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From The Editors Science

A Recycled SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Lifts Off with 10 Iridium NEXT Satellites

Exactly three months into 2018 and SpaceX has already completed its sixth mission of the year, successfully launching 10 Iridium NEXT Satellites into orbit today (March 30).

A previously used SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California at 10:13 a.m. EDT (1413 GMT) on its fifth Iridium mission, dubbed Iridium-5.

Ironically, the recycled booster‘s previous deployment was also for an Iridium launch – the Iridium-3 mission, to be precise – after which the booster was recovered for re-deployment.

However, this wasn’t the first time that an Iridium mission was launched using a recovered booster from an earlier Iridium mission.

Iridium-4 was launched last December using the same Falcon 9 booster recovered from the Iridium 2 mission in June 2017.

So, effectually, SpaceX has thus far launched five Iridium missions using just three boosters, as SpaceX materials engineer Michael Hammersley was quick to point out during live commentary of today’s launch.

“Today, this is our fifth launch for the Iridium constellation, using only three rockets,” he said.

Well, you can call it a record of sorts.

However, no attempt was made to recover the booster today, but no surprises there, as SpaceX had announced prior to the launch that it would not be going for a second retrieval of the first stage.

SpaceX is under a $536 million contract with Iridium Communications Inc. to launch 75 Iridium Next satellites over eight Falcon 9 mission.

With five Iridium missions already in the SpaceX bag, and 50 of the Virginia-based company’s satellites circling their intended orbits, SpaceX is left with 25 more satellites to launch over the three remaining missions – the Iridium-6, Iridium-7 and Iridium-8 missions, which should be achieved by mid 2018, providing SpaceX is able to maintain the blistering pace it has set thus far.

Some nine minutes into today’s launch, the company stopped the live video feed from the rocket’s second stage – a clear deviation from a typical SpaceX launch.

“Due to some restrictions from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric [Administration], NOAA for short, SpaceX will be intentionally ending live video coverage from the second stage just prior to engine shutdown,” Hammersley said.

“We’re working with NOAA to address these restrictions in order to hopefully be able to bring you live views from orbit in the future,” added the commentator, without elaborating on the details of the so-called NOAA restrictions.

As part of its endeavor to bring down launch costs, SpaceX has been working hard at perfecting its booster recovery act and has been pretty much successful in launching, recovering and re-launching first stage Falcon 9 boosters.

Well, having gained ample expertise in that area, SpaceX is now looking towards other cost-cutting measures, including the recovery of fairings – a part of the rocket’s nosecone which basically protects the rocket’s payload during its stressful ascent.

The company did manage to recover a Falcon 9 fairing last month after launching Hisdesat’s PAZ and two of its own demo satellites, but the recovery did not exactly go according to plans.

As the clamshell-like fairing fell back to Earth after separation, it deployed a parafoil to slow down its descent so that SpaceX could collect it on its customized fairing recovery boat, called Mr. Steven, fitted with a massive net, held in place by giant metal arms extending out of the boat.

“Going to try to catch the giant fairing (nosecone) of Falcon 9 as it falls back from space at about eight times the speed of sound,” Elon Musk wrote on Instagram at the time. “It has onboard thrusters and a guidance system to bring it through the atmosphere intact, then releases a parafoil and our ship, named Mr. Steven, with basically a giant catcher’s mitt welded on, tries to catch it

However, the fairing missed Mr. Steven’s “giant catcher’s mitt” and landed in the Pacific but no major damage to the nosecone was reported.

“Missed by a few hundred meters, but fairing landed intact in water,” Musk wrote on Twitter, adding that in future the company “should be able catch it with slightly bigger chutes to slow down descent.”

While today’s mission is another feather in the SpaceX cap, there’s no time for the company to sit back and dwell too much on its successes as another important launch is coming up this week – not that there’s any such thing as an unimportant launch.

Scheduled for an April 2 launch from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, another previously-used Falcon 9 rocket will lift off with a Dragon cargo ship, also used before, to carry food and other supplies for the International Space Station (ISS) crew.

Again, it won’t be the first instance of a used Dragon spaceship launching atop a used Falcon 9 rocket.

The feat has already been successfully achieved, and as recently as December last year, when SpaceX launched a used Dragon spacecraft, carrying a 4,800-pound resupply payload for the International Space Station (ISS), atop its previously used Falcon 9 rocket, taking the company another step closer, and a big one at that, to its goal of achieving total re-usability.

Not in the history of all its launches had Space X used a previously-flown spacecraft on a previously-flown rocket. It was also the first time, ever, that Elon Musk’s spaceflight company had used a recycled rocket for a NASA mission

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From The Editors Science

SpaceX Launches Top Secret Government Satellite “Zuma” Into Orbit

After a record 18 launches last year, SpaceX made its first successful spaceflight of 2018 Sunday night from its SLC-40 launch facility at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, in Florida, instead of its other facility at the Kennedy Space Center, which is being prepared for the company’s first Falcon Heavy launch sometime later this month.

The Falcon 9 lifted off with its secret cargo “Zuma,” successfully launching the U.S. Government satellite/spacecraft into low orbit on a classified mission. SpaceX has carried sensitive payloads for Uncle Sam in the past as well, including the National Reconnaissance Office in May 2017 and the U.S. Air Force spacecraft X-37B later in the year.

Also, Elon Musk’s company made yet another picture-perfect recovery of the Falcon 9 booster as it returned to landing pad LZ-1 after putting Zuma into its intended orbit. It was the 21st successful recovery of the first-stage and the ninth on LZ-1, the remaining 12 having touched down on “autonomous spaceport droneships” in the ocean.

SpaceX is the proud owner of two of these unmanned ocean crafts named “Of Course I Still Love You” and “Just Read the Instructions.”

These repossessions of the re-usable first-stage boosters are part of the company’s cost-cutting efforts. So far, SpaceX has re-flown five of the recovered Falcon 9 rockets as well as two unmanned Dragon capsules on resupply missions to the International Space Station (ISS). The rocket used for Sunday night’s Zuma mission, by the way, was a brand new Falcon 9.

Watch the Zuma launch here.

With the Zuma launch out of the way, SpaceX can now focus on the launch one of the most powerful rockets in recent history, the Falcon Heavy, planned for later this month.

Capable of generating three times the thrust of a Falcon 9, made possible by 27 Merlin engines – nine to each core – the 229-foot-tall science and technology marvel will be able to carry payloads of up to 63,800 kg into low orbit.

It is all set to become the most powerful in-service rocket, bypassing Europe’s Ariane 5 heavy-lift launcher, which, for now, is the world’s most powerful launch vehicle with a lift-off thrust of 2.9 million pounds from its core engine and two boosters.

However, maximum payload capability can only be achieved if the company decides not to recover the first-stage boosters, which, basically, eats up the rocket’s propellant reserves, thereby reducing its lifting capacity.

With SpaceX already decided on recovering all three first-stage boosters, needless to say, Falcon Heavy will not be carrying the maximum payload when it lifts off later this month.

Even when the boosters are not recovered, maximum payload launch into low Earth orbit will require a velocity boost from Earth’s rotation. For that to happen, the rocket will have to be launched to the east from Florida’s Space Coast.

“When Falcon Heavy lifts off in 2018, it will be the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two. With the ability to lift into orbit over 54 metric tons (119,000 lb)—a mass equivalent to a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage, and fuel—Falcon Heavy can lift more than twice the payload of the next closest operational vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy at one-third the cost,” claims SpaceX on its website.

Falcon Heavy’s two side-boosters, recovered and refurbished from 2016’s Falcon 9 missions, will separate and return to land at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in quick succession, if not simultaneously, while the new center core will detach and land on SpaceX’s droneship in the Atlantic.

If Elon Musk has not been pulling our legs, we will get to see an “unusual” payload this time around – a red Tesla Roadster.

In a December 22 Instagram post, Musk had uploaded the image of the red car alongside a message captioned “A Red Car for the Red Planet.”

This is what the message said:

“Test flights of new rockets usually contain mass simulators in the form of concrete or steel blocks. That seemed extremely boring. Of course, anything boring is terrible, especially companies, so we decided to send something unusual, something that made us feel.

The payload will be an original Tesla Roadster, playing Space Oddity, on a billion year elliptic Mars orbit.”

The mighty Merlins of the Falcon Heavy are expected to give the Roadster enough thrust for it to beat Earth’s gravity, allowing it to go into a heliocentric orbit, about the same distance as between Mars and the sun.

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From The Editors Science

Falcon Heavy Stood Upright for the First Time on Historic Launch Pad 39A for Pre-Flight Tests

On December 28, SpaceX moved another step closer to its first Falcon Heavy launch, due sometime in January 2018. The 3-booster rocket stood vertical, for the first time, at the famous launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, in Florida, for pre-launch tests.

Several lucky spectators who happened to be in the vicinity of the KSC launch pad, whether by design or coincidence, actually got to see the raising of the 70-meter-tall rocket – a historic first for the triple-booster space vehicle.

Capable of generating three times the thrust of a Falcon 9, made possible by 27 Merlin engines – nine to each core – the 229-foot-tall science and technology marvel will be able to carry payloads of up to 63,800 kg into low orbit.

It is all set to become the most powerful in-service rocket, bypassing Europe’s Ariane 5 heavy-lift launcher, which, for now, is the world’s most powerful launch vehicle with a lift-off thrust of 2.9 million pounds from its core engine and two boosters.

However, maximum payload capability can only be achieved if the company decides not to recover the first-stage boosters, which, basically, eats up the rockets propellant reserves, thereby reducing the rocket’s lifting capacity.

With SpaceX already decided on recovering all three first-stage boosters, needless to say, Falcon Heavy will not be carrying the maximum payload when it lifts off next month.

Even when the boosters are not recovered, maximum payload launch into low Earth orbit will require a velocity boost from Earth’s rotation. For that to happen, the rocket will have to be launched to the east from Florida’s Space Coast.

“When Falcon Heavy lifts off in 2018, it will be the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two. With the ability to lift into orbit over 54 metric tons (119,000 lb)—a mass equivalent to a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage, and fuel—Falcon Heavy can lift more than twice the payload of the next closest operational vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy at one-third the cost,” claims SpaceX on its website.

Falcon Heavy’s two side-boosters, recovered and refurbished from 2016’s Falcon 9 missions, will separate and return to land at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in quick succession, if not simultaneously, while the new center core will detach and land on SpaceX’s droneship in the Atlantic.

Here’s what Elon Musk tweeted after the successful December 22 launch of Falcon 9 – the 18th and last launch for SpaceX in 2017.

If Elon Musk has not been pulling our legs, we will get to see an “unusual” payload this time around – a red Tesla Roadster.

In a December 22 Instagram post, Musk had uploaded the image of the red car alongside a message captioned “A Red Car for the Red Planet.”

This is what the message said:

“Test flights of new rockets usually contain mass simulators in the form of concrete or steel blocks. That seemed extremely boring. Of course, anything boring is terrible, especially companies, so we decided to send something unusual, something that made us feel.
The payload will be an original Tesla Roadster, playing Space Oddity, on a billion year elliptic Mars orbit.”

https://www.instagram.com/p/BdA94kVgQhU/

The mighty Merlins of the Falcon Heavy are expected to give the Roadster enough thrust for it to beat Earth’s gravity, allowing it to go into a heliocentric orbit, about the same distance as between Mars and the sun.

Kennedy Space Center’s launch pad 39A owes its historic significance to the fact that it was the launch pad used for NASA’s Apollo and Space Shuttle missions as well as other NASA launches until it was decommissioned after the July 2011 launch of the space agency’s Space Shuttle orbiter Atlantis – the final flight of the Shuttle program.

Yes, it’s the same launch pad from where the Saturn V rocket lifted off on its historic 1969 manned mission to the moon.

Leased by SpaceX and active since early this year for Falcon 9 launches, the iconic pad was modified to support Dragon 2 and Falcon Heavy launches, as well.

Barring the stationary fire test of all 27 first stage engines – which will happen in January before the launch – SpaceX engineers carried out fit checks and other tests before the rocket was lowered down back to a horizontal position.

While SpaceX has not yet released a target date, company officials do confirm that a January launch is certainly on the cards, not long after the hold-down firing of the multiple engines.

Below, you can see the Falcon Heavy being set up at launch pad 39A in a time-lapse video “Spaceflight Now” posted on Twitter.

SpaceX has had a superlative 2017 with 18 launches to its credit, more than any other private-sector spaceflight company in the world.

Also, the December 15 recovery of the Falcon 9 booster made it the 20th successful first-stage retrieval for the spaceflight company, with 14 recoveries this year alone.

The first-stage of Falcon 9 that returned after the spectacular evening launch on December 22 could also have been retrieved but was intentionally allowed to plunge into the ocean.

With the busy launch schedule of 2018, it may well turn out to be as good a year, if not better.

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From The Editors Science

Eighth Feather in Elon Musk’s ‘Launch and Retrieval’ Cap

In about fourteen months SpaceX has accomplished eight successful ‘launch and retrieval’ of its Falcon9 rockets, three of them landing back on terra firma, with the first ever daytime return of the space vehicle witnessed on February 19, 2017.

However, the journey to the eighth winner, which started in December 2015, was not all smooth sailing for Elon Musk and SpaceX.

In September 2016, a Falcon9 rocket exploded at the company’s Launch Complex 40 at the Cape. The blast destroyed both rocket and payload including heavy damage to the pad, rendering it out of commission – hence, the decision to launch the ninth mission from the iconic pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, now, in use by SpaceX under a property agreement with NASA.

A couple of technical glitches caused the scheduled launch on February 18, to be aborted and rescheduled for the next day. Reportedly, one of them was an issue with the steering in the upper segment of the rocket.

Carrying the Dragon Capsule containing 5500 pounds of supplies and equipment for astronauts at the NASA International Space Center (ISS), the Falcon9 lifted off from the historic pad 39A at 9.39 a.m. EST (2.39 p.m. GMT) Sunday, watched by Elon Musk and his SpaceX team.

This happens to be the tenth commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station (CRS-10) undertaken by SpaceX for NASA.

In about ten minutes post-launch the first stage returned safely to “Landing Zone 1,” a SpaceX booster retrieval facility, at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Complex, built in February 2015 on land leased from the United States Air Force.

Elon Musk celebrates:

Baby came back

A post shared by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on

Before its return, Falcon9 successfully launched the Dragon payload into orbit expected to be retrieved by the robotic arm of the ISS when the capsule reaches it on Wednesday with essential supplies.

NASA celebrates:

According to a NASA report, the contents of the Dragon capsule are:
“Major experiments that will look into a range of scientific disciplines from human health to atmospheric conditions on Earth.”

“Astronauts Thomas Pesquet of ESA (European Space Agency) and Shane Kimbrough of NASA will use the space station’s robotic arm to capture Dragon when it arrives at the station. Live coverage of the rendezvous and capture will begin at 4:30 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22 on NASA TV and the agency’s website, with installation coverage set to begin at 8:30 a.m.” – NASA.

This was the first ever launch by SpaceX from launch pad 39A which was decommissioned in 2011 after hosting the last lift-off of NASA’s Space Shuttle orbiter Atlantis. The site, built for the Apollo missions and later modified for NASA’a space shuttle program, is resplendent in history, and Sunday’s launch has just added to its glorious past.

SpaceX leased 39A from NASA under a property agreement in 2014 and modified it to support its Falcon9 Dragon and future Falcon Heavy programs. The main focus of the refurbishment work was on the ground propellant systems which had to be upgraded to future missions’ specifications.

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From The Editors Science

Seventh Successful Launch and Booster Retrieval of SpaceX Falcon 9

The first ever successful launch and safe return and retrieval of the booster, after mission accomplished, happened in December 2015 for SpaceX. The success of the operation of carrying and launching the payload in space was surely an occasion to rejoice; however, it had happened before on numerous occasions.

The most significant and triumphant aspect of the mission for Elon Musk and the SpaceX team was the safe return and retrieval of the booster which had never happened before for SpaceX until December 2015; although Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin had successfully achieved this feat of safe return and retrieval earlier with its “New Shepard” mission.

Ever since that momentous day in December 2015, SpaceX achieved six successful launches and booster retrievals until the tragic explosion of Falcon 9 along with its payload in September 2016 and a re-launch was scheduled for January 2017.

Of course, an enquiry into the disaster was initiated and SpaceX investigators were able to narrow down the cause of last year’s pre-launch testing catastrophe at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to a malfunction of one of three helium tanks inside the rocket’s second-stage liquid oxygen tank as reported by Associated Press (AP).

“SpaceX announced this month that investigators concluded the accident involved a failure of one of three helium tanks inside the rocket’s second-stage liquid oxygen tank,” reported AP.

However, true to their word of a re-launch in January 2017, Elon Musk and the SpaceX team achieved their seventh successful launch and booster retrieval on Saturday, January 14, 2017.

The Falcon9 lifted off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, on Saturday, with a payload of 10 satellites launching the “Iridium-1” mission on behalf of Iridium Communications Inc. headquartered in McLean, Virginia. It is a voice and data communications company which operates Iridium satellite constellations providing voice and data coverage to satellite phones, pagers and integrated transceivers covering the entire surface of the earth.

The successful launch and retrieval not only by Elon Musk’s SpaceX but also Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin mean retrieved boosters can be used multiple times for launching different payloads into orbit, thereby, making such missions much more economical and feasible for other space-related ventures.

As far as SpaceX is concerned there are reports that they have a minimum of seventy scheduled launches in the not too distant future involving a mind-blowing US$10 billion.

In addition to commercial space launches like the seventh launch for Iridium, SpaceX is also involved in carrying space supplies to the International Space Station (ISS).

Reportedly, they are also working on space capsule technology designed to carry astronauts to the International Space Station.

With the rapid development being witnessed in space technology in the 21st century along with NASA’s involvement, assistance, and expertise, colonization of Mars, commercial space flight services, space hotels, amusement parks and much more are appearing more and more as distant, and in some cases not too distant, realities.

For more information on related topics please refer to the following links:

The Amazing Amazon Man- Jeff Bezos- Life and Achievements

Elon Musk – Entrepreneur, Innovator and a Child at Heart

A Brief Insight into Elon Musk the Man, the Entrepreneur and the Visionary

 

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From The Editors Science

Elon Musk – Entrepreneur, Innovator and a Child at Heart

Elon Musk, founder, CEO and CTO of SpaceX, co-founder, CEO and Product Architect of Tesla, co-founder and Chairman of Solar City, co-founder of Open AI – a non-profit Artificial Intelligence research company, an estimated net worth of $11.5 billion as of June 2016, ranked 21 on Forbes list of The World’s Most Powerful People in December 2016, is after all human, and the child in him was evident in a recently released video by National Geographic capturing his reaction to the successful launch and landing of Falcon 9 rocket in Cape Canaveral, Florida on December 21, 2015.

The momentous event including the launch and the ultimately safe and upright landing back on the launch pad in Cape Canaveral and the post landing jubilation of SpaceX employees were witnessed live via YouTube streaming broadcast.

However, what one did not get to see then, was the reaction of Elon Musk which was captured on video by a crew following him during the launch and return; the video, however, was recently released by National Geographic.

In the Nat Geo clip, soon after the countdown and the successful launch, Elon Musk says, “It’s good baby” and is seen running out of the command center into the open to watch Falcon 9 rocket blazing up into the night sky.

“Come on” he urges looking up with folded hands and looks even more tensed before the landing, continuing to look up with hands still folded. At one point, probably expecting the worst, he says, “Oh, where is it? This is bad. It’s actually bad.” The video clearly captures his grimacing, heavy breathing, looking up then, apparently, looking back at someone.

Then suddenly the sonic boom on re-entry of Falcon 9 into the earth’s atmosphere is heard and finally the near-perfect, if not the perfect, landing of the craft on the launch pad is witnessed by an elated Musk and cheering SpaceX employees.

The child in Elon Musk suddenly explodes as soon as Falcon 9 lands on the launch pad in an upright position. In his euphoria, he is seen running towards the command center calling out, “It’s standing up.”

On entering the command center he says to nobody in particular “when it started coming in it sounded like an explosion.” He then rushes to the monitor high-fiving his colleagues on the way.

On seeing the rocket on the monitor screen standing upright on the launch pad he releases his emotions, “What! Holy smokes man!” he says.

After the ecstatic childish reaction, he was back to his sober demeanour and this is what he had to say about the event:

.

“It’s kind of amazing that this window of opportunity is opened for life to go beyond earth and we just don’t know how long that window is going to be open. But the thing that gets me most fired up is that creating a self-sustaining civilization on Mars which would be the greatest adventure ever – ever in human history. It would be so exciting to wake up in the morning and think that, that’s what’s happening”.

The successful landing in December 2015 was the first for SpaceX after many failed attempts and since then SpaceX has successfully landed back many such rockets after successfully delivering their payloads into space.

The company, however, experienced a major setback, when in September 2016, one such SpaceX Falcon9 rocket exploded on its launch pad destroying the Israeli satellite it was expected to launch into orbit.

After the massive setback in September, SpaceX is in the process of investigating the cause of the explosion and trying to iron out the glitches that caused the explosion with the target of a January 2017 re-launch.

Elon Musk is a man on many missions with a clear vision of his goals. Setbacks like the one in September 2016 is not the first he has experienced, and may not be the last, but the visionary that he is will certainly not deter him from pushing on and realizing his dreams.