Tag Archives: reusable flyback booster

Space news catchup! Vega, Blue Origin, GOES-16’s lightning mapper, and more!

It’s been really busy lately, so I haven’t has as much time to post as I’d like.  So today I will make up for it with a bunch of space news updates!

First off, a rocket launch is always fun.  Arianespace’s Vega launcher placed the Sentinel 2B environmental monitoring satellite into orbit from Kourou, French Guiana:

Meanwhile, GOES-16 continues its commissioning phase.  As part of that, it has returned its first view of lightning from 22,000 miles away, a demonstration of its incredible capacity at this range.  The green lines represent the coast of Texas.  The lightning is all in real time, and is overlaid over an image taken at the same time by GOES-16’s revolutionary Advanced Baseline Imager.

This full-disk image was created from data from the same instrument, and shows total lightning energy recorded over a one-hour period (an hour which included the image above; that really bright spot in this image is the same storm system over Texas):

And then let’s go back to rockets!  Blue Origin unveiled their New Glenn rocket today with an animation depicting its flight profile.  It is definitely similar to the strategy SpaceX is using, but one difference is that the engine, BE-4, will also by flying on another rocket, ULA’s Vulcan.  Another difference is the strakes.  It looks quite lovely, and I hope we’ll get to see it fly soon.  They do already have a customer for it: the first flight customer will be Eutelsat.

And then, how about some good news on the political front?  Cutting NASA has long been a bipartisan pasttime, but the tides seem to be changing.  A strong bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives voted to pass the NASA Authorization Bill, the first time they’ve managed to do so despite annual attempts in the past six years.  (NASA has been operating under continuing resolutions instead.)  This bill budgets $19.5 billion for NASA in 2017.  Of course, now we have to see what actually gets appropriated; that’s a separate battle, and will start with the White House federal budget request.  So cross your fingers, space geeks!

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Falcon 9 arrives in Los Angeles

The Falcon 9 first stage that placed the first flight of Iridium Next spacecraft into orbit has returned to land, coming ashore on its drone barge “Just Read The Instructions” at the Port of Los Angeles.

Meanwhile, the first reflown booster has been announced: as rumored, the customers is SES, and in fact the first flown booster will carry their SES 10 payload in just a month’s time.  SpaceX has a very busy plate ahead of them, catching up from their hiatus, and so Falcon 9 will actually manage to fly three more times before the SES 10 mission.

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Falcon 9 has returned to flight!

After the shocking loss of the last Falcon 9, the rocket roared well and truly back into business today.  They had been slightly delayed by the much needed rains that have come to California, but today the weather was suitable and launch occurred on time and on target, with a successful barge recovery at sea of the first stage – the first from Vandenberg.  The Jason-3 launch a year ago was the first attempt to recover a Falcon 9 in the Pacific; it successfully soft-landed, but one of the landing legs failed to lock allowing it to fall over and explode.  This one was flawless, and the barge will return to shore in the next couple of days — I believe to San Diego, since that’s where SpaceX recovers their Dragons.

The payload is the first flight of the Iridium NEXT constellation, which uses a brand-new multi-satellite deployment system that appears to have worked flawlessly, deploying all ten spacecraft correctly into their high inclination orbit.

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Thaicom 8 launch successful, and SpaceX stuck another landing!

SpaceX successfully launched the Thaicom 8 spacecraft to geosynchronous transfer orbit yesterday, after a one-day delay due to a possible issue with the upper stage.  Engineers were able to clear the rocket for launch, and yesterday’s attempt went perfectly, including the risky ocean landing.  Landing after a geosynchronous launch is very tricky, because there’s almost no propellant left — just enough for the landing burn.  It has only cold gas thrusters and its grid fins to steer and decelerate to that point.  And yet, the Falcon 9 first stage nailed another landing on Of Course I Still Love You!

The last landing from geosynchronous orbit left the stage too damaged to be reused.  It will take a few weeks to a month for SpaceX engineers to determine whether this one fared any better.

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SpaceX has recovered a third booster, and this one from a geosynchronous launch!

Despite pegging this as an unlikely recovery, the Falcon 9 first stage really stuck the landing on the drone barge Of Course I Still Love You.  They’re making remarkable progress towards their long-term objectives; now the only way to up the ante, I think, will be to try and recover boosters from the upcoming Falcon Heavy!  Soon this is going to become routine, and that will be amazing.

Payload on this morning’s flight was JCSAT-14, a Loral-built Japanese telecom satellite that will serve customers in Japan and Asia.  (If you just want to see the landing, skip ahead to 8:55.)

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Awesome 360 video of the Falcon 9 drone ship landing!

Alas, this isn’t as high res as some of the other cool 360 videos posted recently, but I’ll take it.  It’s pretty sweet.  😉  It has sound too, so you can hear the engine roar as Falcon approaches!  Make sure to look up, and watch for the landing legs deploying!

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Oversize Load: Falcon 9 Stage Returns

Wouldn’t it be amazing to have to stop and wait while this thing crossed the road in front of you?  😉

Even cooler would be if you were on the KSC bus tour when it drove by.  I am really jealous of these people.  😉

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