Photo Credit & Copyright: SpaceX.
LAUNCH ALERT: Saturday, September 20, 2014 at 06:16 UTC (02:16 EDT) a SpaceX Falcon 9, version 1.1 rocket will be launching from Cape Canaveral, Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40 pronounced “SLICK-40”), Florida as part of CRS-4 (SpaceX-4 or SpX-4) to the International Space Station. This, the sixth dragon capsule (Dragon C-6) will be grappled and berthed to the Harmony module or “Node 2” on September 22, where it will deliver 4885 lbs. of supplies to the ISS. It is then scheduled to be released after about a month when it will return 3276 lbs. back to Earth. This will be Space-X’s 4th of 12 contracted ISS resupply missions and the Falcon 9’s 13th flight “F9-13.”
I do not believe that this flight will have the four landing legs affixed for a soft water landing test.
NOW FOR THE ROCKET: 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 thrust of nearly 600,200kg (1.5 million lb.) at sea level which equates to a significant payload capacity increase. Each Merlin-1D provides 147,000 lb. of thrust at sea level or about 55% more thrust than the original 1C engines. The new merlin 1-D engines are also in a circular “octaweb” configuration and are equipped with the capability to throttle between 70% and 100%. All in all the Falcon 9 v1.1 is able to loft 13,150kg (28,990lb) into low Earth orbit (LEO); 4,850kg (10,690lb) into a geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) or 2.9 tons to escape velocity.
DRAGON SPACECRAFT = The Dragon spacecraft is about 23.6 ft. (7.2 m) tall with trunk attached and 12 ft. (3.7 m) wide. It’s comprised of two main sections; the pressurized cargo area which can carry 388 cubic ft. of cargo as well as the unpressurized cargo area. The trunk (unpressurized area) carries 494 cubic ft. of cargo as well as the solar arrays. OR: 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 in their circular “octaweb” configuration 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 Merlin-1D engine system can sustain up to two engine shutdowns during flight and still successfully complete its mission. On select flights the engines on the first stage of the Falcon 9 are programmed to re-fire and before touch down four landing legs are released to bring the entire stage down to a vertical soft water landing. This is the first step in creating fully reusable rockets.
WATCH THE LAUNCH LIVE AT: Launch coverage begins at 01:00 EDT on Sat Sept 20. Monday, Sept 22 at 05:30 EDT coverage of ISS grappling of the Dragon begins. A few hours later at 09:30 EDT berthing coverage will begin.
NASA/SpaceX CRS-4 mission page: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/launch/index.html
NASA/SpaceX CRS4 supplies inventory: http://www.nasa.gov/sites/default/files/files/SpaceX_CRS-4_Mission_Overview-1.pdf
SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 page: http://www.spacex.com/falcon9
SpaceX Twitter: https://twitter.com/SpaceX
Elon Musk Twitter: https://twitter.com/elonmusk