Monday pm Update: At the top of the launch window, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket flew into space Monday from a California launch site, sending 64 smallsats on their intended path into synchronous orbit. Shortly after, the first leg descended to a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean and landed safely. This is the third time this particular first stage has flown into space and returned safely to Earth.
Meanwhile, SpaceX also tried another payload fairing recovery. Although the mr. Steven Vessel didn’t “catch” any of the fairings, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said the company would nevertheless try to reuse these two fairings.
The halves of the Falcon fairings missed the net, but landed softly in the water. Mr Steven will pick them up. Plan is to dry them out and relaunch. Nothing wrong with a little swimming.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) Dec 3, 2018
It was not immediately clear why these fairings could be useful, when in the past salt water seems to have caused damage rendering the fairings unusable.
Monday am Update: Originally scheduled to launch on Nov. 19, the Spaceflight SSO-A mission has been delayed three times due to the need for additional missile controls and some weather conditions. Now the historic mission – SpaceX will attempt to launch the same first Falcon 9 stage for the third time, set an annual record for total launches and fly the most smallsats into space on a US booster – scheduled for Monday at 13:45 32 hours ET (6:32 PM UTC).
Despite the delays, we’re still pretty excited about this one.
Sunday am Update: SpaceX said early Sunday that it will step down from Sunday’s launch attempt “to conduct additional inspections of the second leg”. The company is working on its backup attempt on December 3, when the launch window opens at 1:32 p.m. ET.
Original mail: Sunday’s launch attempt of a Falcon 9 rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, with a primary launch window from 1:32 p.m. ET (18:32 UTC) to 2:00 p.m. ET (19:00 UTC), is important for a number of reasons.
First, this will be the company’s 19th launch in 2018, and if it succeeds, it will break SpaceX’s record for the most missions flown in a calendar year. With a handful of launches on its manifest in December, SpaceX is on track to fly a whopping 22 rockets this year. This means that SpaceX has solved manufacturing and processing issues that prevented it from launching more than eight rockets before 2017 and that last year was no fluke.
Perhaps more importantly, a successful flight on Sunday would be the third flight of this particular first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket. This core flew first on May 11 for the Bangabandhu-1 mission and then again on August 7 for the Merah Putih mission. Now, for the first time ever, SpaceX will attempt to fly the same first stage (and its nine Merlin engines) for the third time.
Such a feat — flying the same rocket three times in less than seven months — would move the company closer to its cost-saving goal of flying each Falcon 9 rocket 10 times between major renovations. This became possible after the company introduced a final variant of its Falcon 9 booster called Block 5, which engineers designed for optimal reusability. (The flight of this rocket core in May marked the first launch of a Block 5 variant of the Falcon 9). As just a (very) minor example of efforts to save time and costs, SpaceX no longer washes the rocket’s first stage in between uses, which explains why the bottom two-thirds of the assembled rocket appear scorched, but the top third. an immaculate white. This is because the upper stage and cockpit of the payload are new for each flight.
Finally, Sunday’s mission stands out for its payload — there are many as part of the Spaceflight SSO-A mission. SpaceX will aim to set a US launch record for the most satellites launched into space at the same time, with 15 microsats and 49 cubesats from commercial and government agencies around the world. (Two of these, interestingly, are from Kazakhstan, a country where many of the Russian space agency launches take place).
A company called Spaceflight organized the four-ton manifesto for Sunday’s flight. It designed the payload stack and coordinated a variety of satellite dispensers for when the mission reaches a sun-synchronous polar orbit at an altitude of 575 km. The deployment of the satellites begins about 13 minutes after launch and ends about 30 minutes after that point.
SpaceX will try again to restore this booster with the drone ship Just read the instructions downrange stationed in the Pacific Ocean. If successful, we can probably expect this first leg to make an unprecedented fourth flight sometime in 2019.
The webcast below should begin approximately 15 minutes before the launch window opens.
List image by SpaceX