Image Credit & Copyright: SpaceX.
LAUNCH ALERT: Tuesday, March 1, 2016 at 18:35 EST (23:35 UTC), an upgraded SpaceX Falcon 9 Full Thrust (FT) rocket will be launching from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS), Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40 or “SLICK-40”) Florida. The mission will be carrying the SES 9 communications satellite into orbit.
HISTORY IN THE MAKING?! Well SpaceX has already achieved the milestone of landing the first stage of their Falcon 9 back at Cape Canaveral’s Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) but success landing on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS) has thus far eluded them. This week’s launch will provide another opportunity. Because of the speed needed to deliver SES 9 to its orbit, an LZ-1 landing isn’t feasible so it’s back to the seas.
NOW FOR THE ROCKET: The greatly improved Falcon 9R FT rocket is a 2-stage partially reusable rocket with future ambitions of becoming fully reusable. The new version is 3.7 m (12 ft.) in diameter and 70 m (229.6 ft.) tall which is about 1.6 m (5.6 ft.) taller than the Falcon 9 v1.1 or “Block 2” in order to house a higher volume fuel tank. It is also fitted with upgraded Merlin family main engines. They have replaced the 9 Merlin-1D (and before them were the 1C engines), with the more powerful Merlin-1D+ engines that will provide a thrust of nearly 694,000kg (1.53 million lb.) at sea level. Each Merlin-1D+ provides 180,000 lb. (81,600 kg) of thrust at sea level, which equates to roughly a 20% increase in overall performance. If you add that with the new process of densifying the fuel and improving the overall airframe, the total gain in performance is about 33%.
DRAGON SPACECRAFT (when in use) = 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 (when is use) = 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). The Merlin 1D+ are basically the same Merlin-1D engines used previously but instead of utilizing them at only 80%, they will now be operating at 100%. 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 Merlin 1D+ engines are basically the same Merlin-1D engines used previously but instead of utilizing them at only 80%, they will now be operating at 100%. 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.
The first stage is fitted with four independently steerable grid fins that help control pitch, yaw and roll during vertical decent. It’s also fitted with four landing legs that will extend before touchdown.
WATCH THE LAUNCH LIVE:
SpaceX Webcast: http://www.spacex.com/webcast/
SpaceX Ustream: http://www.ustream.tv/SpaceX
Orbcomm Webcast: http://www.orbcomm.com/en/networks/satellite/orbcomm-og2
SES SES-9 Mission: http://www.ses.com/4233325/news/2016/22017661
SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 page: http://www.spacex.com/falcon9
Elon Musk Twitter: https://twitter.com/elonmusk
SpaceX Twitter: https://twitter.com/SpaceX
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SpaceX YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/spacexchannel
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SpaceX Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/spacexphotos