SpaceX Falcon Heavy Demo Flight

Images credit & copyright: SpaceX & Elon Musk.

Launch Alert!: Tuesday, February 6, 2018, at 13:30 EST (10:30 PST & 18:30 UTC) SpaceX will debut their long awaited Falcon Heavy (F9H) from Kennedy Space Center, Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) with a payload of, well, Elon Musk’s personal cherry red Tesla Roadster playing “Space Odyssey.” Why? What else would you expect from Elon?  There is an actual reason though. Rapid Unscheduled Disassembly (RUD) factor is pretty high on this flight so they didn’t want to risk an expensive payload and we all know Musk hates boring (not the Boring Company) so the Tesla gets the nod.  He also stated that its destination is Mars orbit though a heliocentric orbit at Mars distance is more likely as it has no orbital insertion ability.  A red car for the Red Planet and that it will be in deep space for a billion years or so should it not blow up on ascent.

This flight will use two previously flown boosters and one new booster. The center booster (B1033.1) is new while the port (left) booster, (B1025.2) was previously flown on July 18, 2016 for SpaceX’s CRS-9 mission and the starboard (right) booster (B1023.2) was previously flown on May 27, 2016 on SpaceX’s Thaicom 8 mission. If you remember, this was the “Leaning Tower of Thaicom” as when it returned on Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY), it was leaning heavily after a hard landing.

With 22,819 kN (5.1 million lb.) of thrust at liftoff, the Falcon Heavy will be the most powerful rocket since the Saturn V though this first mission will be flying at 92%. With no “asparagus staging” propellant crossfeeding, instead the core booster will throttle down to preserve fuel while the port and starboard boosters do most of the initial lifting. After separation, the core booster will throttle back up for completion of its mission.

Stats: This will be SpaceX’s 3rd launch of 2018, the 54th SpaceX flight overall (5 Falcon 1, 48 Falcon 9, 1 Falcon Heavy), and the inaugural launch of the Falcon Heavy. The parameters of this mission will be extremely unique as incredibly, SpaceX plans to safely recover all three boosters. The core stage will be landing on Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY) in the Atlantic as it will be traveling much further downrange while the port and starboard boosters will return to Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1); former Launch Complex 13 (LC-13) at Cape Canaveral.  If successful this will be SpaceX’s 22nd, 23rd & 24th landings overall; 13 on drone ships and 11 on land.

Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ships (ASDS): Were built at the Conrad Shipyard in Morgan City, Louisiana, the same place that NASA’s Pegasus barge was refitted to support the SLS program. Pegasus carried lots of equipment throughout the years but most famously the space shuttle external fuel tanks from NASA’s Michaud Plant in Louisiana to KSC.

SpaceX’s barges are 300 by 100 ft. with “wings” that extend that width to 170 ft. It has also been fitted with thrusters repurposed from deep sea oil rigs that are able to hold balance and position to within 3 meters even in storm conditions. ASDS’s are painted black with the SpaceX “X” logo, a yellow inner ring and outer white ring acting as a bull eye. The East Coast ASDS is “Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY)” and the West Coast’s ship is “Just Read The Instructions (JRTI).”

In total there have been three ASDS’s. The first of which was Marmac 300, a deck barge named “Just Read The Instructions (JRTI).” That ASDS was used for two east coast landing attempts (CRS 5 & 6), deconstructed and retired. East Coast duties were then transferred to Marmac 304 named “Of Course I Still Love You (OCISLY).” A third ASDS, Marmac 303 was constructed and stationed on the West Coast where it fields launches from Vandenberg AFB, CA. Its name, “Just Read The Instructions (JRTI).”

These fun yet odd names come from Scottish Sci-fi legend Iain Banks’s “Culture” series of 10 novels. They are spacecraft known as General Contact Units (GCU’s) from the novel “Player of Games.” Other spacecraft in the series (which get to name themselves) are even more entertaining such as “Size Isn’t Everything,” “No More Mr. Nice Guy” and “Death and Gravity.” Here’s a fun Wiki page with more info: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_spacecraft_in_the_Culture_series

The Rocket and Performance: SpaceX Falcon Heavy

Height: 70m (229.6 ft.)

Core Diameter: 3.66 m (12 ft.)

Width: 12.2 m (39.9 ft.)

Stages: 2

Boosters: 2

Total Engines: 28 (27 in the first stage and 1 in the second stage)

Total Thrust (sea level): 22,819 kN (5.13 million lb.) or about eighteen 747s at full power. Only the Saturn V can deliver more t orbit than the Falcon Heavy.

Mass: 1,420,788 kg (3,125,735 lb.)

Payload to Low Earth Orbit (LEO): 63,800 kg (140,660 lb.) which is almost three times that of the Space Shuttle’s 24,000 kg (53,790 lb.) and Delta IV Heavy’s 22,560 kg (49,740 lb.) For scale, the Falcon Heavy can deliver a fully loaded Boeing 737 complete with fuel, luggage and passengers into orbit.

Payload to Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO): 26,700 kg (58,860 lb.)

Payload to Mars: 16,800 kg (37,040 lb.)

Cost: About $90 million per launch which is much less than the $400 million per launch of the Delta IV Heavy.

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. Dragon, along with Russia’s Progress & Soyuz, Europe’s (ESA) Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV), Orbital ATK’s Cygnus and Japan’s (JAXA) H-II Transfer Vehicle (HTV), is one of only six vehicles that can fly to the Space Station. While Russia’s Soyuz is currently the only crewed means of reaching and returning from Station, SpaceX’s Dragon is currently the only means of returning experiments and supplies back to Earth from Station.

Main Composite Payload Fairing (when in use): the two shell, composite payload fairing is 13 m (43 ft.) in length and 5.2 m (17 ft.) in diameter. The fairings are used to protect the spacecraft during ascent through atmospheric turbulence and into space. Once the rocket has reached a safe altitude the fairings jettisoned, exposing the spacecraft(s).

SpaceX Falcon 9/Falcon Heavy Second Stage:

Height: 10 m. (33 ft.)

Diameter: 3.66 m (12 ft.)

Engine(s): Single Merlin Vacuum Engine

Engine Chambers: 1

Engine Type: Gas generator

Propellant Feed: Turbopump

Chamber Pressure: More than 100 bar

Fuel Type: Liquid

Fuel: Chilled Rocket propellant-1 (RP-1) or highly refined kerosene. Lower specific impulse than liquid hydrogen (LH2) but is cheaper, room temperature stable, less explosive and denser. RP-1 is much more powerful than LH2 by volume and much less toxic than other room temperature fuels such as hydrazine (N2H4).

Oxidizer: Subcooled Liquid Oxygen (LOX). LOX is often coupled with rocket propellant-1 (RP-1), liquid hydrogen (LH2) and methane (CH4) as it creates a high specific impulse.

Thrust (vacuum): 934 kN (210,000 lbf.)

Specific Impulse (vacuum): 348 s

Burn Time: 397 s

Restart Ability: Yes

Reusable?: No

SpaceX Falcon 9/Falcon Heavy Interstage:

The interstage is a 4.4m (14.4 ft.) composite structure that connects the first stage to the second stage and holds the release and separation system. It’s an 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.

SpaceX Falcon Heavy Core & Boosters First Stage:

Height: 47 m. (154 ft.)

Diameter: 3.66 m (12 ft.)

Width: 12.2 m (39.9 ft.)

Engine(s): 27 Merlin 1D Engines

Engine Chambers: 1

Engine Type: Gas generator/Open-cycle

Propellant Feed: Turbopump

Chamber Pressure: More than 100 bar

Fuel Type: Liquid

Fuel: Chilled Rocket propellant-1 (RP-1) or highly refined kerosene. Lower specific impulse than liquid hydrogen (LH2) but is cheaper, room temperature stable, less explosive and denser. RP-1 is much more powerful than LH2 by volume and much less toxic than other room temperature fuels such as hydrazine (N2H4).

Oxidizer: Subcooled Liquid Oxygen (LOX). LOX is often coupled with rocket propellant-1 (RP-1), liquid hydrogen (LH2) and methane (CH4) as it creates a high specific impulse.

Single Merlin 1D Thrust (sea level/vacuum): 845 kN (189,964 lbf.)/914 kN (205,475 lbf.

Total Thrust (sea level): 22,819 kN (5.13 million lbf.)

Specific Impulse (sea level/vacuum): 282 s/311 s

Burn Time: 162 s per core though the center core will be throttled down in flight to save fuel then throttle back up after port and starboard separation.

Restart Ability: Partially (1 or 3 engines can restart for landing actions)

Reusable?: Yes

First stage boosters are fitted with four independently steerable titanium grid fins that help control pitch, yaw and roll during vertical decent as well as four landing legs that extend before touchdown.

Watch Live:

SpaceX Webcast: http://www.spacex.com/webcast/

SpaceX YouTube (Hosted Webcast): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wbSwFU6tY1c

SpaceX YouTube (Technical Webcast):

SpaceX Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SpaceX

Falcon Heavy Demo Mission Info:

45th Space Wing L-1 Weather Forecast: http://www.patrick.af.mil/About-Us/Weather

SpaceX Press Kit: http://www.spacex.com/sites/spacex/files/falconheavypresskit_v1.pdf

Launch Campaign (Reddit): https://www.reddit.com/r/spacex/comments/7hjp03/falcon_heavy_demo_launch_campaign_thread/

FAA license for this flight: https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/headquarters_offices/ast/licenses_permits/media/LLS%2018-107%20Falcon%20Heavy%20Demo%20License%20and%20Orders%20FINAL%202018_02_02.pdf

General 2018 Launch Schedule (Wiki): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2018_in_spaceflight

SpaceX:

SpaceX: http://www.spacex.com/

Elon Musk Twitter: https://twitter.com/elonmusk

Elon Musk Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/elonmusk

SpaceX Twitter: https://twitter.com/SpaceX

SpaceX Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SpaceX

SpaceX Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/spacex

SpaceX YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/spacexchannel

SpaceX Google Plus: https://plus.google.com/+SpaceX

SpaceX Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/photos/spacexphotos

Falcon 9 Family & Random SpaceX Information:

SpaceX Falcon 9: http://www.spacex.com/falcon9

SpaceX Falcon 9 User’s Guide: http://www.spacex.com/sites/spacex/files/falcon_9_users_guide_rev_2.0.pdf

SpaceX Falcon Heavy: http://www.spacex.com/falcon-heavy

SpaceX Falcon 9 Spaceflight 101: http://spaceflight101.com/spacerockets/falcon-9-ft/

SpaceX Falcon 9 (Wiki): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falcon_9

SpaceX Falcon Heavy (Wiki): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falcon_Heavy

SpaceX launches (Wiki): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Falcon_9_and_Falcon_Heavy_launches

SpaceX booster landing attempts (Wiki): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falcon_9_booster_controlled-descent_and_landing_tests

Falcon 9 core (booster) serial numbers: https://www.reddit.com/r/spacex/wiki/cores

SpaceX Stats: https://spacexstats.com/

SpaceX Now: https://spacexnow.com/

SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft:

SpaceX: http://www.spacex.com/dragon

SpaceX Crew Dragon: http://www.spacex.com/crew-dragon

Dragon serial numbers: https://www.reddit.com/r/spacex/wiki/capsules

Launch Complex-39A (LC-39A):

NASA Launch Complex 39 (LC-39): https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/launch/launch-complex39-toc.html

Heroicrelics Launch Complex 39 (LC-39): http://heroicrelics.org/info/lc-39/lc-39-abcd.html

Wiki Launch Complex 39 (LC-39): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kennedy_Space_Center_Launch_Complex_39

Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) Cape Canaveral:

Wiki: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Canaveral_Air_Force_Station_Space_Launch_Complex_40

Patrick AFB: 45th Space Wing, Cape Canaveral, Florida:

Main Site: http://www.patrick.af.mil/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/45thSpaceWing

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/45thSpaceWing

Peterson AFB, U.S. Air Force Space Command, Colorado:

Website: http://www.afspc.af.mil/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AFSpace

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AirForceSpaceCommand

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/airforcespacecommand

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