SpaceX has launched and landed two used rockets in one weekend

Jun 26, 2017

By Leah Crane

SpaceX just did a double-header. Two of the firm’s Falcon 9 rockets were launched within 49 hours of each other, one from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and one from the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. That’s a first for SpaceX and provides a proof-of-concept for efficiently reusing rockets in the future.

The launches, on 23 and 25 June, marked the second and third time that Elon Musk’s spaceflight company reused rocket boosters that had already been to space, landed and been refurbished. After successfully releasing their payloads into orbit, each booster returned to Earth and safely landed on a drone ship. Now they will be examined for damage and possibly refurbished and launched a third time – a feat which SpaceX hasn’t yet attempted.

The 23 June launch, pictured, lifted Bulgaria’s first communications satellite – its second satellite ever – into orbit. The 25 June launch carried 10 communications satellites for the Iridium company, marking the second of seven planned batches that will make up a global satellite constellation called Iridium NEXT.

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9 comments on “SpaceX has launched and landed two used rockets in one weekend

  • Thanks for that BBC link Alan. But it contradicts the article above

    This second mission, on a brand new Falcon, occurred on the West
    Coast, from the Vandenberg Air Force Base.

    I haven’t seen any other reports of both Falcon’s being reused. I wonder if New Scientist stuffed up.

    Perhaps SpaceX should start naming the Falcon’s so we know which one is which.



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  • mmurray #2
    Jun 27, 2017 at 8:04 am

    Perhaps SpaceX should start naming the Falcon’s so we know which one is which.

    The Falcon first stage rockets can only land for re-use if they have sufficient fuel left to do so.
    On missions to higher orbits or with heavier pay-loads, they don’t.
    One of these seems to have made “a heavy landing”, so may have to be written off or cannibalised for parts!



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  • The Falcon first stage rockets can only land for re-use if they have sufficient fuel left to do so.
    On missions to higher orbits or with heavier pay-loads, they don’t.

    I thought they were landing the higher orbits at sea on the floating platform due to the excessive fuel use in turning around for the landing on land. Or is the plan for future higher orbit launches?



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  • Reckless Monkey #4
    Jun 27, 2017 at 9:05 am

    I thought they were landing the higher orbits at sea on the floating platform due to the excessive fuel use in turning around for the landing on land.

    I think there are safety issues, so drone ships are used keeping the rocket away from land and people.

    On the reuse issue, – here is a link.

    https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2017/05/expendable-falcon-9-inmarsat-5-f4-launch/

    SpaceX conducted its sixth launch of the year Monday, with a Falcon 9 rocket deploying the Inmarsat-5 F4 communications satellite. Liftoff, from the Kennedy Space Center, was on schedule at the opening of a 51-minute launch window at 19:20 local time (23:20 UTC). The booster – as planned – did not return for a landing due to the performance requirements of the heavy satellite.

    With a mass of 6,070 kilograms (13,380 pounds), Inmarsat-5 F4 is close to the Falcon 9’s maximum payload capacity to geosynchronous transfer orbit. To accommodate the satellite, SpaceX launched the Falcon 9 in its fully expendable configuration, foregoing an attempt to recover the first stage in order to maximize the mass it can deliver into orbit.

    The rocket flew without the landing legs and grid fins that have become a common sight on SpaceX launches, with the first stage using all of its propellant to thrust its payload towards orbit.

    The potential to use Falcon 9, instead of Falcon Heavy, for the Inmarsat launches was foreseen when the original contract was agreed in 2014. However, only upgrades to the Falcon 9 introduced at the end of 2015 brought Inmarsat-5 F4 within its capabilities.

    This upgraded version of the Falcon 9, which has become known as the Falcon 9 Full Thrust or Falcon 9 v1.2, is the third major revision of the Falcon 9.



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  • Hi Alan,

    I saw a video sometime I can’t remember when (I’ll have a look when I get a moment today), where they were explaining that the longer launches which had greater speed to wash off and therefore needed greater fuel burn to get to the site on land would necessitate some launches being landed at sea to maintain sufficient fuel to land. I assumed that the higher orbits might be the same. I’ll have a better look myself and get back to you.



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  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-41382609

    Australia will establish a national space agency to grow its space industry, the government has said.

    The nation is one of the only developed countries in the world not to have a space agency.

    Acting Industry Minister Michaelia Cash said it was “crucial” that Australia capitalised on the rapid growth of the global space industry.

    It follows a domestic industry review which had called for a dedicated body to be established.

    “The agency will be the anchor for our domestic co-ordination and the front door for our international engagement,” Ms Cash said.

    The government is expected to announce further details at the International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide this week.

    The conference will be attended by thousands of global space experts, including the heads of other national agencies and private companies.

    So as private developers move into the satellite launch business, Australia having abandoned its “Front-Runner” position in the 1960s, FINALLY re-joins the space-age at the back of the queue!!

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Arrow

    Black Arrow, officially capitalised BLACK ARROW,[3] was a British satellite carrier rocket. Developed during the 1960s, it was used for four launches between 1969 and 1971. Its final flight was the first and only successful orbital launch to be conducted by the United Kingdom, and placed the Prospero satellite into low Earth orbit.

    Most of the technology and systems used on Black Arrow had already been developed or flight-proven on the Black Knight rocket, or the Blue Steel missile.[4] Black Arrow was designed to reuse as much technology from the earlier programmes as possible in order to reduce costs, and simplify the development process.[2] Many senior staff of the Black Knight programme transferred directly to Black Arrow, including the Chief Missile Scientist, Roy Dommett, the Chief Design Engineer, Ray Wheeler and the Deputy Chief Engineer, John Underwood.

    All four launches were conducted from Launch Area 5B at the Woomera Prohibited Area in Australia, which had previously been used as a test site for the Black Knight rocket.



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  • http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-41030229

    Australia is to be a launch partner on the UK’s innovative new small radar satellite, NovaSAR.

    The spacecraft, which will track shipping and forestry change from orbit, is due to launch on an Indian rocket early next year.

    Australia’s main research organisation, CSIRO, has signed a 10% share in NovaSAR’s data.

    The deal comes on the heels of an announcement that the country will soon get a national space agency.

    This future body will no doubt look to secure many more such collaborations, to enable Australian scientists and entrepreneurs to exploit the latest Earth observation information.

    NovaSAR (PDF) has been built by Surrey Satellite Technology Limited in Guildford, in southern England, with the aid of a £21m UK government grant.

    The 3m-long platform, which looks like a cheese-grater, is regarded as an “operational demonstrator” – that is to say, it will showcase a capability but with the intention that its data is put to good use to develop services.

    Radar works at wavelengths that allow it to pierce cloud to see the surface of the Earth in all weathers, and in darkness.

    NovaSAR will use this vision to make forestry assessments in the tropics (frequent cloud) and at high latitude (poor light conditions); to support disaster relief (radar is very good at sensing flood water); and to monitor shipping routes.

    This third application is enhanced by the addition of an Automatic Identification System (AIS) sensor onboard the satellite.

    All ships over 300 gross tonnes are required to fit AIS transponders that broadcast details about their voyage.

    Spotting from orbit those vessels that have their AIS disabled is often a sign of illegal actors, such as smugglers or trawlers attempting to net fish in no-take zones.

    Radar plus AIS is seen as something of a killer application in maritime policing.

    Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) will get a 10% share of the tasking and data-acquisition capabilities of NovaSAR.

    While this small satellite is innovative, it is indicative of the visionless, obstructive, techno-duffers in UK and Australian politics, that while the first UK small satellite launch vehicles flew successfully to launch the first and only all UK satellite from Australia in the 1960s, (see#8), this satellite in 2017-2018, is now being launched on an INDIAN rocket!

    The spacecraft will track and send forestry change from orbit, which is due to launch on an Indian rocket early next year.



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