Photo By: SpaceX (CLICK for full size photo as well as links to where you can watch LIVE online as well as mission/vehicle facts & resources below).

This will be a busy week as we have at least 4 launches in 5 days, possibly 5! A few pretty important ones too including this one right here so if you live on the west coast get down to Vandenberg.

Some nail biting times ahead for Mr. Musk and his Hawthorne team……..

This Sunday, September 15, 2013 at 1600 UTC (1200 EDT & 0900 PDT) a SpaceX Falcon 9, version 1.1 rocket (Falcon9R or F9-R) will be launching the CASSIOPE satellite for the Canadian Space Agency from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E pronounced “SLICK-4E”) in California. This will be the Falcon 9’s sixth flight but the first for the new Falcon 9R v1.1 rocket.

Elon Musk has stated recently (I’ll summarize but the link to the interview is below) that this is basically an experimental flight and that MDA corp. paid only about 20% of what a normal flight would cost due to the extreme chance of failure. He also went on to state that the fly-back booster technology on tap for this flight has only about a 10% chance of success.

This flight will be loaded with “firsts” as this will be……….

*The first flight of the Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket and Merlin 1-D engines.

*The first flight and use of a Falcon 9 with 5.2 meter (17ft.) fairings.

*The first launch for SpaceX of a satellite.

*The first launch for SpaceX from Vandenberg AFB.

*The first stage will attempt to partially re-fire twice and end with a soft water landing after stage-sep.

As for the mission at hand; The CASSIOPE satellite will be launched into a near polar orbit and it carries with it a communication relay payload for a digital broadcast courier service (commercial) as well as an instrument to observe Earth’s ionosphere. According to SpaceX’s FAA license for the launch, Falcon 9 v1.1 will also carry a few ride-along satellites.

NOW FOR THE ROCKET & REUSABILITY TEST: The Falcon 9R v1.1 rocket is a 2-stage partially reusable rocket with future ambitions of becoming fully reusable. The new version is 3.7 meters (12ft) in diameter and 68.4 meters (224.4 ft.) tall which is much taller than the Falcon 9 v1.0 or “Block 1” in order to house a longer fuel tank. It is also fitted with upgraded and reconfigured Merlin family main engines replacing the 9 Merlin-1C with the more powerful Merlin-1D engines that will provide a payload capacity increase of about 10,000 lb. Each Merlin-1D will provide 1.3 million lb. of thrust at sea level or about 1.5 times more thrust than the original 1C engines. All in all the Falcon 9 v1.1 will be able to loft 13.15 tons into low Earth orbit (LEO), 4.85 tons into a geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) or 2.9 tons to escape velocity.

This mission, aside from successfully launching the CASSIOPE satellite hopes to also successfully recover the first stage after separation and a soft water landing via its fly-back booster technology.

After stage separation, three of the Merlin-1D engines will commence with an experimental re-firing and burn to slow its re-entry velocity into Earth’s atmosphere. As it nears impact with the sea, a single Merlin-1D will again be re-fired and burn in order to create a “soft water landing” at which point the booster will be recovered and inspected for damage. Though SpaceX expects to recover the booster they fully expect damage in this, the first ever test of this nature. Data gleaned from this experiment will drive further development in the program to create a fully reusable rocket.

MAIN COMPOSITE PAYLOAD FAIRING = the composite payload fairing is 13.1 meters (43ft) in length and 5.2 meter (17ft) in diameter.

SECOND STAGE = is powered by a single Merlin-1D Vacuum engine with aluminum-lithium alloy tanks fueled by liquid oxygen and rocket grade kerosene (LOX/RP-1). This stage can be restarted multiple times to place multiple payloads into desired orbits. For maximum reliability, the second stage has redundant igniter systems and has a burn time of 375 seconds.

INTERSTAGE = a composite structure that connects the first stage to the second stage and holds the release and separation system. Its al all pneumatic stage separation system for low shock, highly reliable separation that can be tested on the ground, unlike pyrotechnic systems used on most launch vehicles.

FIRST CORE/BOOST STAGE = is powered by nine (9) Merlin-1D engines with aluminum-lithium alloy tanks fueled by liquid oxygen and rocket grade kerosene (LOX/RP-1). The core stage has a burn time of 180 seconds and is gradually throttled. Its 9 new Merlin-1D engines have been reconfigured from the square “Tic-tac-toe” pattern to the circular “Octaweb” configuration. The 9 engine system can sustain up to two engine shutdowns during flight and still successfully complete its mission.


SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 page:

SpaceX Twitter:

Elon Musk Twitter:

Elon Musk recent interview regarding the upcoming flight:

Falcon 9 Wiki page:

NASA Spaceflight page for the Falcon 9 v1.1 and CASSIOPE mission:

Space Launch Report Falcon 9 data page:

Space Launch Report Falcon 9 v1.1 data page:

Spaceflight 101 standard Falcon 9 rocket page:

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