The stakes could almost not be higher for SpaceX as the firm readies their twice failed Falcon 9 rocket for a blastoff resumption on Saturday morning, Jan. 14 carrying the vanguard of the commercial Iridium NEXT satellite fleet to orbit from their California rocket base.
Hoping to recover quickly after suffering a calamitous launch pad explosion of their Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral some two months ago, SpaceX is aiming to resume launches of the booster in mid-December, said company founder and CEO Elon Musk in a recent televised interview on Nov. 4.
The post SpaceX Aims for Mid-December Falcon 9 Launch Resumption: Musk appeared first on Universe Today.
Investigators have determined that a “large breach” in the second stage helium system likely triggered the catastrophic Falcon 9 launch pad explosion that suddenly destroyed the rocket and Israeli commercial payload during a routine fueling test three weeks ago, SpaceX announced today, Friday, Sept. 23.
However, the root cause of the rupture and Sept. 1 disaster have not been determined, according to SpaceX, based on the results thus far discerned by the official accident investigation team probing the incident that forced an immediate halt to all SpaceX launches.
The Accident Investigation Team (AIT) is composed of SpaceX, the FAA, NASA, the U.S. Air Force, and industry experts.
“At this stage of the investigation, preliminary review of the data and debris suggests that a large breach in the cryogenic helium system of the second stage liquid oxygen tank took place,” SpaceX reported on the firm’s website in today’s anomaly update dated Sept. 23- the first in three weeks.
The helium system is used to pressurize the liquid oxygen tank from inside.
The explosion took place without warning at SpaceX’s Space Launch Complex-40 launch facility at approximately 9:07 a.m. EDT on Sept. 1 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fl, during a routine fueling test and engine firing test for the launch of the AMOS-6 comsat planned two days later.
Indeed the time between the first indication of an anomaly to loss of signal was vanishingly short – only about “93 milliseconds” of elapsed time, SpaceX reported.
93 milliseconds amounts to less than 1/10th of a second. That conclusion is based on examining 3,000 channels of data.
SpaceX reported that investigators “are currently scouring through approximately 3,000 channels of engineering data along with video, audio and imagery.”
Both the $60 million SpaceX rocket and the $200 million AMOS-6 Israeli commercial communications satellite payload were completely destroyed in a massive fireball that erupted suddenly during the planned pre-launch fueling and hot fire engine ignition test at pad 40.
The Sept. 1 calamity also counts as the second time a Falcon 9 has exploded in 15 months and the second time it originated in the second stage and will call into question the rocket’s reliability.
The first failure involved a catastrophic mid air explosion about two and a half minutes after liftoff, when a strut holding the helium tank inside the liquid oxygen tank failed in flight during the Dragon CRS-7 cargo resupply launch for NASA to the International Space Station on June 28, 2015 – and witnessed by this author.
However SpaceX says the although both incidents involved the second stage, they are unrelated, and as they seek to determine to the root cause.
“All plausible causes are being tracked in an extensive fault tree and carefully investigated. Through the fault tree and data review process, we have exonerated any connection with last year’s CRS-7 mishap.”
And they are thoroughly reviewing all rocket components.
“At SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, CA, our manufacturing and production is continuing in a methodical manner, with teams continuing to build engines, tanks, and other systems as they are exonerated from the investigation.”
But SpaceX will have to conduct an even more thorough analysis of every aspect of their designs and manufacturing processes and supply chain exactly because the cause of this disaster is different and apparently when undetected during the CRS-7 accident review.
Since the explosion showered debris over a wide area, searchers have been prowling surrounding areas and other nearby pads at the Cape and Kennedy Space Center for evidentiary remains that could provide clues or answers to the mystery of what’s at the root cause this time.
Searchers have recovered “the majority of debris from the incident has been recovered, photographed, labeled and catalogued, and is now in a hangar for inspection and use during the investigation.”
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk had previously reported via twitter that the rocket failure originated somewhere in the upper stage near the liquid oxygen (LOX) tank during fueling test operations at the launch pad, for what is known as a hot fire engine ignition test of all nine first stage Merlin 1D engines.
Engineers were in the final stages of loading the liquid oxygen (LOX) and RP-1 kerosene propellants that power the Falcon 9 first stage for the static fire test which is a full launch dress rehearsal. The anomaly took place about 8 minutes before the planned engine hot fire ignition.
And the incident took place less than two days before the scheduled Falcon 9 launch of AMOS-6 on Sept. 3 from pad 40.
The explosion also caused extensive damage to the launch pad as well as to the rockets transporter erector, or strongback, that holds the rocket in place until minutes before liftoff, and ground support equipment (GSE) around the pad – as seen in my recent photos of the pad taken a week after the explosion during the OSIRIS-REx launch campaign.
Fortunately, many pads areas survived intact or in good condition.
“While substantial areas of the pad systems were affected, the Falcon Support Building adjacent to the pad was unaffected, and per standard procedure was unoccupied at the time of the anomaly. The new liquid oxygen farm – e.g. the tanks and plumbing that hold our super-chilled liquid oxygen – was unaffected and remains in good working order. The RP-1 (kerosene) fuel farm was also largely unaffected. The pad’s control systems are also in relatively good condition.”
The rocket disaster was coincidentally captured as it unfolded in stunning detail in a spectacular up close video recorded by my space journalist colleague Mike Wagner at USLaunchReport.
Watch this video:
Video Caption: SpaceX – Static Fire Anomaly – AMOS-6 – 09-01-2016. Credit: USLaunchReport
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.
The post Big Breach In 2nd Stage Helium System Likely Triggered Catastrophic Falcon 9 Explosion: SpaceX appeared first on Universe Today.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – The outlook is outstanding for a dramatic midnight blastoff of the next SpaceX commercial cargo Dragon jam packed with some 5000 pounds of critical payloads and research supplies for NASA and heading to the space station on Monday, July 18 – that also simultaneously features an experimental land landing that promises to rock loudly across the Florida space coast and one day slash launch costs.
Dragon is carrying a crucial crew docking port absolutely essential for conducting future human space missions to the orbiting outpost as well as a host of wide ranging science experiments essential for NASA exploiting the space environment for research in low earth orbit and deep space exploration.
Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in its upgraded, full thrust version and the Dragon CRS-9 resupply ship is targeted for 12:45 a.m. EDT Monday, July 18, from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The CRS-9 mission is to support the resident six-person crew of men and women currently working on the station from the US, Russia and Japan.
Spectators are filling local area hotels in anticipation of a spectacular double whammy sky show comprising a thunderous nighttime launch streaking to orbit – followed minutes later by a brilliant rocket flash and night landing back at the Cape of the Falcon first stage that will send sonic booms roaring all around the coast and surrounding inland areas.
SpaceX has confirmed they are attempting the secondary mission of landing the 156 foot tall first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket on land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Landing Zone 1, located a few miles south of launch pad 40.
The weather and technical outlook for the 229 foot-tall (70 meter) Falcon 9 looks fantastic at this time, a day before liftoff.
The official weather forecast from Air Force meteorologists with the 45th Space Wing calls for a 90 percent change of “GO” with extremely favorable conditions at launch time for liftoff of this upgraded, SpaceX Falcon 9.
The only concerns are for Cumulus clouds building up and a chance of precipitation.
And for added stargazers delight the night sky features a full moon.
The SpaceX/Dragon CRS-9 launch coverage will be broadcast on NASA TV beginning at 11:30 p.m. EDT Sunday, July 17, with additional commentary on the NASA launch blog.
SpaceX will also feature their own live webcast beginning approximately 20 minutes before launch at 12:25 a.m. EDT Monday, July 18
You can watch the launch live at NASA TV at – http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv
You can watch the launch live at SpaceX Webcast at – spacex.com/webcast
The launch window is instantaneous, meaning that any delays due to weather or technical issues will results in a minimum 2 day postponement.
If the launch does not occur Monday, a backup launch opportunity exists on 12 a.m. Wednesday, July 20, just seconds after midnight, with NASA TV coverage starting at 10:45 p.m. EDT Tuesday, July 19.
CRS-9 counts as the company’s ninth scheduled flight to deliver supplies, science experiments and technology demonstrations to the International Space Station (ISS).
The CRS-9 mission is for the crews of Expeditions 48 and 49 to support dozens of the approximately 250 science and research investigations in progress under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract.
SpaceX engineers conducted their standard static fire hold down test of the first stages Merlin 1D engines with the rocket erect at pad 40, this morning Saturday, July 16.
The customary test lasts a few seconds and was conducted with the Dragon bolted on top at about 9:30 a.m. I saw the test while visiting atop neighboring Launch Complex 39B at the Kennedy Space Center – see photo.
“All looks good,” reported Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX vice president of Flight Reliability, at a media briefing this afternoon.
“We expect a GO for launch.”
Watch for Ken’s onsite CRS-9 mission reports direct from the Kennedy Space Center.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.
The SpaceX Dragon is set for its ‘Return to Flight’ mission on Friday, April 8, packed with nearly 7000 pounds (3100 kg) of critical cargo and research experiments bound for the six-man crew working aboard the International Space Station.
Blastoff of the commercial SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying the Dragon CRS-8 resupply ship is slated for 4:43 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The weather outlook looks great with a forecast of 90 percent “GO” and extremely favorable conditions at launch time. The only concern is for winds.
The SpaceX/Dragon CRS-8 launch coverage will be broadcast on NASA TV beginning at 3:30 p.m. EDT with additional commentary on the NASA launch blog
You can watch the launch live at – http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv
The launch window is instantaneous, meaning that any delays due to weather or technical issues will results in a minimum 1 day postponement.
A backup launch opportunity exists on Saturday, April 9, at 4:20 p.m. with NASA TV coverage starting at 3:15 p.m.
Friday’s launch marks the first for a Dragon since the catastrophic failure of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket in flight last year on June 28, 2015 on the CRS-7 resupply mission.
CRS-8 counts as the company’s eighth flight to deliver supplies, science experiments and technology demonstrations to the ISS for the crews of Expeditions 47 and 48 to support dozens of the approximately 250 science and research investigations in progress.
Also packed aboard in the Dragon’s unpressurized trunk section is experimental Bigelow Expandable Activity Module (BEAM) – an experimental expandable capsule that the crew will attach to the space station. The 3115 pound (1413 kg) BEAM will test the use of an expandable space habitat in microgravity.
Expedition 47 crew members Jeff Williams and Tim Kopra of NASA, Tim Peake of ESA (European Space Agency) and cosmonauts Yuri Malenchenko, Alexey Ovchinin and Oleg Skripochka of Roscosmos are currently living aboard the orbiting laboratory.
Dragon will reach its preliminary orbit about 10 minutes after launch. Then it will deploy its solar arrays and begin a carefully choreographed series of thruster firings to reach the space station.
After a 2 day orbital chase Dragon is set to arrive at the orbiting outpost on Sunday, April 10.
NASA astronaut Jeff Williams and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Tim Peake will then reach out with the station’s Canadian-built robotic arm to grapple and capture the Dragon spacecraft.
Ground commands will be sent from Houston to the station’s arm to install Dragon on the Earth-facing bottom side of the Harmony module for its stay at the space station. Live coverage of the rendezvous and capture will begin at 5:30 a.m. on NASA TV, with installation set to begin at 9:30 a.m.
In a historic first, the launch of a SpaceX Dragon cargo spacecraft sets the stage for the first time that two American cargo ships will be simultaneously attached to the ISS. The Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo freighter launched just launched on March 22 and arrived on March 26 at a neighboring docking port on the Unity module.
Among the new experiments arriving to the station will be Veggie-3 to grow Chinese lettuce in microgravity as a followup to Zinnias recently grown, an investigation to study muscle atrophy and bone loss in space, using microgravity to seek insight into the interactions of particle flows at the nanoscale level and use protein crystal growth in microgravity to help in the design of new drugs to fight disease, as well as reflight of student experiments lost during the CRS-7 launch failure.
Dragon will remain at the station until it returns to Earth on May 11 for a parachute assisted splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California. It will be packed with numerous science samples, including those collected by 1 year crew member Scott Kelly, for return to investigators, some broken hardware for repair and some items of trash for disposal.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.
Learn more about SpaceX, NASA Mars rovers, Orion, SLS, ISS, Orbital ATK, ULA, Boeing, Space Taxis, NASA missions and more at Ken’s upcoming outreach events:
Apr 9/10: “NASA and the Road to Mars Human Spaceflight programs” and “Curiosity explores Mars” at NEAF (NorthEast Astronomy and Space Forum), 9 AM to 5 PM, Suffern, NY, Rockland Community College and Rockland Astronomy Club – http://rocklandastronomy.com/neaf.html
Apr 12: Hosting Dr. Jim Green, NASA, Director Planetary Science, for a Planetary sciences talk about “Ceres, Pluto and Planet X” at Princeton University; 7:30 PM, Amateur Astronomers Assoc of Princeton, Peyton Hall, Princeton, NJ – http://www.princetonastronomy.org/
Apr 17: “NASA and the Road to Mars Human Spaceflight programs”- 1:30 PM at Washington Crossing State Park, Nature Center, Titusville, NJ – http://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/parks/washcros.html
The post SpaceX Dragon Set for ‘Return to Flight’ Launch to ISS Apr. 8 – Watch Live appeared first on Universe Today.
The largest and most advanced version of the privately developed Cygnus cargo freighter ever built by Orbital ATK is fueled, loaded and ready to go to orbit – signifying a critical turning point towards resuming American commercial cargo launches to the space station for NASA that are critical to keep it functioning. The enhanced and […]
The biggest and heaviest Cygnus commercial cargo craft ever built by Orbital ATK is coming together at the Kennedy Space Center as the launch pace picks up steam for its critical ‘Return to Flight’ resupply mission to the space station for NASA. Cygnus is on target for an early December blastoff from Florida and the […]
The in flight failure of a critical support strut inside the second stage liquid oxygen tank holding a high pressure helium tank in the Falcon 9 rocket, is the likely cause of the failed SpaceX launch three weeks ago on June 28, revealed SpaceX CEO and chief designer Elon Musk during a briefing for reporters […]
In his first public comments since the surprise disintegration of the commercial SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket some two minutes after last week’s liftoff on June 28, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said today (July 7) that the launch failure was a “huge blow” to his company and the cause remains elusive and is under intense investigation. […]
Over three tons of much needed supplies and equipment finally reached the crew living aboard the International Space Station (ISS), when an unmanned and highly anticipated Russian Progress cargo ship successfully docked at the orbiting outpost early this morning, Sunday July 5, at 3:11 a.m. EDT (10:11 MSK, Moscow local time)- to all the partners […]