SpaceX Will Attempt First Stage Recovery Launch – UPDATE

January 6th, 2015
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A brief post but something that really excites me.

SpaceX was planning on launching a Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Staton today.   This launch is not the first time the rocket has been launched nor the first mission to the ISS.  What makes it exciting (in addition to the fact that all rocket launches are exciting) is that it would be their first attempt to recover the first stage in a near-perfect reusable condition.  Aside from the SRB’s on the Space Shuttle, which splashed down in sea water, there has not been any launch system which allowed a major stage component to be reused.

Since this is the first attempt, there’s a good chance it won’t work, but if it does, it will be a huge step toward lower cost space flight.  Of course, it’s only one stage of the rocket, but it’s still a big achievement.  The rocket itself costs tens of millions of dollars, while the fuel is only hundreds of thousands, so reusing a major portion of the rocket can save enormous costs.

The unique method of recovery is to have the rocket use remaining fuel and its own engine to decelerate and make a soft landing.  Landing legs will deploy and the touchdown will be attempted on a floating barge, which is unmanned and some distance offshore, thus reducing any risks should the landing not be successful.

NOTE:  The launch has been aborted.  Apparently there were some readings with the thrust vector control system which indicated a problem.  It’s not entirely unusual for launches to be aborted at the last minute, as a result of such technical data.  In a high risk activity like launching rockets, it is not worth attempting a launch if there appear to be any potential problems.

The systems will be checked and diagnosed and the launch will likely proceed shortly, but probably not today.   It may require a couple of days before the proper launch window opens up again.  It may also take a number of days for the problem to be solved with the thrust vector control.  In all likelihood, the launch will still happen in the next few days.



This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 6th, 2015 at 11:19 am and is filed under Good Science, Space. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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6 Responses to “SpaceX Will Attempt First Stage Recovery Launch – UPDATE”

  1. 1
    DV82XL Says:

    This really has to work if there is going to be an industry in this domain. The bald fact is that public funding has taken this sector as far as it is able to given the fact that the public, while not opposed to off-world activities, isn’t swooning over the idea like they were is the past. Yes I know this isn’t yet a pure mercantilist play (as it were) by any means, but there has to be a start to moving in that direction, and this is it.

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  2. 2
    Joffan Says:

    The launch window to the ISS for SpaceX is usually “instantaneous”, meaning they effectively have one shot (per day) to launch. It isn’t literally instantaneous but the recycle time to go again from any countdown-interrupting issue is longer than the real launch window.

    The pre-arranged backup day for today’s launch was Friday 9 Jan, so that’s the next try.

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  3. 3
    James Greenidge Says:

    Talk about wide windows of opportunity! I marvel how Russian can effect manned ISS rendezvous in just six hours!

    James Greenidge
    Queens NY

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  4. 4
    Joffan Says:

    The launch attempt has now been put off to Saturday morning, 10 Jan.

    The time to rendezvous is a different issue. For the quick rendezvous launches, the ISS orbit is also adjusted so that the orbit-raising and other maneuvers can bring the spacecraft directly to synchronous orbit with ISS. That isn’t worth doing for a cargo run (although it was trialed on a couple of Progress cargo deliveries to prove feasibility). It’s also contingent on launch orbit injection going optimally – the two-day rendezvous is still feasible as a back-up otherwise.

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  5. 5
    drbuzz0 Says:

    The launch was successful. The recovery was not successful. I believe they are calling it a partial success.

    They did decelerate the rocket and navigate it to the barge. The navigation and control of the first part of the recovery seems to have gone well. The actual landing was far too hard. They didn’t decelerate it enough. It basically crashed into the barge. Too damaged to be reused.

    Not a total loss. This was an experiment. It was not like it was contingent on the recovery working in order for the mission to be successful. They said before hand they had a 50/50 chance of the recovery working out.

    All in all, I think it’s still a positive step and I would not doubt that they will get this right either on their next attempt or the one after that.

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  6. 6
    ThisGuy Says:

    Seems the first stage ran out of hydraulic fluids (open system hydraulics, running from the turbopumps) and thus control authority. Weather reports show there was quite a bit of wind and swell (over 1.5 meters) in the landing area, that can’t have helped either.

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