US Spy Sat and SpaceX Set for Double Barreled Blastoffs After Critical Cape Canaveral Radar Revitalized

The Florida Space Coast is about to ignite with a doubled barreled dose of spectacular rocket launches from Cape Canaveral over the next few days that were suddenly postponed two weeks ago amidst final launch preparations when an electrical short completely knocked out use of the US Air Force’s crucial tracking radar that is mandatory to insure public safety.

A pair of liftoffs vital to US National Security and NASA/SpaceX are now slated for April 10 and April 14 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station after revitalizing the radar systems.

The tracking radar is an absolutely essential asset for the Eastern Range that oversees all launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V is now slated to launch on Thursday, April 10 at 1:45 p.m. EDT.

Artwork for Super Secret NROL-67 payload launching on Atlas V rocket. Credit: NRO/ULA
Artwork for Super Secret NROL-67 payload launching on Atlas V rocket. Credit: NRO/ULA

The Atlas V rocket is carrying the super secret NROL-67 intelligence gathering spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

The SpaceX Falcon 9 is slated to launch on Monday, April 14 at 4:58 p.m. EDT.

The Falcon 9 is lofting a SpaceX Dragon cargo ship and delivering some 5000 pounds of science experiments and supplies for the six man space station crew – under a resupply contract with NASA.

The pair of liftoffs of the Atlas V and Falcon 9 boosters for the NRO and SpaceX/NASA had been slated just days apart on March 25 and March 30, respectively.

Falcon 9 and Dragon static fire test on March 8, 2014. Credit: SpaceX
Falcon 9 and Dragon static fire test on March 8, 2014. Credit: SpaceX

I was on site at Cape Canaveral Launch Pad 41 photographing the Atlas V rocket carrying the NRO payload in anticipation of the launch.

Shortly thereafter a fire of unexplained origin in the radar equipment unexpected occurred and knocked the tracking radar off line. When no quick fix was possible, both launches were delayed indefinitely pending repairs.

“The tracking radar experienced an electrical short, overheating the unit and rendering the radar inoperable,” said the USAF in a statement I received from the 45th Space Wing that controls the critical launch control systems, communications, computers and radar elements at the Eastern Range.

On Monday, April 7, the Air Force announced that range repairs were on target and that a retired, inactive radar had been brought back online.

“A radar that was previously in standby status has been brought back to operational status while the repair work is being accomplished,” said the USAF in a statement.

A fully functional tracking radar is an absolute requirement to ensure the success and safety of every rocket launch.

Insufficient maintenance and antiquated equipment due to a lack of US government funding and investment in infrastructure may be at fault for the electrical short.

The Eastern range radar must function perfectly in order to destroy any rocket in a split second in the event it abruptly veers off course towards the nearby populated areas along the Florida Space Coast.

The Atlas V rocket was rolled out earlier today to Space Launch Complex 41 in preparation for Thursday’s NROL-67 launch. The weather forecast shows a 90 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch.

The Dragon spacecraft, filled with about 4,600 lbs of cargo bound for the space station, is mated with Falcon 9.  Credit: SpaceX
The Dragon spacecraft, filled with about 4,600 lbs of cargo bound for the space station, is mated with Falcon 9. Credit: SpaceX

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Atlas V NROL 67, SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, commercial space, Orion, Chang’e-3, LADEE, Mars rover, MAVEN, MOM and more planetary and human spaceflight news.

Learn more at Ken’s upcoming presentations at the NEAF astro/space convention, NY on April 12/13.

Ken Kremer

SpaceX Resets Space Station Launch with Revolutionary Rocket Legs and Robonaut Legs to March 30

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – Following last week’s sudden and late in the processing flow postponement of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch, SpaceX announced a reset of its next cargo mission launch for NASA to the International Space Station (ISS) to a new target date of Sunday, March 30.

The commercially developed Falcon 9 booster and Dragon cargo vessel are slated for a spectacular night time liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 10:50 p.m. EDT on March 30, SpaceX announced on Friday.

This mission, soaring to space under a resupply contract to NASA, could ignite a revolution in both rocketry and robotics.

The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket sports a quartet of never before tried landing legs and the Dragon freighter is loaded with a set of lanky legs to enable mobility in space for NASA’s Robonaut 2 standing at the cutting edge of space robotics technology.

Launch preparations were suddenly halted less than 72 hours prior to the then planned March 16 early morning launch because of unspecified technical issues concerning the sudden discovery of “contamination,” sources told me.

The Falcon 9 rocket with landing legs in SpaceX’s hangar at Cape Canaveral, Fl, preparing to launch Dragon to the space station this Sunday March 30.  Credit: SpaceX
The Falcon 9 rocket with landing legs in SpaceX’s hangar at Cape Canaveral, Fl, preparing to launch Dragon to the space station this Sunday March 30. Credit: SpaceX

“To ensure the highest possible level of mission assurance and allow additional time to resolve remaining open items, the team is taking additional time to resolve open items and ensure SpaceX does everything possible on the ground to prepare for a successful launch,” according to a statement from SpaceX.

Several sources told me that the problem related to “contamination” that was found in the “unpressurized truck section” at the rear of the Dragon spacecraft.

“An unknown contaminant of unknown origin was found on a blanket in the Dragon trunk,” independent sources said to Universe Today soon after the postponement was announced.

“After careful review and analysis, engineering teams representing both the ISS and SpaceX have determined Dragon is ready to fly ‘as-is.’ All parties agree that the particular constituents observed in Dragon’s trunk are in line with the previously defined environments levels and do not impose additional risk to the payloads,” SpaceX announced in a new statement.

With the contamination issues now resolved, the launch is back on track.

Robonaut 2 engineering model equipped with new legs like those heading to the ISS on upcoming SpaceX CRS-3 launch were on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on March 15, 2014. Credit: Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com
Robonaut 2 engineering model equipped with new legs like those heading to the ISS on upcoming SpaceX CRS-3 launch were on display at the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex on March 15, 2014. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

NASA Television will air live coverage on Sunday.

In case the launch is delayed, the backup launch opportunity is at 9:39 p.m. Wednesday, April 2.

Altogether, this unmanned SpaceX CRS-3 mission will deliver over 5000 pounds of science experiments, a pair of legs for Robonaut 2, a high definition imaging camera suite, an optical communications experiment and essential gear, spare parts, crew provisions, food, clothing and supplies to the six person crews living and working aboard the ISS soaring in low Earth orbit under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract.

SpaceX is under contract to NASA to deliver 20,000 kg (44,000 pounds) of cargo to the ISS during a dozen Dragon cargo spacecraft flights over the next few years at a cost of about $1.6 Billion.

To date SpaceX has completed two operational cargo resupply missions and a test flight. The last flight dubbed CRS-2 blasted off a year ago on March 1, 2013 atop the initial version of the Falcon 9 rocket.

Following the rescheduled March 30 launch and a series of orbit raising and course corrections over the next two days, Dragon will rendezvous and dock at the Earth facing port on the station’s Harmony module on Wednesday, April 2.

Falcon 9 SpaceX CRS-2 launch of Dragon spacecraft on March 1, 2013 to the ISS from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, Florida.- shot from the roof of the Vehicle Assembly Building.   During 2014, SpaceX plans  two flight tests simulating Dragon emergency abort scenarios launching from pad 40. Credit: Ken Kremer/www.kenkremer.com
Falcon 9 SpaceX CRS-2 launch of Dragon spacecraft on March 1, 2013 to the ISS from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, Florida.- shot from the roof of the Vehicle Assembly Building. Credit: Ken Kremer/www.kenkremer.com

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, commercial space, Orion, Chang’e-3, LADEE, Mars rover, MAVEN, MOM and more planetary and human spaceflight news.

Learn more at Ken’s upcoming presentations at the NEAF astro/space convention on April 12/13 and at Washington Crossing State Park, NJ on April 6. Also evenings at the Quality Inn Kennedy Space Center, Titusville, FL, March 24/25 and March 29/30
.

And watch for Ken’s upcoming SpaceX launch coverage at Cape Canaveral & the Kennedy Space Center press site.

Ken Kremer

SpaceX Starts 2014 With Spectacular Private Rocket Success Delivering Thai Satellite to Orbit – Gallery

SpaceX began 2014 with a spectacular big bang for private space today, Jan. 6, when the firms next generation Falcon 9 rocket blasted off for the first time this year and successfully delivered the Thaicom 6 commercial broadcasting satellite to its target orbit.

The new, next generation Falcon 9 rocket lifted off at 5:06 p.m. EST (2206 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida with the Thai payload.

The sunset SpaceX launch from the Florida Space Coast took place precisely on time with ignition of the nine Merlin 1-D first stage engines at Space Launch Complex 40.

TCom6-01

The launch was broadcast live via a SpaceX webcast.

The nine engines on the 224 foot tall Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket generate 1.3 million pounds of thrust, about 50% more than the initial Falcon 9.

The second stage Merlin vacuum engine fired twice as planned.

The first firing began approximately 184 seconds into flight and lasted five minutes and 35 second to deliver Thaicom 6 into its parking orbit.

Clearing the strongback, the Thaicom 6/Falcon 9 mission roars from the pad in its quest for supergeosync orbit. Credit: nasatech.net
Clearing the strongback, the Thaicom 6/Falcon 9 mission roars from the pad in its quest for supergeosync orbit. Credit: nasatech.net

The engine relit for a second burn eighteen minutes later and lasted just over one minute to carry the satellite to its final geostationary transfer orbit.

The restart of the Falcon 9 second stage is a requirement for all geostationary transfer missions.

Falcon 9 rocket soar to space with Thaicom 6 commercial satellite on Jan 6, 2014 from Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Jeff Seibert
Falcon 9 rocket soars to space with Thaicom 6 commercial satellite on Jan 6, 2014 from Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Jeff Seibert

31 minutes after liftoff the Thaicom 6 spacecraft separated from the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and was placed into the desired geosynchronous transfer orbit of 295 x 90,000 km geosynchronous at 22.5 degrees inclination.

SpaceX said in a statement that, “The Falcon 9 launch vehicle performed as expected, meeting 100% of mission objectives.”

SpaceX did not attempt to recover the first stage booster on this mission, SpaceX spokeswoman Emily Shanklin told me. “We may try on the next flight.”

Thaicom 6 commercial broadcasting satellite in geosynchronous orbit, artists concept
Thaicom 6 commercial broadcasting satellite in geosynchronous orbit, artists concept

This marks the second launch of the upgraded Falcon 9 in just over a month, following closely on the heels of the maiden flight from Cape Canaveral on Dec. 3 with another commercial satellite, namely SES-8.

“Today’s successful launch of the THAICOM 6 satellite marks the eighth successful flight in a row for Falcon 9,” said Gwynne Shotwell, President of SpaceX. “SpaceX greatly appreciates THAICOM’s support throughout this campaign and we look forward to a busy launch schedule in 2014.”

Both the Thaicom-6 and SES-8 satellites were built by Orbital Sciences, one of SpaceX’s chief competitors in the commercial space race, making for strange bedfellows.

Thaicom 6 patch
Thaicom 6 patch

Indeed it’s a very busy week for private rockets.

Orbital Sciences is poised to launch their Antares rocket in less than 48 hours on Wednesday, Jan. 8 on a commercial resupply mission for NASA that’s bound for the international Space Station (ISS).

The new Falcon 9 is the key to fulfilling SpaceX’s future launch manifest of nearly 50 payloads worth billions of dollars for a diverse customer base.

Next Generation SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasts off with SES-8 communications satellite on Dec. 3, 2013 from Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Next Generation SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasts off with SES-8 communications satellite on Dec. 3, 2013 from Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

The next gen Falcon 9 will also launch the human rated SpaceX Dragon to the ISS in a bid to restore America’s human spaceflight capability.

A pair of critical Falcon 9/Dragon abort tests are planned for 2014. Read my new article and discussion with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk – here.

The next SpaceX Dragon cargo launch to the ISS is currently scheduled for Feb. 22, said SpaceX spokeswoman Emily Shanklin told Universe Today.

Sunset launch of Falcon 9 with Thiacom 6 broadcast satellite on Jan 6, 2014 from Cape Canaveral, FL.   Credit: Jeff Seibert
Sunset launch of Falcon 9 with Thiacom 6 broadcast satellite on Jan 6, 2014 from Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Jeff Seibert
Almost clear of the catenary wires, the Thaicom 6/Falcon 9 mission streaks to orbit. Credit: nasatech.net
Almost clear of the catenary wires, the Thaicom 6/Falcon 9 mission streaks to orbit. Credit: nasatech.net

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, commercial space, Chang’e-3, LADEE, Mars and more news.

Ken Kremer

…………….

Learn more about SpaceX, Orbital Sciences Antares Jan. 8 launch, Curiosity, Orion, MAVEN, MOM, Mars rovers and more at Ken’s upcoming presentations

Jan 7-9: “Antares/Cygnus ISS Rocket Launch from Virginia on Jan. 8” & “Space mission updates”; Rodeway Inn, Chincoteague, VA, evening

Falcon 9 rocket disappears into the clouds following blastoff on Jan. 6, 2014 from Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Jeff Seibert
Falcon 9 rocket disappears into the clouds following blastoff on Jan. 6, 2014 from Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Jeff Seibert
Blastoff of 1st Falcon 9 rocket in 2014 with Thaicom 6 commercial satellite from Cape Canaveral, FL on Jan. 6. Credit: SpaceX
Blastoff of 1st Falcon 9 rocket in 2014 with Thaicom 6 commercial satellite from Cape Canaveral, FL on Jan. 6. Credit: SpaceX

Private American Rockets Blast Open 2014 & Commercial Space Race with Big Bangs on Jan. 6 & 7

Seaside panoramic view of an Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo spacecraft built by Orbital Sciences at Launch Pad 0A at NASA Wallops Flight Facility on the Virginia Eastern Shore. Blastoff for the ISS is slated for Jan. 7, 2014 at 1:55 p.m. EDT. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
UPDATE – Frigid Weather Delays Antares Launch to Jan. 8[/caption]

The status quo in space flight operations is no more.

Private American rockets are leading the charge of overdue change into the innovative ‘Commercial Space Race’ by blasting 2014 open with a pair of ‘Big Bang fireworks’ just a day apart on Jan. 6 and Jan. 7.

A dynamic duo of US aerospace firms – SpaceX and Orbital Sciences – are each poised to launch their own recently developed private boosters in the first week of the new year and aiming to dramatically cut costs.

And to top that off, the rockets are thundering aloft from two different spaceports located some 800 miles apart along the US East coast – weather permitting of course given the monster snow storm and frigid arctic air – akin to Mars – bearing down at this very moment on the big populations centers of the Atlantic coast region.

UPDATE ALERT – Antares Launch just postponed to Wed, Jan 8 at 1:32 p.m.due to extremely cold weather forecast. Back up day is Jan. 9

Both companies are revolutionizing access to space for both government entities as well as commercial companies doing lucrative business in space.

The implications of vastly reducing expenses for space travel and space commerce are far reaching and imperative – especially in the face of static and declining budgets mandated by politicians worldwide.

Except for China, which just landed its first rover on the Moon, is investing mightily in space and science and reaping strong economic growth.

Next Generation SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasts off with SES-8 communications satellite on Dec. 3, 2013 from Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Next Generation SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasts off with SES-8 communications satellite on Dec. 3, 2013 from Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

SpaceX is first on deck with their next generation Falcon 9 rocket poised to soar on Monday, Jan. 6, with a highly valuable international payload – the Thiacom-6 commercial broadcasting satellite.

Note: This launch has just been postponed from Jan. 3 according to a brief statement I received from the USAF 45th Space Wing. Apparently due to concerns with the rocket – better safe than sorry.

Orbital Sciences follows up quickly on Tuesday, Jan. 7, with their two stage Antares rocket carrying the firm’s own Cygnus cargo vessel on its first operational commercial resupply mission for NASA – that’s bound for the International Space Station (ISS).

The upgraded SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 two stage rocket is slated to launch from complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, likely at dusk.

The original Jan. 3 Falcon 9 evening time launch had been scheduled for 5:50 p.m. Thaicom-6 will be placed into an elliptical supersynchronous transfer orbit.

The commercial space race sometimes makes for strange bedfellows. The Thaicom-6 satellite was built by Orbital Sciences.

This marks only the 2nd launch of the newly upgraded Falcon 9 from Florida. Read my eyewitness reports about the thunderous maiden liftoff barely a month ago on Dec. 3, 2013 with the SES-8 commercial telecom satellite – starting here.

The new Falcon 9 is the key to achieving SpaceX’s future launch manifest of some 50 payloads worth billions of dollars.

The next gen Falcon 9 will also launch the human rated SpaceX Dragon to the ISS. But first the Dragon and Falcon 9 must successfully achieve a pair of abort tests planned for 2014. Read my new article and discussion with SpaceX CEO Elon Musk – here.

The Jan. 7 Antares liftoff is currently scheduled for 1:55 p.m. EST from Launch Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA Wallops Island, Virginia.

Antares rocket slated for Jan. 7, 2014 launch undergoes processing at the Horizontal Integration Facility at NASA Wallops, Virginia, during exclusive visit by  Ken Kremer/Universe Today.   Credit: Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com
Antares rocket slated for Jan. 7, 2014 launch undergoes processing at the Horizontal Integration Facility at NASA Wallops, Virginia, during exclusive visit by Ken Kremer/Universe Today. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

The Antares launch comes on the heels of the completely successful demonstration flight to the space station by Orbital Sciences in September 2013.

This flight was originally scheduled for mid-December 2013 in prime time but was postponed due to the urgent repairs required to get the ISS cooling system back in full operation.

And although it’s now moved to daylight by reason of orbital mechanics, the liftoff could still easily be visible to millions of residents along a wide swath of the US East Coast spanning from North Carolina to New York City – weather permitting.

Antares Launch from Virginia– Maximum Elevation Map  The Antares daytime launch will be visible to millions of spectators across a wide area of the Eastern US -weather permitting. This map shows the maximum elevation (degrees above the horizon) that the Antares rocket will reach during the Jan 7, 2014 launch depending on your location along the US east coast. Credit: Orbital Sciences
Antares Launch from Virginia– Maximum Elevation Map
The Antares daytime launch will be visible to millions of spectators across a wide area of the Eastern US -weather permitting. This map shows the maximum elevation (degrees above the horizon) that the Antares rocket will reach during the Jan 7, 2014 launch depending on your location along the US east coast. Credit: Orbital Sciences

I’ll be covering the Antares launch, dubbed Orb-1, from on site at NASA Wallops – watch for my continuing reports.

The Cygnus logistics vessel will carry a total of 2,780 pounds of supplies to the station, including vital science experiments to expand the research capability of the Expedition 38 crew members aboard the orbiting laboratory, crew provisions, spare parts and experiment hardware, says NASA.

Also packed aboard the Antares/Cygnus flight are a batch of student experiments involving life sciences topics ranging from amoeba reproduction to calcium in the bones to salamanders.

“The 23 experiments flying next week [on Antares/Cygnus] are the culmination of 8,700 students engaged in real experiment design, and 1,800 proposals received by student teams,” Dr. Jeff Goldstein told Universe Today. Goldstein is the Center Director for the National Center for Earth and Space Science Education (NCESSE),which is sponsoring and organizing the student experiments.

This rocket volley is but the opening salvo of shots heard reverberating round the world that will surely “rock” the space industry to its core by cutting the steep cost of access to space.

“This is really rocking the industry. Everybody has to look out,” said Martin Halliwell, SES chief technical officer during a recent media briefing with Elon Musk, including Universe Today.

Both the SpaceX Falcon 9/Dragon and Orbital Sciences Antares/Cygnus vehicles were developed from the start with seed money from NASA in a public-private partnership.

The goal was to restore America’s cargo and crew capabilities to low Earth orbit and the ISS that was totally lost following the forced retirement of NASA’s Space Shuttles.

After a slow start, both Orbital Sciences and SpaceX have succeeded in bringing their new rockets and delivery vehicles safely on line.

SpaceX next Dragon cargo launch to the ISS is currently scheduled for Feb. 22, said SpaceX spokeswoman Emily Shanklin to Universe Today.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, commercial space, Chang’e-3, LADEE, Mars and more news.

Ken Kremer

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Learn more about SpaceX, Orbital Sciences Antares Jan. 8 launch, Curiosity, Orion, MAVEN, MOM, Mars rovers and more at Ken’s upcoming presentations

Jan 7-9: “Antares/Cygnus ISS Rocket Launch from Virginia on Jan. 8” & “Space mission updates”; Rodeway Inn, Chincoteague, VA, evening

Mike Whalen of Orbital Sciences and Ken Kremer of Universe Today pose at the base of the Antares rocket 1st stage now slated for liftoff on Jan. 7, 2014 at NASA Wallops, Virginia.  Credit: Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com
Mike Whalen of Orbital Sciences and Ken Kremer of Universe Today pose at the base of the Antares rocket 1st stage now slated for liftoff on Jan. 8, 2014 (after weather delay) at NASA Wallops, Virginia. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

What’s Ahead for Human Rated SpaceX Dragon in 2014 – Musk tells Universe Today

Falcon 9 SpaceX CRS-2 launch of Dragon spacecraft on March 1, 2013 to the ISS from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, Florida.- shot from the roof of the Vehicle Assembly Building. During 2014, SpaceX plans two flight tests simulating human crewed Dragon emergency abort scenarios launching from right here at pad 40. Credit: Ken Kremer/www.kenkremer.com
Story updated[/caption]

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, FL – A trio of American companies – SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada – are working diligently to restore America’s capability to launch humans into low Earth orbit from US soil, aided by seed money from NASA’s Commercial Crew Program in a public-private partnership.

We’ve been following the solid progress made by all three companies. Here we’ll focus on two crucial test flights planned by SpaceX in 2014 to human rate and launch the crewed version of their entry into the commercial crew ‘space taxi’ sweepstakes, namely the Dragon spacecraft.

Recently I had the opportunity to speak about the upcoming test flights with the head of SpaceX, Elon Musk.

So I asked Musk, the founder and CEO of SpaceX, about “what’s ahead in 2014”; specifically related to a pair of critical “abort tests” that he hopes to conduct with the human rated “version of our Dragon spacecraft.”

“Assuming all goes well, we expect to conduct [up to] two Dragon abort tests next year in 2014,” Musk told me.

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk briefs reporters including Universe Today in Cocoa Beach, FL prior to planned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blastoff with SES-8 communications satellite  from Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk briefs reporters including Universe Today in Cocoa Beach, FL prior to planned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blastoff with SES-8 communications satellite from Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

The two abort flight tests in 2014 involve demonstrating the ability of the Dragon spacecraft abort system to lift an uncrewed spacecraft clear of a simulated launch emergency.

The crewed Dragon – also known as DragonRider – will be capable of lofting up to seven astronauts to the ISS and remaining docked for at least 180 days.

First a brief overview of the goals of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. It was started in the wake of the retirement of NASA’s Space Shuttle program which flew its final human crews to the International Space Station (ISS) in mid-2011.

“NASA has tasked SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada to develop spacecraft capable of safely transporting humans to the space station, returning that capability to the United States where it belongs,’ says NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.

Since 2011, US astronauts have been 100% dependent on the Russians and their Soyuz capsules to hitch a ride to low Earth orbit and the ISS.

The abort tests are essential for demonstrating that the Dragon vehicle will activate thrusters and separate in a split second from a potentially deadly exploding rocket fireball to save astronauts lives in the event of a real life emergency – either directly on the launch pad or in flight.

“We are aiming to do at least the pad abort test next year [in 2014] with version 2 of our Dragon spacecraft that would carry astronauts,” Musk told me.

This is the Dragon mock-up that will be used for an upcoming pad abort test on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 40.  Credit: SpaceX
This is the Dragon mock-up that will be used for an upcoming pad abort test on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX plans to launch the crewed Dragon atop the human rated version of their own developed Falcon 9 next generation rocket, which is also being simultaneously developed to achieve all of NASA’s human rating requirements.

The initial pad abort test will test the ability of the full-size Dragon to safely push away and escape in case of a failure of its Falcon 9 booster rocket in the moments around launch, right at the launch pad.

“The purpose of the pad abort test is to demonstrate Dragon has enough total impulse (thrust) to safely abort,” SpaceX spokeswoman Emily Shanklin informed me.

For that test, Dragon will use its pusher escape abort thrusters to lift the Dragon safely away from the failing rocket. The vehicle will be positioned on a structural facsimile of the Dragon trunk in which the actual Falcon 9/Dragon interfaces will be represented by mockups.

This test will be conducted on SpaceX’s launch pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It will not include an actual Falcon 9 booster.

The second Dragon flight test involves simulating an in flight emergency abort scenario during ascent at high altitude at maximum aerodynamic pressure at about T plus 1 minute, to save astronauts lives. The pusher abort thrusters would propel the capsule and crew safely away from a failing Falcon 9 booster for a parachute assisted landing into the Atlantic Ocean.

“Assuming all goes well we expect to launch the high altitude abort test towards the end of next year,” Musk explained.

The second test will use the upgraded next generation version of the Falcon 9 that was successfully launched just weeks ago on its maiden mission from Cape Canaveral on Dec. 3. Read my earlier reports – starting here.

Next Generation SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasts off with SES-8 communications satellite on Dec. 3, 2013 from Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Next Generation SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasts off with SES-8 communications satellite on Dec. 3, 2013 from Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, FL. The upgraded Falcon 9 will be used to launch the human rated SpaceX Dragon spacecraft to the ISS. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

To date, SpaceX has already successfully launched the original cargo version of the Dragon a total of three times. And each one docked as planned at the ISS.

The last cargo Dragon blasted off on March 1, 2013. Read my prior articles starting – here.

The next cargo Dragon bound for the ISS is due to lift off on Feb. 22, 2014 from Cape Canaveral, FL.

SpaceX Dragon berthing at ISS on March 3, 2013. Credit: NASA
SpaceX Dragon berthing at ISS on March 3, 2013. Credit: NASA

Orbital Sciences – the commercial ISS cargo competitor to SpaceX – plans to launch its Cygnus cargo vehicle on the Orb-1 mission bound for the ISS on Jan. 7 atop the firms Antares rocket from NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Watch for my on site reports from NASA Wallops.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program’s goal is launching American astronauts from U.S. soil within the next four years – by 2017 to the ISS.

The 2017 launch date is dependent on funding from the US federal government that will enable each of the firms to accomplish a specified series of milestones. NASA payments are only made after each companies milestones are successfully achieved.

SpaceX was awarded $440 million in the third round of funding in the Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCAP) initiative which runs through the third quarter of 2014. As of November 2013, NASA said SpaceX had accomplished 9 of 15 milestones and was on track to complete all on time.

Musk hopes to launch an initial Dragon orbital test flight with a human crew of SpaceX test pilots perhaps as early as sometime in 2015 – if funding and all else goes well.

Either a US commercial ‘space taxi’ or the Orion exploration capsule could have blasted off with American astronauts much sooner – if not for the continuing year-by-year slashes to NASA’s overall budget forced by the so called ‘political leaders’ of all parties in Washington, DC.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and Ken Kremer of Universe Today discuss Falcon 9/SES-8 launch by SpaceX Mission Control at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Florida.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and Ken Kremer of Universe Today discuss SpaceX upcoming flight plans by SpaceX Mission Control at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing SpaceX, Orbital Sciences, commercial space, Chang’e-3, LADEE, Mars and more news.

Ken Kremer

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Learn more about SpaceX, Orbital Sciences Antares Jan. 7 launch, Curiosity, Orion, MAVEN, MOM, Mars rovers and more at Ken’s upcoming presentations

Jan 6-8: “Antares/Cygnus ISS Rocket Launch from Virginia on Jan. 7”; Rodeway Inn, Chincoteague, VA, evening

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden discusses NASA’s human spaceflight initiatives backdropped by the service module for the Orion crew capsule being assembled at the Kennedy Space Center.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and science chief Astronaut John Grunsfeld discuss NASA’s human spaceflight initiatives backdropped by the service module for the Orion crew capsule being assembled at the Kennedy Space Center. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

SpaceX SES-8 Flawlessly Beautiful Dec. 3 Launch – Photo and Video Gallery

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, FL – The flawless blastoff of SpaceX’s next generation Falcon 9 rocket on Tuesday Dec. 3 put on a spectacular sky show along the Florida Space Coast that was both beautiful and unforgettable – besides being truly historic as the firms first ever delivery of a commercial space satellite to the lucrative market of geostationary orbit.

For your enjoyment here’s a collection of photos and videos from fellow space photojournalists of the 5:41 p.m. EST sunset launch from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL.

Following a pair of launch scrubs last week on Nov. 25 and Thanksgiving Day Nov. 28 caused by issues with the powerful new Merlin 1-D first stage engines, the third time was fat last the charm as the Falcon 9 blasted precisely at the opening of the 86 minute launch window.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 V1.1 rocket vents oxygen following Thursday evenings first launch attempt from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The first attempt was halted after computers showed that the engines had a slower than expected thrust rate upon startup. Credit: Walter Scriptunas II images
A SpaceX Falcon 9 V1.1 rocket vents oxygen following Thursday evenings first launch attempt from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The first attempt was halted after computers showed that the engines had a slower than expected thrust rate upon startup. Credit: Walter Scriptunas II images
As the Falcon 9 begins to 'thread the needle' of the lightning wires, a shower of ice and flames and steam scatters, cascades and billows. Credit: nasatech.net
As the Falcon 9 begins to ‘thread the needle’ of the lightning wires, a shower of ice and flames and steam scatters, cascades and billows. Credit: nasatech.net
Clear of the catenary lightning wires, the Falcon 9/SES-8 mission streaks to orbit. Credit: nasatech.net
Clear of the catenary lightning wires, the Falcon 9/SES-8 mission streaks to orbit. Credit: nasatech.net
Beautiful streak shot of SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch with SES-8 satellite on Dec. 3, 2013. Credit: John Studwell
Beautiful streak shot of SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch with SES-8 satellite on Dec. 3, 2013. Credit: John Studwell
SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with SES-8 communications satellite soars to orbit.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with SES-8 communications satellite soars to orbit. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Falcon 9/SES-8 streak to orbit on Dec. 3, 2013.  Credit: Jeff Seibert
Falcon 9/SES-8 streak to orbit on Dec. 3, 2013. Credit: Jeff Seibert
Falcon 9/SES-8 streak to orbit on Dec. 3, 2013.  Credit: Jeff Seibert
Falcon 9/SES-8 streak to orbit on Dec. 3, 2013. Credit: Jeff Seibert
Wispy exhaust plume from SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch with SES-8 satellite on Dec. 3, 2013. Credit: John Studwell
Wispy exhaust plume from SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch with SES-8 satellite on Dec. 3, 2013. Credit: John Studwell
Blastoff of Falcon 9/SES-8 satellite on Dec. 3, 2013.  Credit: Julian Leek
Blastoff of Falcon 9/SES-8 satellite on Dec. 3, 2013. Credit: Julian Leek

Launch Video

Stay tuned here for continuing SpaceX & MAVEN news and Ken’s SpaceX and MAVEN launch reports from on site at Cape Canaveral & the Kennedy Space Center press site.

Ken Kremer

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SpaceX Scores Spectacular Success Scorching Florida Sky with Next Gen Rocket

CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, FL – SpaceX scored a spectacular launch success this evening (Dec. 3 ) when the maiden flight of their upgraded Falcon 9 rocket from Florida scorched the sky of the Florida Space Coast and successfully delivered a commercial space satellite to geostationary orbit for the first time ever – thereby revolutionizing the commercial space industry from this day forward.

The third time was finally the charm as the Falcon 9 blasted off precisely on time at 5:41 p.m. EST from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral following a pair of launch scrubs last week on Nov. 25 and Thanksgiving Day Nov. 28 caused by technical problems with the first stage engine.

The booster thundered off the pad and pierced the completely cloud free evening sky soon after sunset as the blistering roar rumbled deafeningly all across the space coast viewing area.

The rocket exhaust plume was easily visible for several minutes after liftoff of the historic mission.

Next Generation SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasts off with SES-8 communications satellite on Dec. 3, 2013 from Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Next Generation SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blasts off with SES-8 communications satellite on Dec. 3, 2013 from Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

The 3,138 kg (6,918 lbs) SES-8 satellite was built by Orbital Sciences for SES and is a hybrid Ku- and Ka-band spacecraft that will provide TV and communications coverage for the South Asia and Asia Pacific regions.

This new version of the Falcon 9 rocket has nearly 50% more thrust compared to the original Falcon 9.

The stakes could not have been higher for the future of SpaceX.

The firms future launch manifest of more than 50 flights for NASA and a variety of commercial entities worth billions of dollars were riding on the success of tonight’s liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

With 54 satellites in orbit SES is one of the largest commercial telecommunications satellite operators in the world.

The next generation Falcon 9 rocket injected the SES-8 telecommunications to its targeted geostationary transfer orbit flying 295 x 80,000 km above Earth.

A restart of the second stage engine was absolutely essential to the success of the mission since a failure to ignite would have doomed the SES-8 satellite from reaching is desired orbit since it’s a requirement for all geostationary transfer missions.

The picture-perfect flight met 100% of the mission objectives, SpaceX said in a post-launch statement.

“The successful insertion of the SES-8 satellite confirms the upgraded Falcon 9 launch vehicle delivers to the industry’s highest performance standards,” said Elon Musk, CEO and Chief Designer of SpaceX.

“As always, SpaceX remains committed to delivering the safest, most reliable launch vehicles on the market today. We appreciate SES’s early confidence in SpaceX and look forward to launching additional SES satellites in the years to come.”

Today’s launch marked SpaceX’s first commercial launch from Florida as well as the first commercial flight from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in over five years.

Satellite operators have booked their commercial launches with other rocket companies overseas due to the high cost of other American expendable rockets.

SpaceX’s entire corporate aim has been to significantly cut the high cost of access to space.

“This is really rocking the industry. Everybody has to look out,” said Martin Halliwell, SES chief technical officer, at the prelaunch meeting with reporters including Universe Today.

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk (right) and Martin Halliwell (left), SES chief technical officer briefs reporters including Universe Today on Sunday (Nov. 24) in Cocoa Beach, FL prior to planned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blastoff with SES-8 communications satellite set for Nov. 25, 2013 from Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk (right) and Martin Halliwell (left), SES chief technical officer briefs reporters including Universe Today on Sunday (Nov. 24) in Cocoa Beach, FL prior to planned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blastoff with SES-8 communications satellite from Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

With today’s SpaceX is sure to sign even more contracts bringing additional commercial telecommunications satellite space launches back to American soil.

Approximately 185 seconds into flight, the Falcon 9’s second stage equipped with a single Merlin 1-D engine ignited.

It burned for five minutes and 20 seconds to inject SES-8 satellite into its initial parking orbit.

Eighteen minutes later the second stage engine relit for a second time and fired for just over one minute to deliver SES-8 satellite to its final geostationary transfer orbit.

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with SES-8 communications satellite soars to orbit.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with SES-8 communications satellite soars to orbit. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

This extra powerful new version of the Falcon 9 dubbed v1.1 is powered by a cluster of nine of SpaceX’s new Merlin 1D engines that are about 50% more powerful compared to the standard Merlin 1C engines. The nine Merlin 1D engines 1.3 million pounds of thrust at sea level rises to 1.5 million pounds as the rocket climbs to orbit.

The Merlin 1 D engines are arrayed in an octaweb layout for improved efficiency.

Therefore the upgraded Falcon 9 can boost a much heavier cargo load to the ISS, low Earth orbit, geostationary orbit and beyond.

The next generation Falcon 9 is a monster. It measures 224 feet tall and is 12 feet in diameter. That compares to a 130 foot tall rocket for the original Falcon 9.

Stay tuned here for continuing SpaceX & MAVEN news and Ken’s SpaceX launch reports from on site at Cape Canaveral & the Kennedy Space Center press site.

Ken Kremer

SES- 8 Falcon 9

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Learn more about SpaceX, MAVEN, MOM, Mars rovers, Orion and more at Ken’s upcoming presentations

Dec 3/4: “SpaceX launch, MAVEN Mars Launch and Curiosity Explores Mars, Orion and NASA’s Future”, Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, 8 PM

Dec 11: “Curiosity, MAVEN and the Search for Life on Mars”, “LADEE & Antares ISS Launches from Virginia”, Rittenhouse Astronomical Society, Franklin Institute, Phila, PA, 8 PM

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and Ken Kremer of Universe Today discuss Falcon 9/SES-8 launch by SpaceX Mission Control at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Florida.  Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and Ken Kremer of Universe Today discuss Falcon 9/SES-8 launch by SpaceX Mission Control at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Upper Stage Engine Restart Essential to High Stakes SpaceX Mission Success for Dec. 3 Launch Attempt

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – Today (Dec. 3) marks the 3rd attempt by SpaceX to launch the maiden flight of their significantly upgraded Falcon 9 rocket with the SES-8 telecommunications satellite – following the Nov. 28 ‘Thanksgiving = Spacegiving Day’ scrub due to an aborted 1st stage engine firing in progress.

And the stakes could not be higher for the future of SpaceX – with the firms future launch manifest worth billions of dollars riding on the success of today’s liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

In an unprecedented launch event for SpaceX, the upper stage engine on the next generation Falcon 9 booster absolutely must restart in flight for a second time in order for the commercial SES-8 payload to be delivered to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).

Blastoff from Cape Canaveral’s seaside Space Launch Complex 40 is set for 5:41 p.m. EST (2241 GMT).

The Thanksgiving Day launch was aborted by the computers when the Marlin engines thrust failed to build up as fast as planned.

The weather forecast currently shows a 90% chance of favorable conditions at liftoff time according to Air Force meteorologists. The only concern is for winds.

Next Generation SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with SES-8 communications satellite awaits launch from Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Next Generation SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with SES-8 communications satellite awaits launch from Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

The launch of SES-8 is a milestone marking the first ever attempt by SpaceX to place a satellite into the geostationary orbit replete with numerous high value commercial satellites. This is the doorway to the future profitability of SpaceX.

“I don’t want to tempt fate, but I think it’s going to have a pretty significant impact on the world launch market and on the launch industry because our prices are the most competitive of any in the world,” said SpaceX CEO and chief designer Elon Musk at a prelaunch briefing for media including Universe Today in Cocoa Beach, FL.

For the mission to be declared a success, the upper stage engine must reignite precisely as planned about 27 minutes after liftoff and burn for approximately 1 minute to successfully propel SES-8 into the propel orbit about 33 minutes after launch.

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk briefs reporters including Universe Today on Sunday (Nov. 24) in Cocoa Beach, FL prior to planned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blastoff with SES-8 communications satellite set for Nov. 25, 2013 from Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk briefs reporters including Universe Today on Sunday (Nov. 24) in Cocoa Beach, FL prior to planned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blastoff with SES-8 communications satellite set for Nov. 25, 2013 from Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

“Whether or not this launch is successful, I’m confident we will certainly make it on some subsequent launch,” said Musk.

“This is really rocking the industry. Everybody has to look out,” said Martin Halliwell, SES chief technical officer, who joined Musk at the prelaunch meeting.

The upgraded Falcon 9 will also be the launcher utilized for the manned SpaceX Dragon capsules launching to the ISS sometime later this decade!

And the very next satellite set for launch by SpaceX later in December – Thaicom 6- is essentially already waiting at the door to the onramp to space.

SpaceX plans a live broadcast of the Falcon 9 liftoff from pad 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, FL beginning at 5 p.m. EST.

It can be viewed here: www.spacex.com/webcast

The show will feature commentary about the Falcon 9 rocket and launch sequences and the SES-8 commercial satellite from SpaceX corporate headquarters in Hawthorne, CA.

The Falcon 9/SES-8 launch window extends for 86 minutes until 7:07 p.m. EST.

The 3,138 kg (6,918 lbs) SES-8 satellite is a hybrid Ku- and Ka-band spacecraft that will provide TV and communications coverage for the South Asia and Asia Pacific regions.

This mighty new version of the Falcon 9 dubbed v1.1 is powered by a cluster of nine of SpaceX’s new Merlin 1D engines that are about 50% more powerful compared to the standard Merlin 1C engines. The nine Merlin 1D engines 1.3 million pounds of thrust at sea level that rises to 1.5 million pounds as the rocket climbs to orbit

The Merlin 1-D engines are arrayed in an octaweb layout for improved efficiency.

Therefore the upgraded Falcon 9 can boost a much heavier cargo load to the ISS, low Earth orbit, geostationary orbit and beyond.

The next generation Falcon 9 is a monster. It measures 224 feet tall and is 12 feet in diameter. That compares to 13 stories for the original Falcon 9.

Stay tuned here for continuing SpaceX & MAVEN news and Ken’s SpaceX launch reports from on site at Cape Canaveral & the Kennedy Space Center press site.

Ken Kremer

Elon Musk Briefs Universe Today & Media ahead of Revolutionary Falcon 9 Blastoff

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk briefs reporters including Universe Today on Sunday (Nov. 24) in Cocoa Beach, FL prior to planned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blastoff with SES-8 communications satellite set for Nov. 25, 2013 from Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
See live SpaceX webcast link below[/caption]

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – A new space era potentially dawns today, Nov. 25, with the planned maiden launch of the next generation SpaceX Falcon 9 commercial rocket from Cape Canaveral, FL, that could completely revolutionize how we access the high frontier and “rock the space industry to its core” by cutting cost and production times – if all goes well.

Just a day before liftoff, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk personally briefed reporters including Universe Today on Sunday (Nov. 24) in Cocoa Beach, FL, nearby the firms Cape Canaveral launch facility about today’s (Nov. 25) upcoming maiden launch of the companies upgraded Falcon 9 rocket, saying it was “very important” for the future.

“This launch is very important to the future of SpaceX. This is our toughest mission yet!” said Musk to a small group of reporters, including the author, gathered for Sunday’s exclusive pre-launch briefing.

“Whether or not this launch is successful, I’m confident we will certainly make it on some subsequent launch,” said Musk at the Cocoa Beach meeting with the media.

The Falcon 9 liftoff from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral, FL is scheduled for 5:37pm EST and will be webcast live by SpaceX for viewing at; www.spacex.com/webcast

Today’s (Nov. 25) inaugural blastoff of the privately developed Falcon 9 rocket with the commercial SES-8 HDTV and telecommunications satellite is especially noteworthy because it also features SpaceX’s first ever launch of any satellite to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO).

From the start, SpaceX designed the Falcon 9 rocket from a clean sheet aimed at radically reducing production and manufacturing costs and assembly times and thereby offer significantly lower launch price, says Musk.

“I don’t want to tempt fate, but I think it’s going to have a pretty significant impact on the world launch market and on the launch industry because our prices are the most competitive of any in the world,” Musk stated.

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk (right) and Martin Halliwell (left), SES chief technical officer briefs reporters including Universe Today on Sunday (Nov. 24) in Cocoa Beach, FL prior to planned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blastoff with SES-8 communications satellite set for Nov. 25, 2013 from Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk (right) and Martin Halliwell (left), SES chief technical officer briefs reporters including Universe Today on Sunday (Nov. 24) in Cocoa Beach, FL prior to planned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blastoff with SES-8 communications satellite set for Nov. 25, 2013 from Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

SES-8 also represents SpaceX’s first launch of a Falcon 9 carrying a commercial satellite to space from the Florida Space Coast.

“This is really rocking the industry. Everybody has to look out,” said Martin Halliwell, SES chief technical officer, who joined Musk at Sunday’s meeting.

The 3,138 kg (6,918 lbs) SES-8 satellite is a hybrid Ku- and Ka-band spacecraft that will provide TV and communications coverage for the South Asia and Asia Pacific regions.

SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk (right) and Martin Halliwell (left), SES chief technical officer briefs reporters including Universe Today on Sunday (Nov. 24) in Cocoa Beach, FL prior to planned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blastoff with SES-8 communications satellite set for Nov. 25, 2013 from Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Urijan Poerink
SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk (right) and Martin Halliwell (left), SES chief technical officer briefs reporters including Universe Today on Sunday (Nov. 24) in Cocoa Beach, FL prior to planned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket blastoff with SES-8 communications satellite set for Nov. 25, 2013 from Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Urijan Poerink

The SES-8 spacecrft was built by Orbital Sciences Corp and will be lofted to a 295 x 80,000 km geosynchronous transfer orbit inclined 20.75 degrees.

SpaceX has signed nearly 50 commercial and government launch contracts and thus already sports a very crowded launch manifest ahead of today’s Falcon 9 launch.

All five launches of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station were either test launches or flights to the International Space Station, under contract to NASA.

The five Falcon 9 launches to date from the Florida Space Coast also featured the original, less powerful and shorter version of the booster and has a 100% success rate.

This mighty new version of the Falcon 9 dubbed v1.1 is powered by a cluster of nine of SpaceX’s new Merlin 1D engines that are about 50% more powerful compared to the standard Merlin 1C engines. The nine Merlin 1D engines 1.3 million pounds of thrust at sea level that rises to 1.5 million pounds as the rocket climbs to orbit.

Next Generation SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with SES-8 communications satellite awaits launch from Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com
Next Generation SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with SES-8 communications satellite awaits launch from Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, FL. Credit: Ken Kremer/kenkremer.com

Therefore the upgraded Falcon 9 can boost a much heavier cargo load to the ISS, low Earth orbit, geostationary orbit and beyond.

The next generation Falcon 9 is a monster. It measures 224 feet tall and is 12 feet in diameter. That compares to 13 stories for the original Falcon 9.

The payload fairing for SES-8 is 17 feet in diameter.

The Falcon 9/SES-8 launch window extends for 66 minutes until 6:43 p.m. EST.
Weather outlook is 80% favorable at this time.

SpaceX is planning a live webcast of the launch with commentary from SpaceX corporate headquarters in Hawthorne, CA.

The broadcast will begin at approximately 5:00 p.m. EDT and include detailed discussions about the Falcon 9 rocket, launch and flight sequences as well as about the SES-8 satellite.

Stay tuned here for continuing SpaceX & MAVEN news and Ken’s SpaceX launch reports from on site at Cape Canaveral & the Kennedy Space Center press site.

Ken Kremer

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Learn more about SpaceX, LADEE, MAVEN, MOM, Mars rovers, Orion and more at Ken’s upcoming presentations

Nov 22-25: “SpaceX launch, MAVEN Mars Launch and Curiosity Explores Mars, Orion and NASA’s Future”, Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, 8 PM

Dec 11: “Curiosity, MAVEN and the Search for Life on Mars”, “LADEE & Antares ISS Launches from Virginia”, Rittenhouse Astronomical Society, Franklin Institute, Phila, PA, 8 PM

Falcon 9 SpaceX CRS-2 launch on March 1, 2013 to the ISS from Cape Canaveral, Florida.- shot from the roof of the Vehicle Assembly Building. Credit: Ken Kremer/www.kenkremer.com
Falcon 9 SpaceX CRS-2 launch on March 1, 2013 to the ISS from Cape Canaveral, Florida.- shot from the roof of the Vehicle Assembly Building. Credit: Ken Kremer/www.kenkremer.com

Maiden Next Gen SpaceX Falcon 9 launch from Cape Canaveral set for Nov. 25

Falcon 9 during processing at Cape Canaveral Pad 40 ahead of launch scheduled for Nov. 25, 2013. Credit: SpaceX
See live SpaceX webcast link below[/caption]

CAPE CANAVERAL, FL – The maiden flight of the Next Generation commercial SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from the firms Cape Canaveral launch facility is set to soar to space on Monday afternoon, Nov. 25 on a ground breaking mission that will be most difficult ever.

The upgraded Falcon 9 booster is slated to haul the commercial SES-8 telecommunications satellite for the satellite provider SES for SpaceX’s first ever payload delivery to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO).

Liftoff is scheduled for 5:37 p.m. EST from SpaceX’s Space Launch Complex 40 pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Pad 40 is the same location as all prior SpaceX launches from the Florida Space Coast.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that this launch of the Falcon 9 will be the “toughest mission to date.”

SES- 8 Falcon 9
This mighty new version of the Falcon 9 dubbed v1.1 is powered by a cluster of nine of SpaceX’s new Merlin 1D engines that are about 50% more powerful compared to the standard Merlin 1C engines. Therefore it can boost a much heavier cargo load to the ISS, low Earth orbit and beyond.

The next generation Falcon 9 is a monster. It’s much taller than a standard Falcon 9 – some 22 stories tall vs. 13 stories.

In anticipation of Monday’s planned liftoff, SpaceX engineers successful completed a wet dress rehearsal and engine hotfire test this past Thursday.

Spectators can view the launch from local public areas, beaches and roads – just as with any other liftoff.

The launch window extends just over an hour until 6:43 p.m. EST.

Weather outlook is 80% favorable at this time but deteriorates in case of a 1 day delay to Tuesday.

Falcon 9 SpaceX CRS-2 launch on March 1, 2013 to the ISS from Cape Canaveral, Florida.- shot from the roof of the Vehicle Assembly Building. Credit: Ken Kremer/www.kenkremer.com
Falcon 9 SpaceX CRS-2 launch on March 1, 2013 to the ISS from Cape Canaveral, Florida.- shot from the roof of the Vehicle Assembly Building. Credit: Ken Kremer/www.kenkremer.com

SpaceX is planning a live webcast of the launch with commentary from SpaceX corporate headquarters in Hawthorne, CA.

The broadcast will begin at approximately 5:00 p.m. EDT and include detailed discussions about the Falcon 9 rocket, launch and flight sequences as well as about the SES- 8 satellite.

The webcast can be viewed at; www.spacex.com/webcast

The first launch of this next generation Falcon 9 v 1.1 rocket occurred on Sept 29, 2013 on a demonstration test flight from a SpaceX pad at Vandenberg AFB carrying a Canadian weather satellite to an elliptical earth orbit.

Falcon 9 lifts off from SpaceX’s pad at Vandenberg on Sept 29, 2013, carrying Canada’s CASSIOPE satellite to orbit. Credit: SpaceX
Falcon 9 lifts off from SpaceX’s pad at Vandenberg AFB on Sept 29, 2013, carrying Canada’s CASSIOPE satellite to orbit. Credit: SpaceX

SES-8 is a hybrid Ku- and Ka-band spacecraft that will provide communications coverage for the South Asia and Asia Pacific regions.

It was built by Orbital Sciences spacecraft, weighs 3,138 kg (6,918 lbs) and will be lofted to a 295 x 80,000 km geosynchronous transfer orbit inclined 20.75 degrees.

Stay tuned here for continuing SpaceX & MAVEN news and Ken’s SpaceX launch reports from on site at Cape Canaveral & the Kennedy Space Center press site.

Ken Kremer

…………….

Learn more about SpaceX, LADEE, MAVEN, MOM, Mars rovers, Orion and more at Ken’s upcoming presentations

Nov 22-25: “SpaceX launch, MAVEN Mars Launch and Curiosity Explores Mars, Orion and NASA’s Future”, Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, 8 PM

Dec 11: “Curiosity, MAVEN and the Search for Life on Mars”, “LADEE & Antares ISS Launches from Virginia”, Rittenhouse Astronomical Society, Franklin Institute, Phila, PA, 8 PM