SpaceX next mission is on next Sunday, January 17, 2016. The static fire test was successful. Everything is on track for launch.
Elon Musk's SpaceX has another exciting mission coming up on Sunday, January 17. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is going to carry the Jason-3 satellite into orbit and will attempt to land on a drone ship. This has failed already twice and after the successful landing of a Falcon 9 on land in December, one wonders why landing on a ship is necessary.
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Elon Musk just tweeted the answer to that question. He says that ship landings are needed for high velocity missions. This is another typical Elon Musk statement. Short and dense on information that is not easily understood. Musk did though release a primer on speed and energy issues in relation to the Falcon 9 in December.
The Falcon 9 rocket's boost stage is able to accelerate a payload mass of 125 metric tons to 8000 km/h and land on an ocean platform. At a 5000 km/h speed the rocket can land back at the launch site. For a sea platform landing, the Falcon 9 figure of merit is roughly 300 gigaojoules (GJ) of kinetic energy and for a return to launch site landing, the number is about 120 GJ.
The enormous energy is one of the big difficulties of landing on a ship. We will see if the successful landing on solid ground gave the SpaceX engineers new insights into landing successfully on the drone ship.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will take off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The pay load is the Jason 3 satellite. Jason-3, an international mission led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to continue U.S.- European satellite measurements of the topography of the ocean surface.
Jason-3 will continue the ability to monitor and precisely measure global sea surface heights, monitor the intensification of tropical cyclones and support seasonal and coastal forecasts. Jason-3 data also will benefit fisheries management, marine industries and research into human impacts on the world’s oceans. The mission is planned to last at least three years, with a goal of five years.
Jason-3 is a four-agency international partnership consisting of NOAA, NASA, Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales, France’s space agency, and the European Organization for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites. Thales Alenia of France built the spacecraft.
NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, is responsible for NASA Jason-3 project management. NASA’s Launch Services Program at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida provides launch management. SpaceX of Hawthorne, California, is NASA’s launch service provider of the Falcon 9 rocket.
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Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 4 East is targeted for 10:42 a.m. PST (1:42 p.m. EST), at the opening of a tight 30-second launch window. There is already a backup launch opportunity identified at 10:41 a.m. PST (1:31 p.m. EST) on Monday, Jan. 18.