Tag Archives: KSC

Catching up on launches and landings!

I’ve been remiss in blogging, so here’s a pile of videos to try to make it up. ¬†ūüėČ

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:

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Bulgaria enters the space community, as the second reused Falcon 9 flies!

SpaceX completed another successful launch today — and the first droneship recovery of a reused booster — placing BulgariaSat1 into geosynchronous transfer orbit. ¬†It was the hottest and hardest return yet, and not quite squarely on the droneship (“Of Course I Still Love You”), but it was successful.

SpaceX isn’t quite done yet — they’re planning another launch on Sunday with the second set of ten Iridium Next satellites from Vandenberg AFB. ¬†It’s a busy launch weekend; I’ll have more rocket launch videos tomorrow. ¬†ūüėČ

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CRS-11 Launch: First reused Dragon capsule has flown

The CRS-11 Dragon mission is now underway, the first with a reflown Dragon capsule.  (The heatshield is new, as of course is the unpressurized trunk section and the solar panels, as these are discarded with each flight, burning up while the pressurized module returns to the Earth.)  The Falcon 9 rocket was still brand-new, but the first stage will eventually be reused; it completed the fifth successful landing at Cape Canaveral.

This was the one hundredth launch from LC-39A.

Here’s the replay of the SpaceX webcast (jump ahead 16 minutes for the launch):

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Falcon 9 has lifted its heaviest payload to geosychronous orbit to date: Inmarsat-5 Flight 4, a massive commsat designed to support inflight WiFi and mobile broadband. ¬†The spacecraft was originally slated to fly on SpaceX’s gigantic Falcon Heavy, but the increase in Falcon 9 capacity with the current version (v1.2) meant that if the booster recovery was abandoned, they could actually do the mission with this vehicle.

This is the SpaceX live feed, captured for our enjoyment.  The feed starts 11 minutes into the video, and launch is at 20 minutes.

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The 4th X-37 mission has ended

Without any fanfare, the OTV-4 mission came to an end over the weekend, landing at Kennedy Space Center’s Shuttle Landing Facility following 718 days in orbit.:

As with the previous three Orbital Test Vehicle missions, the majority of its activities remain undisclosed.  However, this time the Air Force did disclose two payloads: an experimental ion thruster built by Aerojet-Rocketdyne and a NASA payload called METIS (Materials Exposure and Technology Innovation in Space) that exposed over a hundred samples of materials, such as polymers, ceramics, and more.

The fifth OTV mission has not yet been announced.

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Spectacular Falcon 9 return footage from NROL-76 launch

SpaceX successfully completed their first flight for the National Reconnaissance Office, carrying an undisclosed classified payload to orbit, designated NROL-76.  As is typical for NRO launches, coverage of the climb to orbit went only as far as first stage burnout.  However, SpaceX still had plenty of first stage footage still to produce, as the stage returned to land back at the Cape.  As a result of that and the favorable lighting conditions to view the rocket climbing away from the historic LC-39A complex, using the exceptional long-range tracking cameras available at KSC, this may be the most spectacular first stage flyback footage yet:

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SpaceX has reflown a booster!

The first reflown Falcon 9 first stage core has completed its second mission, and been recovered successfully on a barge at sea. ¬†They also apparently recovered half of the payload fairing, which I didn’t know they were even thinking about attempting. ¬†The upper stage went on to deliver SES-10 to the correct geosynchronous transfer orbit.

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