SpaceX: Another Falcon 9 ground pad landing

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Second attempt on land today, second success: A Falcon 9 delivered a Dragon capsule on its way to the ISS, and the first stage returned to the launch site and landed.

Track record for the "Full Thrust" version so far:
2 out of 2 landings on ground successful
3 out of 5 landings on sea successful. One failure came from imprecise timing of thrust, one from an engine that performed worse than expected ran out of oxygen.

SpaceX plans to re-launch a stage (the second one that landed) around September, just two months away. Payload is not fixed yet, at least not made public. SES, a communication satellite operator, is interested, and there is an SES flight scheduled for September and also one for October.

Two more launches are planned for August, but it is unclear if those plans are still up to date. SpaceX frequently shifts launches back over time. In December, or early 2017, we might see the first Falcon Heavy launch and a demonstration launch (abort test) for the Dragon 2 capsule, which is designed for manned missions.
 
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Jonathan Scott
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... one from an engine that performed worse than expected.
I thought that was the initial conclusion but Elon Musk later corrected it to "Looks like early liquid oxygen depletion caused engine shutdown just above the deck". I seem to remember having seen some later analysis which said that automatic mixture adjustment had for some reason switched to a slightly more oxygen-rich ratio than usual, which resulted in it running out a little earlier than originally expected, but I can't find that right now - anyone know where that appeared?
 
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You are right. Well technically zero thrust is "worse than expected" I guess.
 
Jonathan Scott
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From some Googling, I think I'm probably confusing the oxygen-rich explanation with two other cases:
1. A recent ULA Atlas 5 problem where the first stage cut off early because of oxidiser depletion and the second stage was barely able to correct for it.
2. A previous SpaceX problem around 2010 where fuel ran out just before oxygen, risking damage through an oxygen-rich spike causing elevated engine temperatures.

So the "liquid oxygen depletion" in the SpaceX case was probably simply a case of not quite having enough left by a tiny and unpredictable margin.
 
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I love that SpaceX has been so open with both their successes and failures. It's been a real treat watching them improve incrementally and I applaud both their audacity and tenacity.
 
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Good to see the IDA2 made into orbit. :smile:
 
.Scott
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This fifth recovered booster fills their storage hanger. They need to find another one.
They are also looking for two more landing pads - so they can land three boosters simultaneously.

Actually, I thought this last mission was more interesting because of the ISS docking adapter it carried. They lost the first one June 2015. It would have been bad news if they had lost this one as well.
 
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As far as I know two boosters got moved out. One is supposed to stay somewhere for display, not sure about the other one. But that tweet is not so far off - they either have to start launching re-used boosters in a rapid rate, or find some other place to put them.
 
Jonathan Scott
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They are also looking for two more landing pads - so they can land three boosters simultaneously.
Just to be clear, this is for Falcon Heavy which is effectively three Falcon 9 boosters strapped together in a row, so from a single launch there would be three separate boosters coming back.
 
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One goes on display at headquarters in Hawthorne California, the other is being studied for damage, I believe in Texas.
 
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Just to be clear, this is for Falcon Heavy which is effectively three Falcon 9 boosters strapped together in a row, so from a single launch there would be three separate boosters coming back.
I believe the core stage has to do a barge landing, the boosters fly back to land.
 
Jonathan Scott
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I believe the core stage has to do a barge landing, the boosters fly back to land.
The side boosters certainly get to go home early, but I think there's a hope that the core stage may sometimes be able to fly back too.
 
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It will depend on the mission. The Falcon Heavy core stage will be faster and further downrange, so flying it back really lowers the payload capability. Still better than with a Falcon 9, but I think reflying the cores has to be very reliable to make that a good option.
 
Jonathan Scott
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I wonder if there will also be the opposite case, requiring three drone ships. I think the other GCU ship name from "Player of Games" seems to be "Flexible Demeanour", but there are some great names in "The State of the Art" such as "Funny, It Worked Last Time...", "Only Slightly Bent" and "Ultimate Ship The Second".
 
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Dr. Courtney
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Nice discussion and exciting news.

Thanks everyone for your contributions.
 
mheslep
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It will depend on the mission. The Falcon Heavy core stage will be faster and further downrange, so flying it back really lowers the payload capability. Still better than with a Falcon 9, but I think reflying the cores has to be very reliable to make that a good option.
Flying the booster "back" means back to the launch pad? With a "Still Love You" landing at sea, further downrange should simply mean the barge goes further downrange. Or eventually a ground landing in, say, the Canaries (~same latitude, 3857 miles downrange). No?
 
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Might work, and if that is achievable then West African countries, (and maybe Portugal), is possible.
 
the satellites carried by the spaceX rockets , what do they do, that is -what commercial use ?
 
.Scott
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the satellites carried by the spaceX rockets , what do they do, that is -what commercial use ?
It's a wide variety. The most recent one resupplied the International Space Station. They have also done communication and military satellites.
Here is there mission list: http://www.spacex.com/missions
You can do a Google on each one. For example, Google "Jason-3" and you'll discover it's an ocean surface topography survey.
 
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Flying the booster "back" means back to the launch pad? With a "Still Love You" landing at sea, further downrange should simply mean the barge goes further downrange. Or eventually a ground landing in, say, the Canaries (~same latitude, 3857 miles downrange). No?
"Back" means back to the launch site (the landing pad is not directly the launch pad, but nearby). Yes, further downrange means further away on sea. The next land is way too far away to reach it with the first stage, even with a Falcon Heavy (FH).
the satellites carried by the spaceX rockets , what do they do, that is -what commercial use ?
Falcon 9 can launch everything apart from the heaviest satellites, Falcon Heavy will be able to launch those as well (and have some good margin for even heavier satellites, which cannot be launched yet). In general, missions to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO, where the satellites then enter a geostationary orbit on their own) are the most profitable missions, as many rockets can deliver satellites to low Earth orbit but the extra speed to GTO makes the missions more interesting. Satellites to GTO (mainly communication) also tend to be quite heavy.
 
mheslep
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"Back" means back to the launch site (the landing pad is not directly the launch pad, but nearby). Yes, further downrange means further away on sea. The next land is way too far away to reach it with the first stage, even with a Falcon Heavy (FH)...
Right, thanks. I see now that of course distance down range for the booster would be all about the delta V of the stage. While Heavy booster will have much more thrust than 9, given the Heavy payload I doubt if the delta V for Heavy booster changes much from 9 for the same orbital destination. If distance down range for booster is now, I dunno, a couple hundred miles, then Africa is orders of magnitude beyond reach.
 
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Here is a unofficial simulation of Falcon Heavy where all cores return to launch site (13.5 tons payload to low Earth orbit). The boosters separate at 2:43 video time: 87 km altitude, 70 km downrange, 2.1 km/s speed. The central core separates at 3:04, 116 km altitude, 106 km downrange, 2.6 km/s.
If the central core can go to the drone ship, it can throttle down its thrust a bit more while the boosters are still attached - the boosters separate earlier and the central core can accelerate the second stage more.
 
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It is easy for people used to the news reporting new feats of expertise and technology to dismiss this as simply "a neat trick" but IMHO it is an actual game-changer of which the effects will ripple forever. As bad as many obstacles to Space Travel indeed are, the single greatest obstacle is still expense. Bringing that down by such a substantial degree affects the ability to gain the experience required to address all other obstacles. Elon may have some slightly paranoid ideas about AI but he surely knows how to assemble a team and get the most from them.
 
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We'll see how much it will bring down costs. The expendable Falcon 9 is significantly cheaper than other rockets, but that is not related to any reusability. Landing the rocket is only the first step - we'll have to see if they can fly the stages again reliably without exchanging and repairing too many components. And then we'll see how much cheaper those launches will be. SpaceX talked about a 30% reduction in launch costs, that is not much. It is a new technology, of course, future improvements are likely.
 

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