Elon Musk Says Sea Landed Falcon 9 Could Relaunch Soon

The Falcon 9 rocket that SpaceX successfully landed at sea yesterday could be the first of its kind to be relaunched into space revealed Elon Musk at a press conference held by NASA. The first rocket that was landed successfully back in December was kept in storage instead of reused with Musk wanting to keep it as it was the first vehicle they had ever landed and this made it “unique”. As a result, this re-launch will be the true test of the reusability of SpaceX’s rocket and help them gain some ground on Blue Origin, who already launched one of their rockets for the third time.

Firstly, the Falcon 9 must be retrieved, which will be a tricky process in itself and will involve welding the rocket onto the deck of the drone ship, Of Course I Still Love You. From there, it will be delivered to port by Sunday and once safely back on land it will be put through a series of engine test fires to see how well they are working. According to Musk, the rocket’s engines will be test fired as many as 10 times in a row, and if everything is working fully, the Falcon 9 could be well on its way to another mission by as soon as May or June. In future, SpaceX hopes to reduce the process of preparing a rocket for relaunch to as little as a couple of weeks.

Musk said that it hadn’t been decided whether this next launch would be for a paying customer or not, saying that “We think it’ll be a paying customer, but we have to have discussions on it.” He was also positive about the amount of reuse the rockets were capable of, with each Falcon 9 potentially being usable for 10 to 20 missions and even up to 100 with minor refurbishments made to it during its lifespan.

SpaceX Successfully Land Falcon 9 Rocket on Drone Ship

After a number of tries, SpaceX has finally achieved their goal of landing a Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage on one of their drone ships at sea. The landing took place following the launch that marked the first ISS supply mission undertaken by SpaceX since the accident last year, which also went off without a hitch. This is the first sea landing of a rocket to ever succeed, giving the company and their Falcon 9 rocket two historic landings in just 5 months.

With SpaceX having proven their rocket’s ability to land on both land and at sea, the potential reuse of the Falcon 9 should improve dramatically considering the main objective of mastering the rocket landing is so they can be reused. At this point, SpaceX is yet to reuse the one rocket they successfully landed at Cape Canaveral in December, instead opting to preserve it, but maybe this second surviving Falcon 9 will see another launch to prove the reusability of the craft.

SpaceX persisted on mastering the sea landing due to its superiority over the ground landing. Despite the seeming instability of a platform at sea, the drone ship is able to move into the rocket’s expected landing trajectory, compared to a ground landing where the rocket has a set landing location and must counter factors such as the rotation of the Earth in order to make the target. This allows the rocket to require less fuel be saved for landing, which if a heavy load was launched may render a ground landing entirely impossible. Not to mention the greater flexibility of launch locations if a rocket doesn’t require solid ground to land on afterwards.

Having succeeded in landing the Falcon 9, SpaceX must be looking to concentrate on starting to reuse the rockets they retrieve, which is the overall goal of landing them in the first place. Currently, a new rocket must be built for each launch at a cost of around $60 million, with the fuel only costing $200,000. SpaceX has shown themselves to be a company that will keep trying to achieve even greater things and the success at the sea landing after so long means that where they go from here should be exciting for everyone.

SpaceX to Resume Supplying the ISS

The date of SpaceX’s next resupply mission to the ISS has been announced by NASA to take place on April 8th. SpaceX will be delivering the cargo onboard one of their Falcon 9 rockets, launching from Cape Canaveral, Florida at around 4:43 PM Eastern Time.

This will be the first time that SpaceX have made a launch to resupply the ISS in almost a year, the last cargo mission taking place in July 2015 ending in failure. On that launch, the Falcon 9 rocket exploded just minutes after launch, which was later reported by SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk, to be caused by overpressure in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank. Following this, the Falcon 9 returned to service in December last year, where it was also able to land successfully. Since then, there have been a number of Falcon 9 launches, and while a number of those have also exploded, it was only when they were attempting to land at sea following the mission, with one attempt coming very close to success.

Once again, SpaceX plans to attempt one of their famous rocket landings following the upcoming mission. Refusing to admit defeat and repeat the previously successful ground landing, they plan to land the rocket on a drone ship at sea and, this time, Musk is confident that the landing will succeed. Should a successful sea landing happen, it will not only be another historic feat for SpaceX, but it will also allow the company to recover and reuse an increasing number of their rockets that are launched. As well as delivering much-needed supplies and experiments for the astronauts aboard the ISS, the Dragon cargo capsule that the Falcon 9 carries will also have some important cargo to carry back to Earth, though in a far less impressive fashion than landing a rocket.

Like any SpaceX launch, this could have a very interesting result for the space industry, or at the very least an impressive explosion for those watching the event that will likely be live streamed. Musk and many others will certainly be hoping for the fifth time to be the charm for the sea landing, as well as a successful launch marking the resuming of their ISS resupply runs.

Image credit to SpaceX

SpaceX Rocket’s Sea Landing Fails – Again

Once again, another successful launch by SpaceX, and sadly, another failure to land their Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship at sea. Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, said that the Falcon 9 rocket had “landed hard on the droneship.” SpaceX had expected this landing would likely fail due to the mission requirements set out, including a very hot reentry and lack of propellant to arrest momentum.

This marks the fourth attempt by SpaceX to land a Falcon 9 rocket on one of their drone ships, and sadly, also the fourth failure, despite the third attempt coming very close. This landing would be especially difficult for the rocket as the SES-9 is a larger and heavier satellite than those previously launched, as well as targeting a higher orbit than most, requiring the Falcon 9 to travel a lot faster and consequently, burn more fuel that could be used to slow the rocket’s descent.

Despite the failure of the landing, the mission was a success, with the SES-9 satellite was delivered to a high enough altitude that it can now use its own power to arrive in the intended orbit. Once in position, SES-9 will loiter at 22,000 miles above the equator, able to providing a satellite communication service to Northeast Asia, South Asia, and Indonesia.

This failed landing certainly won’t be SpaceX’s last attempt at landing the Falcon 9. Whether the next landing will be another sea landing or a return to the already successful ground landing remains to be seen, but with an ISS supply mission scheduled for the next few weeks, we should know soon enough. Musk, at least, seems far more confident about this next landing being a success.

Image credit to SpaceX

Sea Landing Planned for Next SpaceX Rocket Launch

After making their historic rocket landing last year, SpaceX is planning to accomplish another historic feat with a spacecraft, landing it on a platform at sea. It’s something SpaceX have tried twice before in 2015 and failed both times, but undeterred by this, SpaceX must wish to put their record straight with this next mission.

The mission is set to take place on the 17th of January, launching from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, which is very different from SpaceX’s usual launch site in Cape Canaveral, Florida. As well as attempting the sea landing, the mission’s main objective is to launch NASA’s ocean monitoring satellite, Jason-3.

For this launch, SpaceX will also be using an older, less powerful version of the Falcon 9 than the one that made the ground landing. The vehicle being used is the last of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 v1.1 rockets, with less thrust and missing some of the reusability features of the Falcon 9 Full Thrust. SpaceX says that a sea landing will be easier than a ground landing for this version of the rocket. Primarily, due to the launch route of rockets, a ground landing required far more distance to be travelled if it is intending to land close to its launch pad. Landing on a drone ship in the Pacific Ocean will allow the weaker rocket to travel a shorter distance and require less fuel to land successfully.

With all eyes on SpaceX after their last rocket landing, the pressure will be on to succeed where their last two rockets fell over and exploded. Being able to land rockets on portable platforms, such as ships would be a major advance towards the ease of space launches as it allows far more freedom of launch locations without needing to set up a landing pad on the ground. Here’s hoping that Elon Musk and his team can make it third time the charm.

SpaceX Successfully Land Falcon 9 Rocket

Last night’s Falcon 9 launch was important to SpaceX for a number of reasons. For one, it was the 20th launch of a Falcon 9 rocket, but, more importantly, it was its first flight since the incident back in June, where a Falcon 9 rocket exploded shortly after lifting off on an ISS supply mission. SpaceX wouldn’t be satisfied with just getting their rocket back in the air either, with the further aim of landing the rocket’s first stage intact on a landing pad in Cape Canaveral. This time, SpaceX pulled it off, with both the launch and landing going off without a hitch.

This launch isn’t the first time SpaceX have tried to land a rocket vertically, having made previous attempts to land Falcon 9 rockets on barges, but never quite making the mark. It is, however, a historic event in space technology, with no other rocket ever able to land vertically after an orbital trip. The success also shows SpaceX engineers constant steps to improve their rockets, with this flight (and landing), being the maiden flight of the newest version of the Falcon 9, the v1.1 Full Thrust.

SpaceX believes that the success of this mission is a landmark in making space travel more affordable, as now rockets can be recovered and refurbished, instead of requiring a new unit for each launch. Entrepreneur Elon Musk, owner of SpaceX took to Twitter to proclaim the success of the launch and landing “Welcome home, baby!” The entire launch and landing were streamed live across the world from the SpaceX website, with people around the world, not just near Cape Canaveral to experience the groundbreaking event.

What this really proves to me is that despite the loss of the Space Shuttle back in 2011, the space industry still has plenty of innovation and improvement to show. Even though some would consider the return to rockets a step backwards from the Shuttle, SpaceX has shown that they can make rockets reusable, the main selling point of the Shuttle. With SpaceX now set up for a manned mission by as soon as 2017, it will be exciting to see how much they can continue to revolutionize the space industry and what long-time aerospace companies, such as Boeing can do to keep up.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket to Return to Service this Month

Everything has been looking up for SpaceX recently, being one of the forerunners in the contest for NASA’s contest for their CSR2 contracts to resupply the ISS and NASA ordering the first mission from their new manned rockets by 2017. And now SpaceX have the chance to recover from the one blemish on their record with their Falcon 9 rocket tentatively planned to resume its regular missions to the ISS on the 19th of December.

After a critical failure that caused one of their Falcon 9 rockets to explode shortly after launch while making a routine supply run, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets and their accompanying Dragon cargo pods have been grounded for the last 6 months. At the time, SpaceX CEO, Elon Musk believed that the explosion was caused by an “overpressure event” in the upper-stage liquid oxygen tank of the rocket. Failed launches are far from an anomaly in recent times, with two other ISS supply missions by other companies also failing to launch.

Additionally, the launch should be followed by a ground landing on a pre-leased site at Cape Canaveral, after the last attempt to land at sea on a barge ended in failure. If this launch goes well, it should put SpaceX back on track, which could be just what it needs to win the next round of supply contracts and continue their supply runs for the foreseeable future.

Manned Mission to the ISS by SpaceX Ordered by NASA

Since the halt of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, the only way to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS has been Russia’s Soyuz rockets. NASA are determined to change this with their ongoing Commercial Crew Program to fund development of new manned rockets alongside contractors SpaceX and Boeing. SpaceX’s first official manned mission has been ordered by NASA, to take place sometime in 2017.

While not the first mission under the Commercial Crew Program to the ordered (that honor goes go Boeing), it has yet to be decided by NASA which of the missions will actually take place first, which could mean the race is on between SpaceX and Boeing to get the first launch. Despite Boeing’s mission orders having been given as early as May this year, the company is still only preparing to build their CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. Meanwhile, SpaceX is making use of their existing Dragon cargo capsule to develop the Crew Dragon that will launch from their tried-and-tested Falcon 9 rockets, giving SpaceX an advantage due to their experience in technology to travel to the ISS.

SpaceX’s launch date could be delayed from 2017 for a number of reasons. Firstly, their current Falcon 9 rockets used to deliver cargo to the ISS have been grounded until at least December, after one exploded following a routine launch in June. Even more so than for supplies, NASA will want to be sure that the Falcon 9 will not risk astronaut lives if used to ferry them into space. Additionally it has been reported that the Commercial Crew Program has been constantly underfunded by the US government, which could cause any launches to be delayed until enough funds to make reliable launches are procured.

To the outside, it’s like a whole new space race, but instead of being between two states, it is a commercial struggle. With Boeing out of the running for NASA’s new Commercial Resupply Services contracts, SpaceX will want to impress after their recent setbacks, so they can retain their position with NASA.

Image credit to NASA and SpaceX

SpaceX Raises Over $7 Billion to Fund New Missions

Elon Musk’s astronautics startup SpaceX has announced that it has raised over $7 billion dollars in total after signing a series of new contracts to employ its Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launch vehicles for 60 new missions. It made the announcement at the World Satellite Business Conference in Paris, France on Monday.

“We are pleased to add these additional launches to our manifest,” Gwynne Shotwell, President and Chief Operations Officer of SpaceX, said in a press release. “The diversity of our missions and customers represents a strong endorsement of our capabilities and reflects SpaceX’s efforts to provide a breadth of launch services to our growing customer base.”

SpaceX has long denied that it has reached a $10 billion valuation, but the funds from its new contracts and the fact that it raised another $1 billion from Google and Fidelity during a funding round back in January this year, it can’t be far off.

The new missions, which include the launch of a communications satellite for HISPASAT and a Saudi Arabian Arabsat 6A communications satellite, are due to launch from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station sometime between late-2017 and 2018.

In related news, NASA has revealed that it may use SpaceX to extract rock and mineral samples from Mars as part of its ‘Red Dragon’ project, which could launch as early as 2022.

Thank you TechCrunch for providing us with this information.

SpaceX Falcon Explodes on ISS Resupply Mission

Space industry upstart SpaceX has suffered an explosive set back on its latest mission. Setting out to resupply the International Space Station, the Falcon 9 rocket suffered an unrecoverable failure and ended up exploding shortly after launch.  At this point, the exact cause of the failure is not known yet with both SpaceX and NASA working to determine the fault. A preliminary report suggests that an overpressure event compromised the second stage liquid oxygen tank which makes sense as the first stage appeared to keep firing properly until the end.

While not critical, the ISS supply situation is sub-optimal with two other failures already this year from other launchers. Orbital Sciences and Roscosmos both had failures earlier that either destroyed the payload or made it impossible to properly deliver it. Some of the items set to be delivered today were already replacements for those lost on earlier missions.

In a disappointment for Elon Musk fans, the third try at landing the rocket will have to wait. Earlier attempts had failed explosively but many had been hoping the third time would be the charm. Even with this failure though, SpaceX still has a relatively good track record and is already pretty cost effective. Hopefully, SpaceX can take this experience and prepare for the day they launch manned missions.

Airbus unveils Reusable Rocket Engine Program Adeline

European airspace firm Airbus has revealed their answer to reusable rockets. Most of the things humanity has shot in space has been expendable. Cost, reliability and complexity have kept us from reusing our space hardware. Airbus’s Adeline or Advanced Expendable Launcher with Innovative engine Economy aims to change that. Using built-in wings and propellers, the engine will detach on a ballistic trajectory and fly back to a runway.

Right now, the most well-known effort to get a reusable rocket is Space X’s Falcon 9. That rocket reserves an amount of fuel and has added complexity to give it the ability to land upright. Adeline on the other hand, should be relatively simpler as it’s more of powered glider and landing conventionally seems it will be much easier. By abandoning the fuel tank as well, the cost of returning the module in terms of fuel consumption should also be decreased. The space shuttle program for instance recovered the shuttle and the booster rockets but let the fuel tank, which is relatively cheaper, burn up in the atmosphere.

Airbus has been working on the project since 2010 and has already spent 15 million euros on the project. However, the priority is still the Ariane 6, pushing Adeline to between 2025 and 2030. As it appears that the Falcon 9 is at the cusp of being recoverable, Space X will be able to offer lower prices fist, cutting costs by over 50%. United Launch Alliance (Boeing-Lockheed) may also be pursuing reusability with their upcoming Vulcan rocket. The biggest challenge for the 3 will be convincing customers to let their expensive payloads be exploded into space by what is essentially second-hand hardware.

SpaceX Releases Beautiful 4K Rocket Footage

Elon Musk’s astronautics company SpaceX has released a gorgeous two-minute supercut of Falcon 9 rocket launches in glorious 4K. The editor of the video pulled out all the tricks – HDR, slow-motion, and late zooming – though the obnoxious techno soundtrack seems an odd choice for footage so majestic.

SpaceX has a further Falcon 9 launch scheduled for this coming Monday, with the rocket designated to deliver cargo to the International Space Station. After it drops off its shipment, the Falcon 9, designed to be reusable, will attempt to make a successful landing on an autonomous sea platform drone, a feat which, after two attempts, no Falcon 9 rocket has so far completed.

Source: The Verge