The Elon Musk SpaceX launch went off without a hitch this morning. SpaceX had a narrow “instantaneous window” for launch at 9:54 a.m. PDT on Saturday, meaning that if there were any delays, they would not be able to launch today. As reported by The Associated Press, the SpaceX designed and manufactured Falcon 9 rocket left the Air Force launch facility in Vandenberg, California flawlessly and on schedule.
Triumphant Return for Elon Musk
SpaceX made a number of changes to its launch procedures following its investigation of the Falcon 9 explosion that took place during its last launch. One of the principal changes was to the way it loads the fuel onto the Falcon 9.
Previously, SpaceX had been using a new fast loading procedure, but for this launch, it apparently returned to the previous method it had used in prior successful launches. SpaceX also chose to load the oxygen at a slightly warmer temperature than it had used during the last few flights of the Falcon 9.
However, after implementing new fixes it is working on, SpaceX hopes to return to using its new improved method at some later date. One of the advantages of having super cold oxygen – which had never been used before in space launches – is that SpaceX is able to load more fuel, allowing its rockets to carry much heavier payloads.
Details of the Launch Itself
At 10:54 a.m. PT, SpaceX successfully began the process of deploying the 10 Iridium satellites that the Falcon 9 carried into orbit. The Iridium satellite constellation is owned and operated by Iridium Communications and provides both voice and data services across the globe.
These 10 satellites the Elon Musk SpaceX Falcon 9 lifted into orbit today will join dozens of others currently making up the Iridium satellite service network. More of these launches can be expected in the future by SpaceX, since the Iridium satellites have to be replaced on a fairly regular basis.
The Falcon 9 safely returned to Earth by landing on the SpaceX owned drone ship/barge Just Read the Instructions. The vehicle executed the usual three burn maneuvers to leave orbit, reorient itself and safely touch down in the center of the landing pad.
This was the first successful landing on this particular drone ship, although four others had already been performed on the alternate drone ship that SpaceX has positioned in the Atlantic. Landing on these drone ships is necessary whenever SpaceX has to launch into high or unusual orbits since there wouldn’t be enough fuel left to return to the launch site.
Dragon 2 Manned Launches
The short-term Elon Musk SpaceX objective when it comes to manned flight is to introduce launches of their manned Dragon 2 in which they ferry crew to the International Space Station under contract for NASA. The recent explosion of the Falcon 9 has caused many to question the safety of allowing human beings to be launched by SpaceX using its new fuel loading and fuel cooling techniques.
SpaceX is still in the process of trying to confirm for NASA that it will be able to make such processes safe enough for human spaceflight. But as reported by NBC, Musk himself has pointed out that – with the escape system built into the Dragon 2 launch system, any astronauts on the Falcon 9 that exploded would have survived the event.
The Mars Dreams of Elon Musk
SpaceX seems to now be getting back on track toward Elon Musk’s long-term goal of sending human beings to Mars sometime in the 2020s. This would be years ahead of NASA’s own intended goal of landing on Mars sometime in the 2030s. Of course, Elon Musk and SpaceX must experience a long string of such successes before they can feel fully confident again.
This latest Elon Musk SpaceX launch certainly had a lot riding on it, since Musk’s goal of making human beings a multi-planet species requires bringing down the cost of launching people and cargo into space to a fraction of what it is now. And the only way for SpaceX to accomplish that is through consistent, safe launches that allow it to reuse the first stage.
[Featured Image by SpaceX]