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  SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and launches (Page 1)

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Author Topic:   SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and launches
Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-28-2008 04:35 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SpaceX release
SpaceX Conducts First Multi-Engine Firing Of Falcon 9 Rocket

On Jan. 18, 2008, Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) conducted the first multi-engine firing of its Falcon 9 medium to heavy lift rocket at its Texas Test Facility outside McGregor. The engines operated at full power, generating over 180,000 pounds of force, equivalent to a Boeing 777 at full power, and consuming 700 lbs per second of fuel and liquid oxygen during the run.


Credit: SpaceX

"This is a major hardware milestone for our company," said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. "It marks the first time that we have simultaneously fired two engines on the same stage. No significant problems were encountered transitioning from single-engine testing in November, which suggests that we will be able to ramp up rapidly to a full complement of nine Merlin engines. Our propulsion and test team has done a remarkable job."

This two-engine test was the largest to date on the BFTS (Big Falcon Test Stand). The next run, scheduled for February, will use three engines operating for a full first stage mission duty cycle of three minutes. When operating in flight, the first stage will accelerate the 180-ft-long Falcon 9 vehicle to more than ten times the speed of sound in that short period of time. Following stage separation, the Falcon 9 second stage continues accelerating the payload to a final change in velocity that may be in excess of Mach 30 for missions beyond low Earth orbit.

The test series will continue with five, seven and finally the full complement of nine engines. With all engines firing, the Falcon 9 can generate over one million pounds of thrust in vacuum or four times the maximum thrust of a 747 aircraft. SpaceX has designed its Merlin engine for rapid mounting and change-out. A new engine can be installed in a period of hours, a feature that will provide significant operational efficiency and responsiveness on the launch pad.

The Merlin 1C next-generation, liquid-fueled rocket booster engine is among the highest performing gas generator cycle kerosene engines ever built, exceeding the Boeing Delta II main engine, the Lockheed Atlas II main engine, and on par with the Saturn V F-1 engine. It is the first new American booster engine in a decade and only the second American booster engine since the Space Shuttle Main Engine was developed thirty years ago.

Merlin 1C will power SpaceX's next Falcon 1 mission, scheduled to lift off in Spring 2008 from the Central Pacific. The first Falcon 9 is scheduled for delivery to the SpaceX launch site at Cape Canaveral (Complex 40) by the end of 2008.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-04-2008 12:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SpaceX release
First SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch Vehicle Remains on Schedule for Delivery to Cape Canaveral

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) today announced its newly revised mission manifest listing twelve flights of its Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 launch vehicles.

"We are on track to deliver our first Falcon 9 vehicle to Cape Canaveral by the end of 2008," said Gwynne Shotwell, Vice President of Business Development for SpaceX. "In addition, we're very pleased to have signed a significant new US government customer for our next Falcon 1 flight, and will be releasing details shortly."

The full SpaceX mission manifest extends into 2011 and lists nine customers on twelve flights, including three demonstration flights of SpaceX's new Dragon spacecraft for NASA, as part of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) competition.

CUSTOMERTARGET DATEVEHICLELAUNCH SITE
US Government & ATSB Q2 2008 Falcon 1 Kwajalein
ATSB (Malaysia) Q3 2008 Falcon 1 Kwajalein
US Government Q4 2008 Falcon 9 Cape Canaveral
MDA Corp. (Canada) 2009 Falcon 9 Cape Canaveral
Avanti Communications (UK) 2009 Falcon 9 Cape Canaveral
NASA COTS - Demo 1 2009 Falcon 9 Cape Canaveral
NASA COTS - Demo 2 2009 Falcon 9 Cape Canaveral
SpaceDev 2009 Falcon 1 Kwajalein
NASA COTS - Demo 3 2010 Falcon 9 Cape Canaveral
MDA Corp. (Canada) 2010 Falcon 1 Kwajalein
Swedish Space Corp. (Sweden)2010 Falcon 1

Kwajalein

Bigelow Aerospace 2011 Falcon 9 Cape Canaveral

Target date refers to delivery of the flight vehicle to the launch site. The actual launch date is dependent on a variety of factors, which may include regulatory approvals, launch range scheduling, weather, customer payload readiness and vehicle to launch pad integration.

About SpaceX

SpaceX is developing a family of launch vehicles intended to reduce the cost and increase the reliability of both manned and unmanned space transportation, ultimately by a factor of ten. With its Falcon line of launch vehicles, SpaceX is able to offer light, medium and heavy lift capability, delivering spacecraft into any inclination and altitude, from low Earth orbit to geosynchronous transfer orbit to interplanetary missions.

As winner of the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) competition, SpaceX will conduct three flights of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft for NASA. This will culminate in Dragon berthing with the International Space Station and returning safely to Earth. When the Shuttle retires in 2010, Falcon 9 / Dragon will have the opportunity to replace the Shuttle in providing both up and down transportation services to the Space Station.

Robert Pearlman
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SpaceX release
SpaceX Conducts Full Thrust Firing of Falcon 9 Rocket

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) conducted the first nine engine firing of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle at its Texas Test Facility outside McGregor on July 31st. A second firing on August 1st completed a major NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) milestone almost two months early.


Credit: SpaceX

At full power, the nine engines consumed 3,200 lbs of fuel and liquid oxygen per second, and generated almost 850,000 pounds of force - four times the maximum thrust of a 747 aircraft. This marks the first firing of a Falcon 9 first stage with its full complement of nine Merlin 1C engines. Once a near term Merlin 1C fuel pump upgrade is complete, the sea level thrust will increase to 950,000 lbf, making Falcon 9 the most powerful single core vehicle in the United States.

"This was the most difficult milestone in development of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and it also constitutes a significant achievement in US space vehicle development. Not since the final flight of the Saturn 1B rocket in 1975, has a rocket had the ability to lose any engine or motor and still successfully complete its mission," said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. "Much like a commercial airliner, our multi-engine design has the potential to provide significantly higher reliability than single engine competitors."

"We made a major advancement from the previous five engine test by adding four new Merlin engines at once," said Tom Mueller, Vice President of Propulsion for SpaceX. "All phases of integration went smoothly and we were elated to see all nine engines working perfectly in concert."

Robert Pearlman
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posted 11-24-2008 01:27 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SpaceX release
SpaceX Successfully Conducts Full Mission-Length Firing of its Falcon 9 Launch Vehicle

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) successfully conducted a full mission-length firing of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle's first stage at its McGregor Test Facility in Texas, on November 22. For the static test firing, the first stage remains firmly secured to the massive vertical test stand, where it fired for 178 seconds or nearly three minutes - simulating the climb of the giant rocket from the surface of the Earth towards orbit.

At full power, the rocket generated 855,000 pounds of force at sea level. In vacuum, the thrust increases to approximately one million pounds or four times the maximum thrust of a 747 aircraft. The test consumed over half a million pounds of propellant. All nine engines fired for 160 seconds, then two engines were shut down to limit the acceleration and the remaining seven engines continued firing for 18 more seconds, as would occur in a typical climb to orbit.

The test firing validated the design of SpaceX's use of nine engines on the first stage, as well as the ability to shut down engines without affecting the functioning of the remaining engines. This demonstrates the ability of Falcon 9 to lose engines in flight and still complete its mission successfully, much as a commercial airliner is designed to be safe in the event of an engine loss. Like an airliner, the Falcon 9 engines are enclosed in a protective sheath that ensures a fire or destructive loss of an engine doesn't affect the rest of the vehicle.

The Falcon 9 will be the first vehicle since the Saturn V and Saturn 1 to have the ability to lose any engine/motor and still be able to complete its mission without loss of crew or spacecraft. Engine out reliability proved crucial to mission success on two of the Saturn V flights.

"In the past month, we performed significant upgrades to the test stand and flame trench in preparation for this test," said Tom Mueller, Vice President of Propulsion for SpaceX. "We added the flight base heat shields around the engines to protect the bottom of the rocket from the prolonged blast of heat and vibration."

"The full mission-length test firing clears the highest hurdle for the Falcon 9 first stage before launch," said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. "In the next few months, we will have the first Falcon 9 flight vehicle on its launch pad at Cape Canaveral, preparing for lift-off in 2009."

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-18-2008 04:04 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SpaceX release
Falcon 9 First Stage Flight Tank Arrives at Cape Canaveral

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) announces the arrival of the Falcon 9 first stage flight tank at SpaceX's newest launch site, Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Arriving as scheduled, delivery of the Falcon 9 first stage fulfills SpaceX's commitment to having Falcon 9 hardware at the Cape by year-end.

"Christmas has arrived a few days early for our team at the Cape," said Brian Mosdell, Director of Florida Launch Operations for SpaceX. "The packages measure extra large this year, and they will keep everyone busy in the coming weeks."

In preparation for the launch vehicle's maiden flight in 2009, all Falcon 9 elements and ground support hardware have departed SpaceX's manufacturing facility in Hawthorne, California. The hardware is currently making its way across the United States on a dozen big rigs which will converge at the launch site over the next two weeks.

Separated into sections for travel, the major parts of the 180 foot long, 12 foot diameter rocket included nine Merlin 1C engines mounted on a massive engine mount structure; a thrust skirt that transfers the force of the engines into the first stage propellant tank; a carbon composite interstage; a new Merlin Vacuum upper stage engine fitted to the second stage propellant tank; and the two halves of a 17 foot diameter payload fairing--large enough to enclose a school bus.

The prelaunch fitting will include a mix of both flight ready and qualification hardware which will undergo final integration at the launch site in a horizontal position, and then be raised to vertical on the custom built erector.

Arrival of Falcon 9 hardware at the Cape represents yet another critical milestone in a year of significant accomplishments for SpaceX. On November 22nd, the company successfully conducted a full mission-length firing of the Falcon 9, validating SpaceX's design which uses nine engines on the first stage.

In addition, SpaceX has been rapidly upgrading SLC-40 into a state-of-the-art launch facility which will serve as a gateway to a new era in commercial space operations. Located on the Florida space coast, just south of NASA's launch site for all Apollo moon missions and Space Shuttle flights, SLC-40 is a world class heavy lift launch facility, capable of supporting Falcon 9 and future Falcon 9 Heavy missions, as well as cargo and crew carrying missions using the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.

"2008 has been a year of rapid progress for SpaceX," said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. "The delivery of the Falcon 9 to the Cape is a major milestone in designing and deploying the most reliable, cost-efficient fleet of launch vehicles in the world. I applaud our SpaceX team who has worked 24/7 to make this happen."

SpaceX currently has four Falcon 9 flights on the manifest for 2009, two of which are demonstration flights with the Dragon spacecraft as part of the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) competition. Under this agreement, SpaceX will conduct a total of three flights of its Falcon 9/ Dragon system to demonstrate cargo delivery capabilities to the International Space Station (ISS). At the option of NASA, the agreement can be extended to include demonstrating transport of crew to and from the ISS. The Falcon 9 will be the first vehicle since the Saturn V and Saturn 1 to have the ability to lose any engine/motor and still be able to complete its mission without loss of crew or spacecraft.

A video tour of SpaceX launch facilities at SLC-40, Cape Canaveral AFS, led by Elon Musk, can be found at the SpaceX website.

Robert Pearlman
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SpaceX release
Falcon 9 to be Fully Integrated by December 31

Yesterday [December 21] we lifted the first stage off the shipping truck and lowered it onto the integration assemblies. With all of the F9 hardware currently at or on its way to the Cape, we are on track for a fully integrated launch vehicle by year's end.

Barring any unforeseen delays, the second stage and fairing are expected to arrive at the Cape by December 28th and will be mated on December 31st, just in time for the New Year.

The erector is also on track towards operational status in early January, with the base assembly to be aligned and tacked by December 26th and welding to be complete early in the New Year. Hold down assemblies are expected to arrive shortly after the New Year and with our ground control system at SLC-40 currently operational, it's just a matter of days before F9 is vertical at the Cape.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-30-2008 02:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SpaceX update
The integration of Falcon 9 continued steadily through the long Christmas holiday, and the images here show just how close Falcon 9 is to being completely integrated. Whether measured by weight or by cost, the majority of the Falcon 9 being assembled is actual flight hardware. If there are no unexpected delays, its possible Falcon 9 will be integrated before December 31st -- certainly a great way to start off the New Year.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 12-31-2008 02:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SpaceX update
Falcon 9 is now fully integrated at the Cape! [On Tuesday] we mated the 5.2 m payload fairing to the Falcon 9 first stage (see below). This was the final step in the integration process -- one day ahead of schedule.

With Falcon 9 integrated, our focus shifts to the big launch mount and erector. All the pieces have been delivered, and the coming days will see a tremendous amount of welding to join them all together.

The long hours put in by the SpaceX team over the last several weeks, particularly the folks on the ground at the Cape, are certainly paying off. Once the launch mount and erector are complete, we'll transfer Falcon 9 on to the erector and raise it to vertical early in 2009. Happy New Year!

Robert Pearlman
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SpaceX update
Falcon 9 is now vertical at the Cape!

After a very smooth vehicle mating operation yesterday, we began the process of raising Falcon 9 at 12:45pm EST [January 10] and approximately 30 minutes later, Falcon 9 was vertical at the Cape.

The process of taking Falcon 9 vertical was a critical step in preparation for our first Falcon 9 launch later this year. This accomplishment culminates several months of rapid progress, made possible only through the hard work and dedication of the entire SpaceX team. We will continue to post more photos as available but in the meantime, click here for some great time lapse video of the operation.

Robert Pearlman
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SpaceX release
SpaceX's Falcon 9 On Launch Pad At Cape Canaveral

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) announced its Falcon 9 launch vehicle was successfully raised to vertical on Saturday, January 10, 2009, at Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) in Cape Canaveral, Florida -- two days ahead of schedule. This operation was a critical step in validating a variety of system interfaces and launch processes in preparation for the maiden flight of Falcon 9 later this year.

"Any engineered system has requirements that can only be recognized through actual assembly of real hardware," stated Brian Mosdell, Director of Florida Launch Operations for SpaceX. "This rapid integration and stand-up provided our engineers and technicians with invaluable insights that will greatly streamline our efforts towards the first Falcon 9 launch in 2009."

SpaceX completed the Falcon 9 vehicle integration in a horizontal position on December 30, 2008. After integration, Falcon 9 was lifted and mated to a transporter erector system, designed and built by SpaceX, which carried the 17 foot diameter, 180 foot long rocket to the launch pad. On January 10, 2009 at 12:45 PM EST, SpaceX began the process of raising Falcon 9 and approximately 30 minutes later, Falcon 9 stood vertical at the Cape.

"This entire process has helped us validate key interfaces and operations prior to executing our launch campaign with the vehicle in its final flight configuration," said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. "We encountered no show-stoppers or significant delays. I am highly confident that we will achieve our goal of being able to go from hangar to liftoff in under 60 minutes, which would be a big leap forward in capability compared with the days to weeks required of other launch vehicles."

This latest accomplishment follows closely on a series of recent successes for SpaceX. In November 2008, SpaceX successfully conducted a full mission duration firing of Falcon 9, validating SpaceX's use of nine engines on the first stage, as well as the ability to shut down engines without affecting the remaining engines. In December 2008, NASA selected the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft as the primary means of transporting cargo to and from the International Space Station after the Space Shuttle retires in 2010.

Robert Pearlman
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Florida Today: Falcon 9 Up, Then Down, at LC 40
After only a few days on the launch pad, the first Falcon 9 will leave Launch Complex 40 in pieces.

Having tested and proven the technique for raising the rocket to vertical, SpaceX workers will disassemble the 188-foot rocket and ship it back to California and Texas for testing.

...SpaceX plans to reassemble the rocket for a wet dress rehearsal in March, when the rocket will be fueled. Also, an engine test firing is possible. The first launch from Cape Canaveral is scheduled for the summer, with a NASA demonstration launch to follow two months later.

Robert Pearlman
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SpaceX release
SpaceX Falcon 9 Upper Stage Engine Successfully Completes Full Mission Duration Firing

New Merlin Vacuum engine demonstrates highest efficiency for an American hydrocarbon rocket engine

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) successfully conducted a full mission duration firing of its new Merlin Vacuum engine on March 7, at SpaceX's Test Facility in McGregor, Texas. The engine fired for a full six minutes, consuming 100,000 pounds of liquid oxygen and rocket grade kerosene propellant.

The new engine, which powers the upper stage of SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch vehicle, demonstrated a vacuum specific impulse of 342 seconds - the highest efficiency ever for an American hydrocarbon rocket engine. Thrust was measured at approximately 92,500 lb of force in vacuum conditions and the engine remained thermally stable over the entire run.

"Specific impulse, or Isp, indicates how efficiently a rocket engine converts propellant into thrust," said Tom Mueller, Vice President of Propulsion for SpaceX. "With a vacuum Isp of 342 seconds, the new Merlin Vacuum engine has exceeded our requirements, setting a new standard for American hydrocarbon engine performance in space."

Based on the Merlin 1C engine that boosted the SpaceX Falcon 1 rocket to orbit in 2008, the Merlin Vacuum engine uses a regeneratively cooled combustion chamber. However, the vacuum engine features a larger exhaust section than the Merlin 1C and a much larger radiatively cooled expansion nozzle, in order to maximize performance in the vacuum of space.

The Merlin Vacuum engine provides the final push that delivers customer spacecraft into their desired orbits. A redundant ignition system ensures the engine can shut down and restart multiple times. The engine can also operate at a reduced thrust to achieve optimum performance. During recent tests, the engine was successfully throttled down to 75 percent of maximum thrust, and upcoming tests will demonstrate throttling to approximately 60 percent of maximum thrust.

"Falcon 9 was designed from the ground up to provide our customers with breakthrough advances in reliability," said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. "In successfully adapting our flight tested first stage engine for use on the second stage, this recent test further validates the architecture of Falcon 9, designed to provide customers with high reliability at a fraction of traditional costs."

SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft were recently selected by NASA to resupply cargo to the International Space Station after the shuttle retires in 2010. The inaugural flight of Falcon 9 is scheduled for later this year from SpaceX's launch pad SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-24-2009 10:43 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A video tour of SpaceX's Texas Test Site conducted by Tom Mueller, VP Propulsion:

mikej
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Orlando Sentinel reports SpaceX is planning to launch its Falcon 9 on November 29 from Cape Canaveral.
After being removed from the U.S. Air Force's 45th Space Wing's launch schedule for five months, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is back on the board. The most recent 90-day Eastern Range forecast released Tuesday has the new rocket's maiden launch planned for November 29 at 11 a.m. local time.

...the company was also considering flying the rocket with SpaceX's Dragon capsule that is supposed to deliver cargo to the space station. Originally the rocket was to fly only with a five-meter fairing. But the final decision to test the spacecraft for the first time with the rocket has not been finalized, he said.

Robert Pearlman
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SpaceX update (September 23, 2009)
We are now only a few months away from having the inaugural Falcon 9 launch vehicle on its launch pad at Cape Canaveral and ready to fly! The actual launch date will depend on weather and how we fit into the overall launch schedule at the Cape, so that is a little harder to predict. Based on prior experience, launch could be anywhere from one to three months after Falcon 9 is integrated at the Cape in November.

This initial test flight will carry our Dragon spacecraft qualification unit, providing us with valuable aerodynamic and performance data for the Falcon 9 configuration that will fly on the following COTS and CRS missions for NASA. The second Falcon 9 flight will be the first flight of Dragon under the NASA COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation Services) program, where we will demonstrate Dragon's orbital maneuvering, communication and reentry capabilities.

First Stage Engines


Test firing the Merlin Vacuum development engine in McGregor, Texas.

With twenty-two Falcon 9 flights currently listed on our launch manifest, we're continuing to ramp up all manufacturing lines. The pace of engine production continues to grow, with recent efforts focused on the nine Merlin engines, and one Merlin Vacuum engine for the upcoming inaugural Falcon 9 flight, as well as an identical set of Merlins for the second Falcon 9 flight. Together, the nine Merlin engines produce over 1 million pounds of thrust, and consume over half a million pounds of fuel and oxidizer in just under three minutes as they push the Falcon 9 out of Earth's atmosphere and into orbit.

Second Stage Engines

At our test facility in McGregor, Texas, testing continues on the Merlin Vacuum engine which will power the Falcon 9 second stage to orbit. Qualification testing was completed last week, and will be followed closely by acceptance testing of the first Merlin Vacuum flight engine for the inaugural launch.

Structures

The nine flight-ready Merlin first stage engines were integrated with the truss structure that evenly distributes their thrust upwards into the first stage tank. Above the truss, the carbon composite skirt houses the plumbing system that distributes the liquid oxygen (LOX) and RP-1 fuel to the engines.


Weighing in at over 17,000 lbs, the thrust assembly and Merlin engines represent over half the first stage's dry mass.


A pair of cranes rotates the entire assembly to horizontal, and then lowers it onto the shipping frame.

The entire system was assembled and checked out in our Hawthorne facility, and then shipped to Texas for integration with the first stage propellant tanks, which recently completed proof and leak testing there. The F9 second stage has been shipped to Texas and is being prepped for structural testing which will begin this week, followed closely by stage separation testing.

Elsewhere in our Hawthorne plant, the launch vehicle for the second Falcon 9 flight is well underway. On the Friction Stir Welding (FSW) machine, the first stage tank passed the mid-point with the completion of the fuel tank welding. Additional barrel sections and one more dome will complete the LOX tank. The primary tank structure for the second flight's second stage has already been fabricated and is being processed next to the second stage for the first flight.

Note that the first and second stages use a common architecture such as the same 3.7 meter (12 foot) diameter aluminum-lithium barrels and domes, and we manufacture them utilizing the same systems and tooling. This approach greatly reduces overhead, inventory and production costs, and simultaneously contributes to increased reliability. These are essential aspects of how SpaceX improves reliability and lowers the cost of access to space.

Avionics

The vital electronics and software systems that will operate the Falcon 9 first flight have been integrated and completed final testing, as have our Dragon communications units destined for installation aboard the ISS. SpaceX's COTS UHF Communications Unit is scheduled to fly aboard the Space Shuttle Atlantis on STS-129 this coming November.


The COTS UHF Communications Unit system, shown here prior to delivery to NASA.

Launch Operations

The Cape Canaveral launch site build-up and activation processes continues at Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), our launch pad located a few miles south of the Space Shuttle launch sites on the Florida ‘space coast’. We have completed the new LOX ground handling and storage systems that will supply our Falcon 9 vehicles.

And we are finishing up numerous other systems that support safe and efficient launch operations. Other vital systems now in process include support for the storage and handling of RP-1 fuel, as well as nitrogen, helium, and the water deluge systems that help protect the pad and vehicle from the significant levels of thermal and acoustic energy created during launch.

Robert Pearlman
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Nine Merlin engines for the inaugural Falcon 9 flight.


Conducting the initial filling of the liquid oxygen storage tank at Complex 40.

Robert Pearlman
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SpaceX release
SpaceX Announces Completion of Acceptance Testing For Falcon 9 First and Second Stages

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) announces the successful completion of acceptance testing of both the Falcon 9 first and second stages in preparation for the first flight of Falcon 9. Acceptance testing took place at SpaceX's Texas Test Site, a 300-acre structural and propulsion testing facility, located just outside of Waco, Texas.

This recent series of tests subjected both stages to a variety of structural load and proof pressure tests to verify acceptability for flight. Acceptance testing began in late summer with the first stage and concluded last week at SpaceX's Texas facility with completion of acceptance testing for the second stage.

“The successful completion of these tests marks another key milestone in our preparation for Falcon 9's first flight,” said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. “Our team will now move forward with a static fire of the first and second stages, the last major milestone before hardware is transferred to SpaceX's launch pad at Cape Canaveral.”

The inaugural flight of Falcon 9 is a demonstration flight, and is expected to occur one to three months after Falcon 9 arrival at Cape Canaveral next month. The final launch date will depend on range scheduling, weather conditions and time required to make adjustments for any vehicle-to-ground equipment interactions. For its first flight, Falcon 9 will launch a Dragon spacecraft qualification unit into orbit to provide SpaceX with valuable aerodynamic and performance information.

The second flight of the Falcon 9/Dragon system is the first flight under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, a new commercial-government partnership under which SpaceX will demonstrate the ability to dock with the International Space Station, transfer cargo, and return cargo safely to Earth.


Credit: SpaceX
A Falcon 9 second stage mounted on a Falcon 9 interstage vents vapor from its liquid oxygen tank during acceptance testing at SpaceX's Texas Test Site outside of Waco.

Robert Pearlman
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SpaceX release
SpaceX Successfully Completes First Stage 9-Engine Rocket Firing

Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) successfully conducted two static firings of the first stage, nine engine cluster for its Falcon 9 launch vehicle. The firings took place at SpaceX's Texas Test Site, a 300-acre structural and propulsion testing facility just outside of Waco, Texas. With completion of these tests, the first stage has now passed both structural and propulsion acceptance testing and will ship to Cape Canaveral in preparation for the first flight of Falcon 9.

The first test fired for 10 seconds and occurred on October 12th at approximately 7:30 pm CDT. The second test began around 4:30 pm CDT on October 16th, and lasted 30 seconds.

The first stage of Falcon 9 uses a cluster of nine SpaceX-designed and developed Merlin engines. Using rocket-grade kerosene and liquid oxygen, the cluster generates nearly a million pounds of thrust for the vehicle upon liftoff. The Merlin engine is one of the only liquid rocket engines designed in the United States in the last few decades, and is now among the highest performing gas generator cycle kerosene engines ever built, exceeding the Boeing Delta II main engine, the Lockheed Martin Atlas II main engine, and on par with the Saturn V F-1 engine.

The stage will ship to SpaceX's launch site at Cape Canaveral next month to begin vehicle integration in preparation for first flight. The inaugural flight of Falcon 9 will be a demonstration flight and will launch a Dragon spacecraft qualification unit into orbit to provide SpaceX with valuable aerodynamic and performance information.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-05-2010 06:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SpaceX update
The SpaceX team kicked off 2010 with the successful full duration orbit insertion firing of the Falcon 9 second stage at our Texas test site (details below). This was the final stage firing required for launch, so the second stage will soon be packaged for shipment and should arrive at Cape Canaveral by end of month. Depending on how well full vehicle integration goes, launch should occur one to three months later.

...as we get closer to our first Falcon 9 launch, SpaceX would like to thank NASA, the Air Force, the FAA, and our commercial customers for their continued support. And, of course, I would like to thank the whole SpaceX team for their unwavering commitment to our company and our mission, especially over these last few months. Through their hard work and dedication, 2010 promises to be another great year.

Falcon 9 First Stage

Prior to arrival at the Cape, the Falcon 9 first stage arrived at our Texas Test Site. There, we did a full checkout, raised it up to the top of the 72 meter (235 foot) tall test stand, and conducted two successful nine engine test firings -- the first 10 seconds long, followed by a 30 second long firing three days later.


Test firing of the full flight first stage of Falcon 9. Credit: SpaceX

Everything performed as planned; we then shipped the first stage to Florida and have commenced final processing in the hangar at the SpaceX launch site. Once all propulsion and avionics checkout processes are complete, we will move forward with stage mate, to be followed closely by vehicle transfer to the transporter erector, and a static fire shortly thereafter.

Falcon 9 Second Stage

Flight hardware for the Falcon 9 second stage also shipped to Texas, where it completed static load testing, and then was integrated with the previously tested Merlin Vacuum second stage engine. After performing system checkouts, we raised the stage up on to the newly completed Upper Stage test stand.

In November we conducted the initial second stage test firing lasting forty seconds. This test involved a new test stand, a new flight stage, and it occurred as planned, on the first attempt without aborts or recycles.


Full duration orbit insertion firing of second stage. Credit: SpaceX

On January 2, 2010, the team completed a full duration orbit insertion firing (329 seconds) of the integrated Falcon 9 second stage. At full power, the Merlin Vacuum engine generates 411,000 N (92,500 lbs force) of thrust, and operates with the highest performance ever for an American-made hydrocarbon rocket engine.

Having multiple stands for testing individual engines, first and second stages, and Draco thrusters allows us great freedom in processing hardware for flight. Our manifest currently lists more than twenty-five Falcon 1e and Falcon 9 missions, seventeen of those with Dragon spacecraft, so all of our stands will be kept very active.

Merlin Vacuum Engine Expansion Nozzle

We recently fabricated and formed the first flight expansion nozzle for the Merlin Vacuum second stage engine. Made of a thin, high temperature alloy, the large expansion nozzle extends from the regeneratively cooled portion of the engine, and improves its performance in the vacuum of space. Standing 2.7 meters (9 feet) tall and 2.4 m (8 ft) in diameter, it resembles the nozzle used on our Falcon 1's second stage engine, only larger.

Interstage

The interstage physically joins the first and second stages, and houses the Merlin Vacuum engine during first stage ascent. The carbon composite cylinder measures 3.6 meters (12 feet) in diameter and nearly 8 m (26 ft) tall.

The top edge of the interstage contains a set of clamping collets that join the first and second stages during liftoff and ascent. After the first stage shuts down, the collets release, and three pneumatic pushers smoothly and forcefully separate the stages, clearing the second stage engine for ignition.

We recently conducted a series of full-scale tests verifying the performance of the separation system under a variety of load conditions. We placed the fully configured interstage in the Falcon 9 structural test stand in Texas, and mounted a large mass on top to simulate the second stage. During testing, the collets release the stage and the pushers force the simulated second stage high into the air.

This stage separation system resembles a larger version of the one successfully used on our Falcon 1 vehicle. Note that this system uses no explosives, making it safer to assemble and deploy, and increasing its overall reliability, as we can conduct multiple tests of every flight component, whereas an individual explosive device carries the risk of being fully testable only once -- in actual use.

In addition to the stage separation system, the interstage also houses the parachute system that will aide in first stage recovery. Our Cape team has mated the interstage to the first stage and continues to finalize vehicle wiring in preparation for complete vehicle integration.

Dragon Qualification Spacecraft

As mentioned above, the inaugural Falcon 9 flight will loft our Dragon qualification spacecraft into orbit. After completing testing in Texas, the Dragon spacecraft shipped to the Cape in preparation for first flight.


Pressurized portion of Dragon, top, mated to unpressurized trunk. Credit: SpaceX

In preparation for flight, the Dragon spacecraft was mated to the trunk (see below), which in future flights will house both unpressurized payloads and the vehicle's solar panels. By flying the Dragon spacecraft configuration, we will obtain valuable data about its performance during the climb to orbit, which will support the following Falcon 9 flight -- the first launch under the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. On that flight, an operational Dragon spacecraft will make several orbit of the Earth, followed by reentry and splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California.

Launch Operations - Cape Canaveral SLC-40

As the flight hardware converges on Florida, many significant activities continue around our launch site in preparation for first flight.

Launch Mount

As with our Falcon 1 rocket, the Falcon 9 uses a "hold before launch" system where the launch mount firmly restrains the rocket as it develops full thrust. Once engine performance is verified, the rocket commands the launch mount to set it free.

The Falcon 9's four-part launch mount assembly performs several significant tasks. At rest, it supports the fully fueled Falcon 9, with a mass of over 330,000 kilograms (nearly three-quarters of a million pounds). Next, as the first stage's nine Merlin engines fire and reach full power of nearly 5 MN (over 1 million pounds force), the mounts must hold the vehicle down against the upward thrust.

Finally, upon command, the mounts release the rocket and then move out of the way, giving the nine engines maximum clearance as they lift the vehicle away from Earth.

Months of construction and testing converged into a series of final tests of the launch mount system. The four mount towers were attached to the base of the Transporter / Erector, and their hydraulically powered actuators checked to verify performance.

We then conducted a set of live load tests that simulated the significant downward and upward forces present during the launch sequence. We placed an actual Falcon 9 truss (the structure that joins the nine Merlin engines to the vehicle) into the launch mount, and used a crane and pneumatic cylinders to simulate the forces at liftoff. On command, the launch restraints let the truss fly free.

Recovery Preparations

Both the Falcon 9 first stage and Dragon spacecraft are designed to be recovered. For this first demonstration flight, the Dragon spacecraft will remain in orbit but our team will attempt recovery of the Falcon 9 first stage and has commenced with recovery testing operations.


Flotation testing of a portion of the recovery raft. Credit: SpaceX

Other progress at SLC-40 includes:

  • Nearing completion of a new hydraulic system to provide pressurized RP-1 propellant in support of hangar and pad checkout of vehicle Thrust Vector Control (TVC) systems.

  • Nearing completion of new gaseous nitrogen system (used for pressurization, line purges, etc.), and a new helium system (used for vehicle pressurization, cooling and engine startup).

  • Completion of the liquid nitrogen delivery system and final fill of 4,900 gallons to the site's storage tank.

  • Installing new Payload Environmental Control System on the pad to keep future cargo loads comfortable during processing and preparation for launch.

  • Functional testing of the new helium fill system. During loading, we chill the Falcon 9's helium storage tanks down to minus 184 degrees C (minus 300 degrees F).

  • Multiple test deployments of the Transporter / Erector system (shown above), and the addition of vehicle fill and drain plumbing and umbilical support systems.

  • Completed installation of a new dual-redundant, fault tolerant digital information network in support of mission operations and launch pad systems.

  • Flow tests verifying the systems that will apply large amounts of water to the launch pad to provide noise and fire suppression during liftoff.
Mission Operations

Back at our Hawthorne CA headquarters in mid-October we conducted a complete end-to-end test of our Dragon radio communications system with the NASA geosynchronous Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS).

The SpaceX communications flight hardware, developed with subcontractors Delta Microwave (Low Noise Amplifier), Quasonix (transmitter and receiver), and Haigh-Farr (antennas), emulated a complete Dragon spacecraft comm link, and successfully sent and received data through the TDRSS network. Commands were dispatched from our Hawthorne headquarters command station, to NASA JSC in Houston, across Texas to the TDRSS White Sands Ground Terminal, up to the TDRS 5 Spacecraft in geosynchronous orbit, and back down to the Dragon receiver on the ground in Hawthorne.

The test series demonstrated telemetry and command transmission at a variety of data rates up to 2.1 Mbps, and paves the way for using TDRSS on all fifteen of our Dragon missions for the COTS and Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) programs.

COTS Flight 2 Rehearsals

Also in Hawthorne, we recently completed a very successful joint mission simulation with NASA's Mission Operations Directorate where the team rehearsed the operations that will be conducted during the second COTS flight (the third Falcon 9 launch).

During that mission, dubbed "C2", a Dragon Spacecraft will approach within 10 kilometers (6 miles) of the International Space Station, and check out navigation, communication and control systems in preparation for actual approach and berthing with the ISS.

These tests help us progress towards the day when SpaceX will begin a series of twelve CRS cargo delivery missions for NASA to support the continued operation of the ISS.

Stay tuned for more Falcon 9 updates in the coming weeks as we head for launch in early 2010.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 01-06-2010 03:58 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-11-2010 11:03 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SpaceX release
SpaceX Announces Final Arrival of Falcon 9 Flight Hardware at Cape Canaveral in Preparation for Inaugural Launch

SpaceX Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) announces that all flight hardware for the debut launch of the Falcon 9 vehicle has arrived at the SpaceX launch site, Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

Final delivery included the Falcon 9 second stage, which recently completed testing at SpaceX's test facility in McGregor, Texas. SpaceX has now initiated full vehicle integration of the 47 meter (154 feet) tall, 3.6 meter (12 feet) diameter rocket, which will include a Dragon spacecraft qualification unit.

"We expect to launch in one to three months after completing full vehicle integration," said Brian Mosdell, Director of Florida Launch Operations for SpaceX. "Our primary objective is a successful first launch and we are taking whatever time necessary to work through the data to our satisfaction before moving forward."

Following full vehicle integration, SpaceX will conduct a static firing to demonstrate flight readiness and confirm operation of ground control systems in preparation for actual launch.

Though designed from the beginning to transport crew, SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft will initially be used to transport cargo. Falcon 9 and Dragon were selected by NASA to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) once Shuttle retires. The $1.6B contract represents 12 flights for a minimum of 20 tons to and from the ISS with the first demonstration flights beginning in 2010.


Falcon 9's nine Merlin 1C engines at far left, second stage far right.


Dragon (left), second stage with Merlin Vacuum engine (center), first stage with Merlin 1C engines.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 02-21-2010 10:36 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SpaceX statement
SpaceX's Falcon 9 Vertical at Cape Canaveral

SpaceX's Falcon 9 launch vehicle is now vertical at Space Launch Complex 40, Cape Canaveral. Following its mate to the transporter erector, Falcon 9 was rolled from the integration hangar to the launch pad where final checks of the pad hydraulic and pneumatic systems were completed.

Falcon 9 is undergoing a checkout of the critical flight connections including fuel, liquid oxygen, and gas pressure systems. Once all system interfaces are verified, the SpaceX launch team will execute a full tanking test of both first and second stages (wet dress) followed by a brief ~3.5 static fire of the first stage. SpaceX has not set specific dates for wet dress or static fire as schedule will be driven by the satisfactory completion of all test objectives and a thorough review of the data.

Credit: Chris Thompson/SpaceX


Credit: SpaceX

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-08-2010 12:23 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Spaceflight Now updates:
  • Falcon countdown dress rehearsal a 'great success'
    Taking advantage of a picturesque day in the Sunshine State, the privately-developed Falcon 9 rocket came to life Friday [Feb. 26] afternoon as engineers loaded 75,000 gallons of propellant aboard the vehicle during a simulated countdown.
  • Status Update, Feb. 27, 5:45 p.m. EST:
    Elon Musk, SpaceX's founder and CEO, says a few patches of cork covering the exterior of the first stage became debonded during the practice countdown, but the issue is not considered serious.

    Super-cold liquid oxygen causes the rocket's structure to contract during fueling, apparently triggering the cork to debond.

    "The whole first stage is covered in special high temperature space grade cork, not for insulation but to allow for the possibility of recovery via parachute," Musk told Spaceflight Now. "Some of the cork on the LOX tank did debond during LOX load, as we didn't allow enough contraction joints."

  • Status Update, March 8, 9:30 a.m. EST:
    SpaceX just lifted the Falcon 9 rocket vertical at Complex 40, as engineers apparently begin final preparations for a brief test of the booster's nine first stage engines today.

    The static fire is scheduled for late this morning or early this afternoon, SpaceX officials tell Spaceflight Now.

    During the test, the launch team will load propellant into the 154-foot-tall rocket and light the engines at the end of a simulated countdown for about three-and-a-half seconds.

  • Status Update, March 8, 10:15 a.m. EST:
    The engine test has been rescheduled for tomorrow, according to SpaceX.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-10-2010 09:36 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SpaceX statement (March 9, 2010)
SpaceX Static Fire Update

SpaceX performed our first Static Fire for the Falcon 9 launch vehicle. We counted down to an T-2 seconds and aborted on Spin Start. Given that this was our first abort event on this pad, we decided to scrub for the day to get a good look at the rocket before trying again. Everything looks great at first glance.

We completed pad preps on time and with good execution. The integrated countdown with the range included holdfire checks, S-band telemetry, C-band, and FTS simulated checks. We completed helium, liquid oxygen (LOX), and fuel loads to within tenths of a percent of T-zero conditions. Tanks pressed nominally and we passed all Terminal count, flight software, and ground software abort checks right down to T-2 seconds. We encountered a problem with the spin start system and aborted nominally.

As part of the abort, we close the pre-valves to isolate the engines from the propellant tank and purge the residual propellants. The brief flames seen on the video are burn off of LOX and kerosene on the pad. The engines did not ignite and there was no engine fire.

We detanked and safed the vehicle and launch pad. Preliminary review shows all other systems required to reach full ignition were within specification. All other pad systems worked nominally.

Inspections will be complete tonight [March 9]. Tomorrow will consist of data review and procedure updates. Commodities will be replenished tomorrow including TEA TEB load, LOX and helium deliveries.

We'll look to do the next static fire attempt in three or four days.


Credit: SpaceX

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-11-2010 04:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Explanation on the exact cause of Tuesday's abort at SpaceX's launch pad in Cape Canaveral below, this is a statement from Elon Musk:
The valve that didn't actuate is the ground side isolation valve to release ground supplied high pressure helium to start the first stage engine turbopumps spinning at several thousand rpm. Once that happens it generates enough pressure to start the gas generator, which is a small rocket engine that powers the turbopump. There are no vehicle side valves actuated for spin start (just check valves), so it is an all engines or none situation.

The problem was pretty simple: our autostart sequence didn't issue the command to the normally closed ground side isolation valve. We had tested everything on the vehicle side exhaustively in Texas, but didn't have this iso valve on our test stand there. Definitely a lesson learned to make sure that *everything* is the same between test stand and launch pad on the ground side, not just on the vehicle side.

Ignition fluid (TEA-TEB) flowed nominally to all engines creating the green flame and the main valves opened, but no engines actually started and the system automatically aborted on lack of spin. The fire generated was from flushing the system of fuel and LOX from the open mains. No damage to the vehicle or ground systems and no other anomalies that need to be addressed. If all goes well, we will try the static fire again in the next few days. Right now, we are holding due to extreme weather. It is raining sideways at 46 mph and tornados have been spotted just north of the Cape.

It is important for readers/viewers to appreciate that what we are going through right now is the equivalent of "beta testing". Problems are expected to occur, as they have throughout the development phase. The beta phase only ends when a rocket has done at least one, but arguably two or three consecutive flights to orbit.
In related news, from Spaceflight Now:
SpaceX is planning April 12 as their new launch date on the Eastern Range, according to the Air Force. The launch window would be between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. EDT. But the new launch date is still pending Air Force approval.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-13-2010 02:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SpaceX completed a successful static fire today [March 13], full 3.5 secs. Official statement below, video/photos to come as available.
SpaceX Successful Static Fire

Today, SpaceX successfully completed a test firing of the inaugural Falcon 9 launch vehicle at Space Launch Complex 40 located at Cape Canaveral. Following a nominal terminal countdown, the launch sequencer commanded ignition of all 9 Merlin first stage engines for a period of 3.5 seconds.

Just prior to engine ignition, the pad water deluge system was activated providing acoustic suppression to keep vibration levels within acceptable limits. The test validated the launch pad propellant and pneumatic systems as well as the ground and flight control software that controls pad and launch vehicle configurations. The completion of a successful static fire is the latest milestone on the path to first flight of the Falcon 9 which will carry a Dragon spacecraft qualification unit to orbit.


Credit: SpaceX/Chris Thompson

Robert Pearlman
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posted 03-14-2010 10:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote

Credit: SpaceX

Robert Pearlman
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posted 04-02-2010 10:50 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SpaceX Update
Falcon 9 Launch Update

SpaceX is working closely with Ensign Bickford Aerospace & Defense Co., supplier of key components of the Flight Termination System (FTS) that will be used on Falcon 9, to complete testing of the FTS hardware and provide final data to SpaceX and Air Force Range safety officials for review and acceptance.

Certification of the Falcon 9 FTS and subsequent range availability will put the first Falcon 9 test launch towards the latter half of the anticipated March-May window, with the first attempt no earlier than May 8, 2010.

mikej
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posted 05-03-2010 11:58 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for mikej   Click Here to Email mikej     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Latest launch forecast is May 11:
SpaceX plans to launch its Falcon 9 rocket on its first test flight next week... scheduled to blast off from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station between 1 p.m. and 5 p.m. on May 11.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 05-28-2010 01:53 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SpaceX update:
Due to delays in the recent [Delta] GPS satellite launch, Air Force range safety officials unfortunately did not have the resources to process our final documentation. SpaceX is now looking at no earlier than Friday, June 4th for its first test launch attempt.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-01-2010 08:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SpaceX update
Preparations for first Falcon 9 test launch

SpaceX is now targeting Friday, June 4th for its first test launch attempt of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

The primary schedule driver for the first Falcon 9 test launch has been certification of the flight termination system (FTS). The FTS ensures that Air Force Range safety officials can command the destruction of the vehicle should it stray from its designated flight path.

The successful liftoff of the recent GPS satellite launch last Thursday freed up the necessary range resources to process our final documentation, and we are now looking good for final approval of the FTS by this Friday, June 4th, just in time for our first launch attempt.

Today we completed end to end testing of the Falcon 9 as required by the Air Force Range and everything was nominal. Later this evening, we will finish final system connections for the FTS. Tomorrow we plan to rollout in the morning, and erect the vehicle in the afternoon. On Friday, the targeted schedule is as follows:

Friday 4 June 2010

  • Launch Window Opens: 11:00 AM Eastern / 8:00 AM Pacific / 1500 UTC
  • Launch window lasts 4 hours. SpaceX has also reserved a second launch day on Saturday 5 June, with the same hours.
As always, weather will play a significant role in our overall launch schedule. The weather experts at the Cape are giving us a 40% chance of "no go" conditions for both days of our window, citing the potential for cumulus clouds and anvil clouds from thunderstorms.

If the weather cooperates, SpaceX will provide a live webcast of the launch events, presently scheduled to begin 20 minutes prior to the opening of the launch window. Click here to visit our webcast page which will also be accessible from our home page the day of launch.

It's important to note that since this is a test launch, our primary goal is to collect as much data as possible, with success being measured as a percentage of how many flight milestones we are able to complete in this first attempt. It would be a great day if we reach orbital velocity, but still a good day if the first stage functions correctly, even if the second stage malfunctions. It would be a bad day if something happens on the launch pad itself and we're not able to gain any flight data.

If we have a bad day, it will be disappointing, but one launch does not make or break SpaceX as a company, nor commercial spaceflight as an industry. The Atlas rocket only succeeded on its 13th flight, and today it is the most reliable vehicle in the American fleet, with a record better than shuttle.

Regardless of the outcome, this first launch attempt represents a key milestone for both SpaceX and the commercial spaceflight industry. Keep in mind the launch dates and times are still subject to change, so please check the webcast page above for updates to this schedule. We appreciate your ongoing support and we hope you will tune in on launch day.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-02-2010 11:44 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SpaceX photo update: Falcon 9/Dragon Vertical at the Cape


Credit: SpaceX/Chris Thompson

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-04-2010 08:54 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Today's targeted time for the inaugural Falcon 9 launch has been adjusted by 20 minutes to 11:20 a.m. EDT.

A webcast will be available beginning 20 minutes before liftoff on SpaceX's website.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-04-2010 10:52 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
Today's targeted time for the inaugural Falcon 9 launch has been adjusted by 20 minutes to 11:20 a.m. EDT.
The countdown is being held at T-15 minutes due to a reported telemetry issue between the rocket and the range.

The Air Force Eastern Range is having difficulty communicating with the flight termination system (FTS) through the "strong back" retractable support tower on the Complex 40 launch pad.

A new T-0 time has not been set. SpaceX spokesperson now says they have a "path forward" to a 1:00 p.m. EDT or "possibly earlier" launch, pending resolution of the telemetry issue.

The weather and the rocket remain "green" or "go" for launch.

(Updates here will be sporadic due to logistical issues from the NASA causeway.)

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-04-2010 11:59 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The earlier telemetry problem has been resolved but the range is "red" again due to a "boat in the box;" the Air Force is working to clear the sailboat from the restricted area so today's Falcon 9 launch countdown can proceed.

New target T-0 is 1:30 p.m. EDT.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-04-2010 12:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The count has resumed, final clear for launch has been given. The clocks are now ticking down to a 1:30 p.m. EDT inaugural launch for SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-04-2010 12:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Last second abort! Falcon 9 again venting on the pad. Waiting for word if SpaceX will reset the count or scrub for the day...

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-04-2010 12:56 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SpaceX now said to be looking at a 2:30 2:45 p.m. EDT second launch attempt for today.

"Out of limit startup parameter" caused the first attempt's abort, according to the SpaceX webcast.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-04-2010 01:55 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Falcon 9 launches on inaugural flight

SpaceX's inaugural Falcon 9 rocket launched off Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Complex 40 at 2:45 p.m. EDT Friday, June 4, 2010.

Credit: collectSPACE/Robert Z. Pearlman

Robert Pearlman
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posted 06-04-2010 04:18 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SpaceX update:
Orbital info: Nominal shutdown and orbit was almost exactly 250km. Telemetry showed essentially a bullseye: ~0.2% on perigee and ~1% on apogee.
NASA release
NASA Administrator's Statement On First Falcon 9 Launch

The following is a statement by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden regarding Friday's launch of Space Exploration Technologies' Falcon 9 rocket.

"Congratulations to Space X on today's launch of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle. Space X's accomplishment is an important milestone in the commercial transportation effort and puts the company a step closer to providing cargo services to the International Space Station.

"Preparations are proceeding for the first NASA-sponsored test launch under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services project later this year. COTS is a vital development and demonstration partnership to create a commercial space transportation system capable of providing cargo to the station.

"This launch of the Falcon 9 gives us even more confidence that a resupply vehicle will be available after the space shuttle fleet is retired."


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