I’ve been remiss in blogging, so here’s a pile of videos to try to make it up. 😉
First off, last Saturday China carried out the second launch of their new heavy-lift rocket, the CZ-5 (Long March 5), from their newest launch site on Hainan Island. CZ-5 is intended to support their deep space exploration aspirations, including eventual manned missions to the Moon, so a successful launch was very important. Unfortunately, it does not appear to have been successful. Initial indications suggest the first stage burned considerably longer than expected, which would suggest a possible engine failure resulting in the stage burning much longer in attempt to compensate, perhaps to propellant depletion. The second stage appears to have carried out a normal burn, but was clearly unable to make up the velocity shortfall. The upper stage and its seven-ton experimental commsat payload (Shijan-18) both reentered, most likely impacting in the Pacific Ocean. The strap-on stages of the CZ-5 operate on kerosene and LOX, while the core and upper stages burn LH2/LOX. The booster engines use a design licensed from NPO Energomash in Russia, the world’s undisputed leader in staged-combustion kerolox engines (it really is amazing how many vehicles around the world use their designs), while the cryogenic engines are domestically designed and produced.
Meanwhile, the first recycled SpaceX Dragon capsule completed its mission to the ISS. One of its payloads was the Roll-Out Solar Array (ROSA), an experiment to test a new type of solar array that is more robust than earlier roll-out designs (remember Hubble’s original arrays, which usually looked a bit twisted and wonky when deployed?) but more compact than rigid arrays. The experiment was almost a complete success, with the array generating lots of power. Unfortunately, retraction was unsuccessful, so the array had to be jettisoned in its deployed state.
The ROSA’s ride up also left the ISS, but in a more controlled fashion, and returned to Earth.
The CRS-11 spacecraft then made the first Dragon reentry at night. Astronaut Jack Fisher photographed the plasma trail from orbit:
Rounding out the launches of the last few days is today’s launch of the tenth Falcon 9 of the year, placing Intelsat 35E into geosynchronous transfer orbit. Due to the size of the payload, this was flown as a fully expendable launch vehicle, with no grid fins and no excess propellant margin to carry out a reentry burn: