground to an immediate halt this past summer when the commercial two stage Falcon 9 booster carrying a SpaceX cargo Dragon spacecraft heading to the ISS on a critical resupply mission for NASA was unexpectedly destroyed by an overpressure event 139 seconds after a picture perfect blastoff from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on June 28 at 10:21 a.m. EDT.

The cause of the in-flight breakup was traced to the failure of a critical support strut inside the second stage liquid oxygen tank holding a high pressure helium tank in the Falcon 9 rocket, as the likely cause, revealed SpaceX CEO and chief designer Elon Musk during a briefing for reporters on July 20.

Musk said the Falcon 9 launch failure was a ‘huge blow’ to SpaceX.

At recent public forums, SpaceX managers have confirmed that a failure of the second stage strut is still the leading candidate for the launch mishap in June.

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

Ken Kremer

The post SpaceX Sets Dec. 20 For ‘Return to Flight’ Launch and Historic Rocket Ground Landing Recovery Attempt – Watch Live appeared first on Universe Today.

SpaceX Targeting Dec. 19 ‘Return to Flight’ Liftoff for Falcon 9 after June Mishap

SpaceX announced today (Dec. 10) that the aerospace firm is now targeting Dec. 19 as the target date for the ‘Return to Flight’ of their Falcon 9 rocket, and comes approximately six months after their last launch in late June 2015 ended suddenly in a catastrophic mid-air calamity resulting in total destruction of the rocket […]

SpaceX Targeting Dec. 19 ‘Return to Flight’ Liftoff for Falcon 9 after June Mishap

SpaceX announced today (Dec. 10) that the aerospace firm is now targeting Dec. 19 as the target date for the ‘Return to Flight’ of their Falcon 9 rocket, and comes approximately six months after their last launch in late June 2015 ended suddenly in a catastrophic mid-air calamity resulting in total destruction of the rocket […]