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SpaceX to Attempt Daring Reusable Rocket Test During Dragon Launch Today(4:58pm EDT/1:58pm PDT)
Space.com ^ | 14APR2014 | Tariq Malik

Posted on 04/14/2014 7:44:23 AM PDT by Jack Hydrazine

It's an audacious plan, the odds of success are low, but SpaceX is going to do it anyway: The private spaceflight company founded by billionaire Elon Musk will launch a rocket with landing legs into orbit today, then try to bring part of it back and park it in the ocean.

The chances of success? Maybe between 30 and 40 percent, said SpaceX vice president of mission assurance Hans Koenigsmann.

"If we can pull this off … we'll be super-thrilled," Koenigsmann told reporters yesterday (April 13). You can watch the SpaceX's Dragon launch live on Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV. The webcast will begin Monday at 3:45 p.m. EDT (1945 GMT). [See photos of SpaceX's Falcon 9 and Dragon mission]

Ambitious test flight

SpaceX's ambitious reusable rocket test is only a secondary goal for the company today, but if successful it could lead to rocket innovations that may dramatically reduce the cost of space travel. The Hawthorne, Calif.-based company plans to launch its upgraded Falcon 9 rocket into orbit from a pad at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 4:58 p.m. EDT (2058 GMT). The main mission: To launch a robotic Dragon space capsule on SpaceX's third delivery flight for NASA as part of a $1.6 billion resupply contract.

But even as SpaceX prepared its Dragon cargo ship for launch, the company was working behind the scenes to take advantage of the flight for its internal reusable rocket program. The Falcon 9 rocket launching today has a first stage equipped with four large landing legs, each one of them 25 feet (7.6 meters) long.

If all goes well, the Falcon 9 rocket's first stage will separate as planned during launch, then perform a long re-entry engine burn to slow its supersonic descent back to Earth. SpaceX officials hope the rocket stage will deploy the legs as it descends and perform a final landing maneuver just over the ocean's surface before toppling over into the water to be retrieved by a recovery team.

"The entire recovery of the first stage is entirely experimental," Koenigsmann said. "It has nothing to do with the primary mission here."

Today's mission will mark the third of 12 planned SpaceX Dragon cargo missions to the International Space Station for NASA. SpaceX launched the first flight in 2012, with a second following in 2013.

Last September, SpaceX also successfully demonstrated the ability to relight a Falcon 9 booster's first stage and slow its descent back to Earth. Today's planned reusable rocket test will attempt to take that demonstration a step further.

"We've been doing improvements to the recovery of the first stage in little steps, being very careful it doesn't affect the performance of Dragon," Koenigsmann said.

NASA space station program manager Mike Suffredini told reporters Sunday (April 13) that once he was convinced SpaceX's Falcon 9 landing legs posed no threat to Dragon's cargo delivery to the station, he was eager to see how the test would unfold today.

SpaceX's road to reusability

Developing a completely reusable rocket technology has been a long-range goal for SpaceX CEO Elon Musk as a way to reduce the cost of spaceflight. In 2011, Musk unveiled a plan for reusable rockets that envisioned SpaceX booster stages capable of flying back to landing pads on their own, as well as Dragon space capsules with the ability to touch down on land. (SpaceX Dragons currently splash down in the ocean).

Reusable rockets could substantially cut the costs of spaceflight, according to Musk. SpaceX's standard Falcon 9 rocket launches cost between $50 million and $60 million, according to the company's website. [Reusable Rockets: How They Work (Infographic)]

"But the cost of the fuel and oxygen and so forth is only about $200,000," Musk said in 2011 when he first unveiled SpaceX's reusable rocket program. "So obviously, if we can reuse the rocket, say, a thousand times, then that would make the capital cost of the rocket for launch only about $50,000."

SpaceX is still a ways off from returning a Falcon 9 rocket to a landing pad on dry land. In March, Musk wrote in a Twitter post that the company will aim for water splashdowns until it can master the challenges of returning a rocket booster to Earth safely.

To that end, SpaceX has conducted a series of vertical launch and landing tests of its Grasshopper reusable rocket prototype, sending the prototype rocket on ever-higher flights over the company's proving grounds in McGregor, Texas. Those tests concluded in December.

More test flights planned

On March 28 of this year, SpaceX test fired its first F9R reusable rocket, a larger vehicle to continue reusable rocket research where the Grasshopper flights left off. Those test flights will eventually be launched from Spaceport America in New Mexico, SpaceX officials have said.

"The F9R testing program is the next step towards reusability following completion of the Grasshopper program last year," SpaceX officials wrote in a video description of the F9R static engine test. "F9R test flights in New Mexico will allow us to test at higher altitudes than we are permitted for at our test site in Texas, to do more with unpowered guidance and to prove out landing cases that are more-flight like."

Koenigsmann said SpaceX will take a step-by-step approach to its reusable rocket demonstrations with actual Falcon 9 rockets. While the company aims to make a land landing by the end of 2014, each test will be dependent on the success and lessons from the previous flight. In the meantime, SpaceX is scouting for possible rocket landing zones.

"That's currently in evaluation," Koenigsmann said. "We're looking at different landing sites."

Visit Space.com for complete coverage of SpaceX's Dragon launch to the International Space Station. You can also get blow-by-blow mission updates the Mission Status Center of Space.com partner Spaceflight Now, which will also feature a launch webcast.


TOPICS: News/Current Events; US: Florida
KEYWORDS: launch; rocket; spacex

1 posted on 04/14/2014 7:44:23 AM PDT by Jack Hydrazine
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To: Jack Hydrazine

good luck to that


2 posted on 04/14/2014 7:47:36 AM PDT by GeronL (Vote for Conservatives not for Republicans!)
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To: SunkenCiv; KevinDavis; Phil V.; God bless America-5; Straight Vermonter; buccaneer81; boris; ...

Rocket: Falcon 9 v1.1
Payload: Dragon (CRS 3)
Launch Date: April 14, 2014
Launch Time: 2058 GMT (4:58 p.m. EDT)
ISS Grapple: April 16 @ 1111 GMT
ISS Departure: TBD
Splashdown: TBD
Launch Site: SLC-40, Cape Canaveral, Florida
Landing Site: Pacific Ocean

If you want on my rocket launch ping list just let me know.

Live launch coverage at these links:
http://spaceflightnow.com/falcon9/009/status.html
http://www.spacex.com/webcast/
http://www.space.com/17933-nasa-television-webcasts-live-space-tv.html
http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/nasatv/index.html#.U0v1q1dTNps
http://new.livestream.com/spacex/events/2833937

CRS-3 details.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SpaceX_CRS-3

List of Falcon 9 launches
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Falcon_9_launches

SpaceX Mission Gets Green Light For Launch Tomorrow
http://spacecoastdaily.com/2014/04/spacex-launch-set-for-monday-afternoon/

More SpaceX-related latest headlines...
http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/tag/spacex/

SpaceX CRS-3 Mission Press Kit/March 2014
http://www.spacex.com/sites/spacex/files/spacexcrs-3_presskit_final.pdf

NASA’s SpaceX blog
http://blogs.nasa.gov/spacex/


3 posted on 04/14/2014 7:53:39 AM PDT by Jack Hydrazine (Pubbies = national collectivists; Dems = international collectivists; We need a second party!)
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There was a made-for-TV movie like that back in the 70’s. Created a rocket that would land back on its legs.


4 posted on 04/14/2014 7:57:17 AM PDT by Rio (Proud resident of the State of Jefferson)
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To: GeronL
"good luck to that"

As with most aerospace innovations, it's not down to luck but instead good engineering.

You probably ought to watch the last test flight before you comment again. The concept is sound, and SpaceX has succeeded pretty much across the board. It's not had a single failed launch attempt so far.

5 posted on 04/14/2014 8:00:11 AM PDT by PreciousLiberty
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To: Jack Hydrazine

Sounds good, but why does it need legs for an ocean landing?


6 posted on 04/14/2014 8:01:56 AM PDT by Berosus (I wish I had as much faith in God as liberals have in government.)
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To: Rio

Salvage 1?


7 posted on 04/14/2014 8:02:01 AM PDT by Jack Hydrazine (Pubbies = national collectivists; Dems = international collectivists; We need a second party!)
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To: Berosus

The legs change the aerodynamics (and the weight distribution) of the booster as it re-enters back into the atmosphere so they have to make sure it’s all going to work during this test.


8 posted on 04/14/2014 8:04:17 AM PDT by Jack Hydrazine (Pubbies = national collectivists; Dems = international collectivists; We need a second party!)
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To: GeronL

If recoverable they will spend more to re-unspect and validate hardware and components than it would cost to build a new vehicle and there would always be some elevated level of uncertainty that they captured everything.

Also, how would people feel about launching a billion dollar satellite or humans up the space station on hardware the had been thru the violent the event of a launch, recovery, re-inspection and rebuild?

I like the idea but these are expendable rockets.

Now if he had a fully capable single stage to orbit that was re-usable then yes that would be disruptive technology and change everything.


9 posted on 04/14/2014 8:06:21 AM PDT by R0CK3T
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To: Jack Hydrazine
In before “Elon Musk is an Obamabot subsidy leach”
10 posted on 04/14/2014 8:09:39 AM PDT by Dagnabitt (Amnesty is Treason. Its agents are Traitors.)
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To: R0CK3T
"Also, how would people feel about launching a billion dollar satellite or humans up the space station on hardware the had been thru the violent the event of a launch, recovery, re-inspection and rebuild?" And how would people feel about reboarding a $100M airliner that had been subject to the torture of hundreds of takeoffs and landings plus the occasional thunderstorm and icing? The difference is only in the elements causing the stresses to the system. TC
11 posted on 04/14/2014 8:18:48 AM PDT by Pentagon Leatherneck
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To: Dagnabitt

As far as I know he paid back that loan with interest.


12 posted on 04/14/2014 8:19:39 AM PDT by Jack Hydrazine (Pubbies = national collectivists; Dems = international collectivists; We need a second party!)
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To: PreciousLiberty

Their first three test launches failed not all that many years ago, which makes their rapid success as a launch company all the more impressive.

Musk didn’t even set out to build his own rockets. He wanted to use some of his Paypal fortune to launch very small amounts of cargo to Mars using old Soviet ICBM boosters. When the Russians tried to screw him he started SpaceX.


13 posted on 04/14/2014 8:19:41 AM PDT by Moonman62 (The US has become a government with a country, rather than a country with a government.)
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To: Dagnabitt

Careful about buying into the Musk narrative. It might be true, but he’s a megalomaniac oligarch—he controls his press an media carefully and punishes all who step the slightest bit out of line.


14 posted on 04/14/2014 8:23:21 AM PDT by Mamzelle
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To: Berosus

“Sounds good, but why does it need legs for an ocean landing?”

It doesn’t, this is a test to prove the design for future landings on solid ground.


15 posted on 04/14/2014 8:27:36 AM PDT by PreciousLiberty
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To: Jack Hydrazine

just hope the webcast it, last time when they launched off of Vandenberg didn’t see the landing attempt, just still pics hours later


16 posted on 04/14/2014 8:34:24 AM PDT by markman46 (engage brain before using keyboard!!!)
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To: R0CK3T

“If recoverable they will spend more to re-unspect and validate hardware and components than it would cost to build a new vehicle and there would always be some elevated level of uncertainty that they captured everything.”

Entirely incorrect, or they wouldn’t be taking this approach. The entire point is to lower costs - a lot.

“Also, how would people feel about launching a billion dollar satellite or humans up the space station on hardware the had been thru the violent the event of a launch, recovery, re-inspection and rebuild?”

At first, there will be trepidation. Once a track record is established, people will know the risks.

“I like the idea but these are expendable rockets.”

No, they will be reusable first stages.

“Now if he had a fully capable single stage to orbit that was re-usable then yes that would be disruptive technology and change everything.”

SSTO is much more difficult, plus it is inherently less efficient since you’re orbiting a lot more mass for the same payload. Also, the entire vehicle has to endure a full-speed reentry from orbit - unlike the first stage that SpaceX will recover.

It will still be impressive, the version being tested today will hit a maximum speed of about 7,000 MPH, or Mach 10. That’s less than half of full orbital velocity, though.

The “Falcon Heavy” auxiliary boosters will only hit about half the velocity of these “Falcon 9 1.1” rockets, so they’re even better candidates for this kind of reuse.


17 posted on 04/14/2014 8:44:31 AM PDT by PreciousLiberty
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To: Jack Hydrazine
Just kidding about the leech business. I'm think Space X is the most interesting space program going - especially after NASA gave up its core mission.
18 posted on 04/14/2014 8:50:05 AM PDT by Dagnabitt (Amnesty is Treason. Its agents are Traitors.)
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To: Dagnabitt

And started make Muzzies feel good about themselves?


19 posted on 04/14/2014 8:51:59 AM PDT by Jack Hydrazine (Pubbies = national collectivists; Dems = international collectivists; We need a second party!)
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To: Berosus

They want to re-use the rocket, regardless of the outcome of the landing gear deployment test. My understanding is that they are using the water landing as a “softer” place to test the gear. They should be able to confirm proper attitude, deployment, speed, and height at deployment from onboard sensors/recorders.


20 posted on 04/14/2014 9:01:18 AM PDT by Pecos (The Chicago Way: Kill the Constitution, one step at a time.)
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To: Dagnabitt

I suspect many many conservatives secretly want Tesla, Space-X and Elon Musk to fail just because he builds electric cars. And gets subsidies. And is a Greenie.

The guy is a visionary. He thinks big and build big. I’m not on board with the Green stuff, but if we wants to build solar powered stations to power electric cars, and thinks he can make it work, more power to him.


21 posted on 04/14/2014 9:13:32 AM PDT by bigdaddy45
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To: PreciousLiberty

My son works at SpaceX. Changing the game as it’s played. As talented a company as you will find...on Earth


22 posted on 04/14/2014 9:23:54 AM PDT by 360guardian
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To: Jack Hydrazine

Who recalls the days in elementary school when we would all be led into the auditorium and got to watch Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and recoveries? Oh the good old days. This is not the same country I want to grow old in


23 posted on 04/14/2014 9:25:19 AM PDT by al baby (Hi MomÂ… I was refereeing to Obama)
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To: al baby

‘Who recalls the days in elementary school when we would all be led into the auditorium and got to watch Mercury, Gemini and Apollo launches and recoveries? Oh the good old days. This is not the same country I want to grow old in’

Why not??? I’m seeing school children rebel against the Mooch’s school lunch program! I’m seeing 5,000 cowboys force the Feds to back down! Priceless! A large majority is quietly rebelling in increasing numbers against collectivism as it continues to be shoved down the throats of Americans.

At some point the shooting will start. It’s just a matter of who draws first blood. I’m looking forward to seeing 500,000 armed citizens surround the District of Criminals and have them all arrested.


24 posted on 04/14/2014 9:30:24 AM PDT by Jack Hydrazine (Pubbies = national collectivists; Dems = international collectivists; We need a second party!)
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To: Jack Hydrazine

George Will: ‘I’m quite confident that we’re going to rebel against this abusive government’
http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/3144244/posts


25 posted on 04/14/2014 9:32:45 AM PDT by Jack Hydrazine (Pubbies = national collectivists; Dems = international collectivists; We need a second party!)
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To: bigdaddy45
Musk's real goal:

Water Landing (video)

26 posted on 04/14/2014 9:39:03 AM PDT by Dagnabitt (Amnesty is Treason. Its agents are Traitors.)
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To: Jack Hydrazine
George Will: ‘I’m quite confident that we’re going to rebel against this abusive government’

Huh! George Will, of all people! Not something I would expect to hear from him.

27 posted on 04/14/2014 9:04:08 PM PDT by BradyLS (DO NOT FEED THE BEARS!)
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To: Jack Hydrazine

Rescheduled for today at 325pm?


28 posted on 04/18/2014 12:00:51 PM PDT by OwenKellogg (Fundamental transformation leads to ... you don't want to go there, buddy.)
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To: OwenKellogg

Good loaunch.
Waiting for first stage recovery information...


29 posted on 04/18/2014 12:48:13 PM PDT by tet68 ( " We would not die in that man's company, that fears his fellowship to die with us...." Henry V.)
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To: tet68

I hope it worked. I am very optimistic about what commercial enterprises are doing with space and aviation.


30 posted on 04/18/2014 12:53:32 PM PDT by OwenKellogg (Fundamental transformation leads to ... you don't want to go there, buddy.)
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