Space

Falcon 9 returns to space with Iridium-1 launch

Falcon 9 returns to space with...
Iridium-1 marks the Falcon 9 booster's return to commercial sercvice
Iridium-1 marks the Falcon 9 booster's return to commercial sercvice
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Iridium-1 moments prior to launch
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Iridium-1 moments prior to launch
Iridium-1 marks the Falcon 9 booster's return to commercial sercvice
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Iridium-1 marks the Falcon 9 booster's return to commercial sercvice
Range camera view of Iridium-1
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Range camera view of Iridium-1
Falcon 9 deploying steering vanes
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Falcon 9 deploying steering vanes
Falcon 9 making landing approach
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Falcon 9 making landing approach
Falcon 9 on the sea barge
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Falcon 9 on the sea barge
Iridium-1 trajectory
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Iridium-1 trajectory
Iridium-1 on the launch pad at Vandenberg on January 13
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Iridium-1 on the launch pad at Vandenberg on January 13

SpaceX's Falcon 9 booster roared back into service today over four months after a disastrous launch pad explosion threw its future into doubt. At 9:54 am PST (17:54 GMT), the reusable rocket lifted off from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California carrying the 10-satellite constellation of the Iridium-1 mission. According to the company, this is the first of a series of launches that will eventually form the 81-satellite Iridium NEXT global communication network.

They say that once you fall off a horse, you should get straight back on, but for Falcon 9 getting back in the saddle only came after a four-month investigation into the cause of a catastrophic launch pad explosion on September 1. The accident occurred during a fuelling exercise when the supercooled liquid oxygen used in the second stage apparently interacted with the graphite fiber cladding of one of the helium bottles used for propellant pressurization. The oxygen froze and caused the cladding to fail or ignite, resulting in a catastrophic failure of the oxygen tank and an explosion that destroyed both the rocket and the Israeli satellite payload.

With the investigation completed about 12 days ago and FAA approval given for flight on January 6, SpaceX was cutting things fine, but the company has made it clear that it intended the Falcon 9 to return to service as soon as possible.

Falcon 9 deploying steering vanes
Falcon 9 deploying steering vanes

After lifting off from Vandenberg, the Falcon reached its point of maximum stress or Max Q one minute and nine seconds into the flight. First stage engine cutoff was at two minutes, 24 seconds with second stage separation three seconds later and second stage engine firing eight seconds after that.

After firing for six minutes and 34 seconds, the second stage shut down successfully and coasted on a southward trajectory until 52 minutes and 32 seconds into the flight, when the Merlin engine fired a second time for three seconds. About one hour into the flight, the first of 10 Iridium satellites were deployed with the last going into polar orbit at one hour and 14 minutes since lift-off.

Falcon 9 on the sea barge
Falcon 9 on the sea barge

Meanwhile, the first stage carried out a series of engine burns that returned it to Earth to make a powered landing on the "Just Read the Instructions" drone ship on station in the Pacific Ocean. At the six minute 57 second mark, the first stage made a reentry burn and guided itself through the Earth's atmosphere using a set of hypersonic vanes. At seven minutes and 45 seconds, a landing burn was initiated and the rocket touched down dead center on the sea barge at eight minutes and 15 seconds after launch.

The video below recaps the launch.

Source: SpaceX

Iridium-1 Technical Webcast

4 comments
ChairmanLMAO
Go go Elon Musk!
mhpr262
It's pretty disappointing that Space-X still hasn't got a small extra boat that can film the landing from two or three kilometers away. We only get such pictures when they launch a NASA payload and NASA provides the chase plane and footage. Hoch much can a small remote controlled inflatable boat with a gimballed camera cost???
Jacob Shepley
mhpr262a It isn't just the cost of the boat and camera, but also how they would transmit the footage live back to land. The drone ship can do it because it is large enough to have its own broadcasting equipment. A small boat wouldn't. And you can't exactly drag a data cable out to the boat. And also it isn't necessary, SpaceX gets their telemetry from onboard sensors so the footage is mainly just for the public. They're a private company so they don't need to worry about their public stock price. They don't need to spend money on improving their rocket landing video feed for us. They could use a small boat with gimballed camera to record the landing not live, then release it later. I'd like that. But I don't expect they'll invest in upgrading their live broadcast feeds.
Charles S Roscoe
Now build the Space Elevator! Canadian company receives U.S. Patent on gas inflatable space elevator By Gene Quinn August 22, 2015 http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2015/08/22/patent-on-gas-inflatable-space-elevator/id=60821/ everal weeks ago Thoth Technology, Inc., a Canadian company located in Pembroke, Ontario, received U.S. Patent No. 9,085,897, which is simply titled Space Elevator. The Background cites to famous author Arthur C. Clarke, who hypothesized that a space elevator could be constructed suing a cable and counter-balance mass system in his 1978 novel The Foundations of Paradise. A Carbon Nanotube ribbon will work!