Autor Wątek: [University of Toronto] Tesla shot into space will likely collide with Earth or  (Przeczytany 650 razy)

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Tesla shot into space will likely collide with Earth or Venus – in millions of years: U of T researchers
February 16, 2018, University of Toronto


Researchers at the Centre for Planetary Sciences have found that the Tesla Roadster recently sent into space as part of SpaceX's test flight will eventually collide with Earth or Venus (photo courtesy of SpaceX)

The Tesla Roadster that was recently shot into space as part of SpaceX’s rocket test flight will likely collide with Earth or Venus eventually, according to new University of Toronto research.

“It will likely end up colliding with Earth or Venus, but there’s no need to panic since the probability of that happening even within the next million years is very small,” says the research's author Hanno Rein, an assistant professor of physics at U of T Scarborough and director of the Centre for Planetary Sciences. 

The car was sent into space as part of the payload for SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy test flight on Feb. 6. While rocket test flights usually have a dummy payload, SpaceX founder Elon Musk sent up his personal Tesla Roadster instead.               

Though it’s mostly a publicity stunt – the car doesn’t have any scientific instruments on board – it’s now classified as a near-earth object, meaning it is catalogued and being tracked by NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory along with other objects that will travel relatively close to Earth.

What motivated Rein and his team was the question of what will be the car’s long-term fate. After running a series of simulations using sophisticated software that can track the motion of objects in space, they determined the probability of it colliding with Earth and Venus over the next one million years to be six per cent and 2.5 per cent, respectively.

They also determined that the first close encounter the Tesla will have with us will be in 2091, when it will pass within a few hundred thousand kilometres of Earth.


Assistant Professor Hanno Rein (left) and postdoctoral fellow Dan Tamayo from the Centre for Planetary Sciences wanted to see what the long-term fate of the Tesla Roadster would be after it was launched into space (photo by Ken Jones)

The car is currently on a Mars and Earth crossing orbit, meaning it will travel on an elliptical path that repeatedly carries it beyond Mars and then back to Earth’s orbital distance from the sun. How the car's orbit evolves over time will depend a lot on its encounters with Earth, especially how close it will get to Earth since any small change in its trajectory could have a large effect on its orbit.

While the path of the Tesla can be accurately predicted in terms of years, after hundreds of years and many close encounters with Earth it becomes impossible to predict the object’s precise orbit. By studying a large number of orbital simulations, however, the researchers were able to arrive at a statistical distribution of possible outcomes.

“Each time it passes Earth, the car will get a gravitational kick,” says Dan Tamayo, a postdoctoral fellow at U of T Scarborough who is a co-author on the paper that has yet to be published.

“Depending on the details of these encounters, the Tesla can be kicked onto a wider or smaller orbit, so it’s random. Over time the orbit will undergo what’s called a random walk, similar to the fluctuations we see in the stock market, that will allow it to wander the inner solar system.”

While they only ran simulations for the first three million years of its space journey, Rein says the most likely outcome for the Tesla is for it to crash into Earth or Venus in the next 10 million years or so.

“Although we are not able to tell on which planet the car will ultimately end up, we’re comfortable saying it won’t survive in space for more than a few tens of millions of years,” he says. 

While the car’s likely final destination is Earth, they note there’s nothing to fear since much or all of it will likely burn up in the atmosphere.

The research, which received funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), has been submitted for publication. A preprint of the paper is available online.

Source: Tesla shot into space will likely collide with Earth or Venus – in millions of years: U of T researchers

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Tanie OC wiśniowej Tesli. Starman i jego wóz unikną kolizji przez milion najbliższych lat
16 lutego 2018 Paweł Ziemnicki


FOT. SPACEX

Orbita Tesli Elona Muska to eliptyczna orbita wokół Słońca

Następne zbliżenie auta do naszej planety nastąpi w 2091 r.

Szansa, że samochód uderzy w Ziemię w ciągu miliona lat to 6%

Prawdopodobieństwo, że wóz zderzy się z planetą w okresie kilkudziesieciu milionów lat wynosi 50%


Zafascynowani spektakularną misją Falcona Heavy astronomowie przyjrzeli się przyszłej trajektorii wyniesionego w kosmos nietypowego ładunku. Chociaż pierwsze zbliżenie Roadstera Elona Muska do Ziemi czeka nas już za 73 lata, to wszystko wskazuje na to, że pojazd nie zderzy się z żadną planetą w ciągu kolejnego miliona lat. W śledzenie losów czerwonego kabrioleta włączyli się także polscy badacze.

Nietypowa praca naukowa pojawiła się w serwisie arXiv.org, pod tytułem „The random walk of cars and their collision probabilities with planets”. Jej autorami są Hanno Rein z Uniwersytetu w Toronto, Daniel Tamayo z Center for Planetary Sciences (CPS) i Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics (CITA) oraz David Vokrouhlick z Instytutu Astronomii na Uniwersytecie Karola w Pradze.

Dnia 10 czerwca br. wóz Muska zbliży do Marsa na odległość 110,5 mln kilometrów. Następnie w lipcu przetnie orbitę Czerwonej Planety i 9 listopada osiągnie aphelium. Znajdzie się wówczas w odległości 249 mln km od Słońca. Następnie samochód rozpocznie swoją podróż powrotną do centralnej części Układu Słonecznego. Tesla będzie wówczas przyspieszać – zgodnie z treścią Drugiego Prawa Keplera. 15 sierpnia 2019 r. dotrze do peryhelium.

Docelową orbitą, na którą zmierza czerwona Tesla, jest trajektoria heliocentryczna o aphelium sięgającym nieco powyżej orbity Marsa i peryhelium mniej więcej na wysokości orbity Ziemi.

Na tyle, na ile było to możliwe, naukowcy wyliczyli orbitę, po jakiej słynne auto będzie podróżować w ciągu najbliższych trzech milionów lat. Pierwsze bliskie spotkanie samochodu z Ziemią nastąpi w roku 2091. Tesla zbliży się wówczas do macierzystej planety na kilkaset tysięcy kilometrów. Istnieje szansa, że przeleci wtedy w odległości mniejszej niż dystans dzielący Ziemię od orbity Księżyca.

Z przeprowadzonych analiz wynika, że prawdopodobieństwo, że auto zderzy się z Ziemią w czasie miliona najbliższych lat wynosi 6%. Szansa na trafienie w Wenus, w tym samym okresie, to zaledwie 2,5%. Możliwość, że czerwona Tesla wpadnie na naszą planetę w ciągu najbliższych trzech milionów lat wynosi 11%.

Im dalej w przyszłość wybiegają tego typu prognozy, tym trudniej dokładnie przewidzieć trajektorię ładunku wyniesionego rakietą Falcon Heavy. Wynika to z faktu, że na przestrzeni przyszłych lat Tesla będzie się wielokrotnie zbliżać do planet, które oddziałując nań siłą swojej grawitacji będą modyfikować okołosłoneczną trajektorię samochodu.

W obserwacje oddalającego się czerwonego auta zaangażowali się także Polacy. Jak poinformował Space24.pl Krzysztof Kamiński z Obserwatorium Astronomicznego Uniwersytetu Adama Mickiewicza: „wykonane zostały obserwacje wystrzelonego dnia 2018-02-06 za pomocą prototypowej rakiety Falcon Heavy firmy Space X nietypowego pojazdu kosmicznego - kabrioletu Tesla. W przeciwieństwie do typowych satelitów Ziemi Tesla znajduje się aktualnie na orbicie wokółsłonecznej i oddala się od Ziemi. Obserwatorium UAM wykonało pierwsze obserwacje tego samochodu dnia 2018-02-08, gdy znajdował się w odległości ok. 730 000 km od Ziemi, a później również z odległości 2 000 000 km. Obserwacje te pozwolą na określenie dokładnej orbity i wyznaczenie przyszłych przelotów Tesli w pobliżu Ziemi.”


Robotyczny teleskop Obserwatorium Astronomicznego UAM w Arizonie. Fot. OA UAM

Za pomocą naszego robotycznego teleskopu w Arizonie wykonaliśmy w piątek [9 lutego] serię zdjęć, na których wyraźnie widać poruszający się pojazd SpaceX w momencie gdy znajdował się prawie 2x dalej niż Księżyc (ok. 730 000 km od Ziemi). Planujemy śledzić ten nietypowy obiekt do odległości kilku milionów kilometrów od Ziemi, co pozwoli na dokładne wyznaczenie jego orbity wokół-słonecznej i przewidywanie jego pozycji w przyszłości. Te i inne obserwacje sztucznych satelitów wykonujemy w ramach prowadzonych od 2-3 lat przygotowań do wspólnych europejskich kampanii obserwacyjnych w programach Space Situation Awareness ESA i Komisji Europejskiej.

                            Krzysztof Kamiński, Obserwatorium Astronomiczne UAM


Pozycja Tesli zaobserwowanej na niebie. Fot. OA UAM

Jak wskazują autorzy wspomnianej wyżej pracy, opublikowanej w arXiv.org, prawdopodobieństwo, że Tesla Roadster zderzy się z którąś z planet wewnętrznych w ciągu kolejnych kilkudziesięciu milionów lat, kształtuje się na poziomie mniej więcej 50%. Jeśli dojdzie wówczas do kolizji z Ziemią, to większość starszawego już wówczas pojazdu spali się w atmosferze, a tylko nieliczne szczątki spadną na powierzchnię planety.

Źródło: http://www.space24.pl/tanie-oc-wisniowej-tesli-starman-i-jego-woz-unikna-kolizji-przez-milion-najblizszych-lat
« Ostatnia zmiana: Kwiecień 28, 2019, 03:48 wysłana przez Orionid »

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Tesla in space could carry bacteria from Earth
February 27, 2018, Purdue University



A red Tesla convertible hitched a ride to space with a SpaceX rocket in early February, bringing with it what may be the largest load of earthly bacteria to ever enter space.

NASA's Office of Planetary Protection makes sure spacecraft planning to land on other planets are sterile. Much like an invasive species, organisms from Earth could thrive on another planet and wipe out native organisms. After all, it was bacteria that stopped the Martian invasion in H. G. Wells' fictional "War of the Worlds."

"If there is an indigenous Mars biota, it's at risk of being contaminated by terrestrial life," said Jay Melosh, a professor of earth, atmospheric and planetary sciences at Purdue University. "Would Earth's organisms be better adapted, take over Mars and contaminate it so we don't know what indigenous Mars was like, or would they be not as well adapted as the Martian organisms? We don't know."

But the Office of Planetary Protection doesn't regulate spacecraft that plan to stay in orbit; since the Tesla was never intended to land, it wasn't cleaned before takeoff.

"Even if they radiated the outside, the engine would be dirty," Melosh said. "Cars aren't assembled clean. And even then, there's a big difference between clean and sterile."

The Tesla could potentially land on Mars, although it's unlikely, he said. The car is in an orbit that crosses Earth's and Mars', and it will probably end up striking Earth, but it could be millions of years before that happens.

Extreme temperatures, low pressure and unfiltered cosmic radiation make space an inhospitable environment for living organisms. It doesn't always kill them, though – some bacteria go dormant in the vacuum of space and wake up again when conditions are right.

Alina Alexeenko, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics at Purdue, works in a lab that specializes in freeze-drying bacteria and biologics. The freeze-drying technology is used for long-term preservation of live virus vaccines, bacteria and biopharmaceuticals – a process similar to what live organisms experience in space.

"The load of bacteria on the Tesla could be considered a biothreat, or a backup copy of life on Earth," she said.

Source: Tesla in space could carry bacteria from Earth

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Arabsat CEO: Falcon Heavy gives our satellite extra life
by Caleb Henry — April 11, 2019


Arabsat-6A is the first commercial satellite slated to launch on SpaceX's Falcon Heavy rocket. The launch is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. Eastern April 11. Credit: Jordan Sirokie for SpaceNews.

COLORADO SPRINGS — Arabsat chose SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket to launch its newest satellite in order to give the satellite a longer lifespan, Khalid Balkheyour, Arabsat’s chief executive, said in an interview with SpaceNews.

SpaceX’s launch of the Arabsat-6A communications satellite is scheduled for 6:35 p.m. Eastern from Space Launch Complex 39A in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Upper level winds in the atmosphere scrubbed yesterday’s launch attempt. The mission is SpaceX’s first with a commercial Falcon Heavy customer.

Saudi Arabia-based Arabsat announced plans to launch with SpaceX in spring 2015, but at the time hadn’t decided between the Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy. The company selected Falcon Heavy in September for a mission anticipated in late 2017 or 2018.

Balkheyour said Arabsat chose the Falcon Heavy in order to extend the lifespan of the Arabsat-6A satellite beyond the 15 years a geostationary communications satellite is typically designed to last.

“We needed more lifetime for the satellite, so we had the option: Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy, and we decided to go with Falcon Heavy,” he said.

Arabsat-6A is a large satellite, weighing 6,460-kilograms. Balkheyour said preliminary calculations show the satellite will get an extra boost from Falcon Heavy that should extend its life to between 18 and 20 years.

SpaceX experienced delays with the Falcon Heavy that pushed the Arabsat-6A launch to 2019, a setback Balkheyour said was upsetting, but tolerable.

“I don’t mind that as long as we get it right and in orbit with good quality checks and good health,” he said.

And the delays were not solely SpaceX. Arabsat-6A is just the second to use Lockheed Martin’s modernized LM2100 satellite platform, which features over two dozen upgrades, including new avionics, flexible solar arrays and a reprogrammable mission processor.

Arabsat was Lockheed Martin’s first customer for the LM2100, and while Balkheyour said Arabsat is impressed with the platform, it felt the need to conduct additional testing prior to launch.

“We were scheduled about a month ago, [but] we had to do more checks and quality assurance stuff with the satellite,” he said.

The first LM2100, SaudiGeoSat-1/Hellas Sat-4, launched in February on a European Ariane 5 from Arianespace.

Lockheed Martin has three other LM2100 satellites under construction: Japanese operator Sky Perfect JSAT’s Jcsat-17, and two SBIRS missile warning satellites for the U.S. Defense Department.

Balkheyour declined to say what Arabsat paid for the Falcon Heavy mission (SpaceX advertises Falcon Heavy launches as $90 million). He also declined to say the price of Arabsat’s two-satellite Lockheed Martin order, which at the time of announcement was estimated at $650 million.

Balkheyour was nonetheless positive on the contracts, saying the Falcon Heavy was a “good deal,” and that the Lockheed Martin satellites came at a “very attractive price.”

Balkheyour said Arabsat wasn’t afraid of trying new technologies on launch or manufacturing for the satellites.

“The two companies [SpaceX and Lockheed Martin] to us are very qualified, and we believed in them,” he said. “We had a good commercial team on both sides, so why not? We want to do something different.”

Arabsat-6A will take 16 to 17 days of orbit raising using its chemical propulsion system to reach its perch in geostationary orbit 36,000 kilometers above the Earth, Balkheyour said. From there the satellite will provide television broadcasting and internet connectivity services to customers in the Middle East, Africa and Europe.

Balkheyour estimated that 40 to 50 percent of the satellite’s capacity was presold prior to launch. Arabsat-6A carries Ku- and Ka-band transponders.

The launch will be the first for Falcon Heavy following its February 2018 demonstration flight carrying a red Tesla roadster. SpaceX has other commercial customers, including Viasat, Inmarsat and the U.S. military, for future Falcon Heavy missions. The launch will also influence the certification process for the U.S. Air Force to launch national security payloads using the rocket.

After the launch, barring a failure, Arabsat will have nine satellites in orbit — seven for its core fleet and two for its Greek subsidiary Hellas Sat. Balkheyour said Arabsat is designing another satellite now, and anticipates having a request for proposals ready for manufacturers by this fall.


Source: https://spacenews.com/arabsat-ceo-falcon-heavy-gives-our-satellite-extra-life/

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Falcon Heavy sends first commercial satellite into orbit
by Debra Werner — April 11, 2019, Updated 7:40 p.m. Eastern. [SpaceNews]


SpaceX sent the Arabsat-6A communications satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit April 11, completing the Falcon Heavy rocket’s first commercial launch April 11. Credit: Craig Vander Galien

COLORADO SPRINGS – SpaceX sent the Arabsat-6A communications satellite into geosynchronous transfer orbit April 11, completing the Falcon Heavy rocket’s first commercial launch.

The Falcon Heavy, using Block 5 boosters, lifted off at 6:35 p.m. Eastern from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida and released the 6,460-kilogram Arabsat-6A into a transfer orbit approximately 34 minutes later.

For the first time, SpaceX succeeded in landing all three Falcon Heavy boosters. The two side boosters touched down about eight minutes after liftoff on Landing Zones 1 and 2 at the former Launch Complex 13 at Cape Canaveral. The center core landed on a SpaceX drone ship ten minutes and 20 seconds into the mission.

“The Falcons have landed,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted.

After the 2018 Falcon Heavy launch, the side boosters returned to the landing pads but the center core missed the drone ship when only one of three engines ignited for the final landing burn.

SpaceX plans to refly the Falcon Heavy side boosters from the Arabsat-6A mission on its next Falcon Heavy mission, the U.S. Air Force Space Test Program-2 rideshare mission.

Saudi Arabia-based Arabsat announced plans to launch with SpaceX in spring 2015, but at the time hadn’t decided between the Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy. The company selected Falcon Heavy in September 2015 for a mission anticipated in late 2017 or 2018.

In an interview, Khalid Balkheyour, Arabsat’s chief executive, said Arabsat chose the Falcon Heavy in order to extend the lifespan of the Arabsat-6A satellite beyond the 15 years a geostationary communications satellite is typically designed to last.

“We needed more lifetime for the satellite, so we had the option: Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy, and we decided to go with Falcon Heavy,” Balkheyour said. Preliminary calculations show the satellite will get an extra boost from Falcon Heavy that should extend its life to between 18 and 20 years, he added.


Source: https://spacenews.com/falcon-heavy-arabsat/

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SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy successful in commercial debut
April 11, 2019 Stephen Clark [Spaceflight Now]


SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket lifts off from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday. Credit: Walter Scriptunas II / Spaceflight Now

On its second flight, SpaceX’s mammoth Falcon Heavy rocket hurled an Arabsat communications satellite the size of a school bus nearly one-quarter the way to the moon Thursday, days after NASA’s administrator identified the privately-developed rocket as a backup to the agency’s behind-schedule Space Launch System for sending astronauts back to the lunar surface.

The Falcon Heavy launched a satellite for a paying customer for the first time Thursday, 14 months after SpaceX debuted the rocket on a test flight that sent a Tesla sports car into the solar system.

In another first, SpaceX recovered all three of the Falcon Heavy’s first stage boosters after Thursday evening’s launch — two back at Cape Canaveral and one on a landing vessel in the Atlantic Ocean. The core stage on last year’s inaugural Falcon Heavy rocket crashed during a landing attempt at sea.

Weighing some 3.1 million pounds (1,420 metric tons) fully fueled, the Falcon Heavy fired its 27 Merlin main engines in the final seconds of Thursday’s countdown, shooting a plume of exhaust out of the flame trench at pad 39A, the site where all of the Apollo moon landing missions left Earth at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Moments later, the Falcon Heavy rose from the seaside launch complex at 6:35 p.m. EDT (2235 GMT). A flickering trail of orange flame followed the rocket into a clear evening sky as the Falcon Heavy — the world’s most powerful operational launcher — arced toward the east over the Atlantic Ocean with more than 5.1 million pounds of thrust, rattling windows across the Florida space center.

Besides being the Falcon Heavy’s commercial debut, Thursday’s launch was also the first Falcon Heavy to fly with upgraded “Block 5” boosters, which produce more thrust and feature changes to make the rocket easier to recover and reuse. Block 5 boosters have flown on Falcon 9 missions since last May.

Two-and-a-half minutes into the flight, the Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters — each equivalent to a Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage — jettisoned and flipped around using cold gas nitrogen thrusters to fly tail first. After the high-altitude pirouette, the boosters reignited their Merlin engines and began thrusting back toward the Florida coastline.

About a minute later, the Falcon Heavy’s core stage shut down and dropped away from the rocket’s second stage. Like the side boosters, the center core began maneuvering for a re-entry back into the atmosphere, but it targeted SpaceX’s drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” parked at sea 615 miles (990 kilometers) east of Cape Canaveral.

The twin side boosters their engines to brake for nearly simultaneous returns to SpaceX’s concrete landing pads around eight minutes after liftoff, descending to on-target touchdowns a few hundred feet apart as two double sonic booms from the rockets rocked the Space Coast.

Meanwhile, the core stage survived a higher-speed re-entry and nailed a landing on SpaceX’s drone ship around 10 minutes into the mission, making the company three-for-three in retrieving the Falcon Heavy’s three boosters.

The rocket landings put on a dazzling and unique show for thousands of spectators who gathered around Cape Canaveral to witness the launch. No other rocket currently in service lands its boosters for reuse.



The Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters descend to landings Thursday. Credit: SpaceX

Arabsat 6A launched into fuel-saving high-altitude orbit

The primary objective of Thursday’s mission was the injection of an Arabsat communications satellite into orbit, a job that required two firings by the Falcon Heavy’s upper stage.

After the upper stage’s first burn, the rocket coasted across the Atlantic and reignited its single Merlin engine for nearly 90 seconds to propel the 14,252-pound (6,465-kilogram) Arabsat 6A spacecraft into an elliptical “supersynchronous” transfer orbit that ranged nearly 56,000 miles (90,000 kilometers) above Earth, with a low point less than 200 miles (300 kilometers) in altitude.

The rocket released the Lockheed Martin-built payload 34 minutes after liftoff in an orbit inclined 23 degrees to the equator. Lockheed Martin officials said the ground team controlling the satellite acquired the first signals from Arabsat 6A soon after launch, confirming it was alive and healthy after arriving in orbit.

Arabsat 6A will use its own engine to guide the satellite into a circular geostationary orbit more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) over the equator, the perfect altitude to allow its velocity to match the rate of Earth’s rotation.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9, which uses a single first stage, could have launched the Arabsat 6A satellite into a lower transfer orbit, but Arabsat booked a Falcon Heavy flight in 2015, before SpaceX introduced new Falcon 9 models that expanded its lift capability.

With the extra energy of the Falcon Heavy, the Arabsat 6A satellite was deployed in a much higher orbit, reducing the time the spacecraft needs to consume to maneuver into its final operating position. Falcon 9 rockets launched a pair of Telstar communications satellites, both heavier than Arabsat 6A, last year, but those spacecraft were released into lower, less ideal “sub-synchronous” transfer orbits.

In a fully reusable configuration, assuming side booster landings at Cape Canaveral and a core stage recovery offshore, the Falcon Heavy can deliver around 17,600 pounds (8,000 kilograms) of payload to a standard geosynchronous transfer orbit, the typical drop-off point for communications satellites destined for posts at geostationary altitude.

If the Falcon Heavy did not have to set aside a fuel reserve to land its boosters back on Earth, the rocket could haul more than 15 metric tons — about 33,000 pounds — to geosynchronous transfer orbit, with an apogee near 22,000 miles.

The extra altitude boost provided by the Falcon Heavy will reduce the time Arabsat 6A needs to arrive in geostationary orbit to 17 days after launch, according to Guy Beutelschies, Lockheed Martin’s vice president of commercial satellite solutions. It also saves the satellite’s fuel to potentially allow for a longer operating life, adding years to the mission before Arabsat has to buy a replacement satellite.

After several weeks of payload checkouts and antenna deployments, Lockheed Martin will hand over control of the satellite to Arabsat by the end May to begin the spacecraft’s expected 15-year service life. Once on station, Arabsat 6A will use four gimbaled arcjet thrusters to maintain its orbit.

“Arabsat is a 21-member consortium of Arab states, and this satellite is going to be providing communications for the Middle East and North Africa,” Beutelschies said in an interview with Spaceflight Now before the launch. “So TV, radio, high-definition TV channels, and so forth.”

Arabsat 6A will be parked in geostationary orbit at 30.5 degrees east longitude to broadcast Ku-band and Ka-band signals. The new satellite will be co-located with Arabsat 5A at the 30.5 degrees east slot.

“This new satellite will strengthen our existing fleet that offers millions of people mobile and landline communications service across the region,” said Khalid Balkheyour, CEO of Arabsat, headquartered in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in a press release. “We look forward to completing and launching this state-of-the-art new satellite to offer even greater Internet, television and radio services to our customers.”

Arabsat 6A is the second of three commercial communications satellites built by Lockheed Martin to launch this year. The Hellas-Sat 4/SaudiGeoSat 1 telecom craft launched in February aboard an Ariane 5 rocket, and the Japanese-owned JCSAT 17 communications satellite is scheduled for launch on another Ariane 5 flight later this year.

They are the first commercial communications satellites built by Lockheed Martin to launch since 2012. The aerospace contractor invested in upgrading the company’s A2100 satellite line, which is commonly used by the U.S. military, to make it more attractive to commercial satellite companies.



The Arabsat 6A satellite. Credit: Lockheed Martin

“I think one of the most dramatic changes is we’ve got these new flexible solar arrays on-board that basically unfurl rather than having the old-style rigid panels,” Beutelschies said. “Because of that, they’re 30 percent lighter and 50 percent more power than our previous arrays. For Arabsat 6A, the one we’re about to launch, we actually have 20 kilowatts of solar array power for the vehicle.

“This goes all the way back to the solar arrays that we produced for the space station, where they actually unfurled,” he said. “You can pack it in a very small volume compared to the actual area once they’re unfurled.”

“You can kind of think of it as almost a fabric, and so it unfurls kind of like a window shade,” Beutelschies said. “It’s in a very small volume, and comes out and is pulled taut, and all the solar cells are mounted to it.”

Other changes to the commercial A2100 satellite design, known as the LM 2100, include new avionics and tunable antennas.


Falcon Heavy emerges as backup for NASA’s lunar landing ambitions

As NASA scrambles to respond to the Trump administration’s directive to land astronauts on the moon by 2024 — four years ahead of the previous schedule — the agency in recent weeks has examined backup launch options for crewed missions if the behind-schedule Space Launch System runs into more delays.

In a speech last month at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama, Vice President Mike Pence charged NASA to return astronauts to the lunar surface within five years “by any means necessary.”

The Space Launch System was designed to send NASA’s Orion crew capsule to a planned “Gateway” mini-space station in lunar orbit, where moon landers could dock for sorties to the lunar surface.

But the SLS was supposed to launch in 2017, and officials last month said the heavy-lifter’s first test flight — a mission without astronauts on-board — would likely not happen until 2021.

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine ordered a study to see whether commercial rockets could be ready in time to launch the Orion crew capsule on an unpiloted demonstration mission around the moon in 2020, untethering the new spacecraft from further SLS delays.

The study concluded any commercial launch option for the Orion spacecraft would likely take longer to prepare than the Space Launch System, but one intriguing backup to the SLS emerged, Bridenstine said.



This illustration shows the components of the Space Launch System’s Block 1 configuration, which is the version scheduled to fly on the rocket’s first mission, designated Exploration Mission-1. Credit: NASA

“At the end, there is another solution out there,” he said in a NASA town hall meeting April 1.

While the Falcon Heavy falls short of the SLS’s lift capability, Bridenstine said an upper stage called the Interim Cryogenic Propulsion Stage, or ICPS, originally designed for the SLS could be installed on top of the existing Falcon Heavy. The ICPS uses a single Aerojet Rocketdyne RL10 engine and is built by United Launch Alliance, a SpaceX rival.

“Talk about strange bed fellows,” Bridenstine said, referring to the possible marriage of SpaceX and ULA rockets.

The additional stage could have the power to propel the Orion crew capsule and its service module, built in Europe, into lunar orbit. But the scenario would require numerous time-consuming modifications to the Falcon Heavy and its launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center, including additional aerodynamic testing and the placement of new hypergolic and liquid hydrogen fueling equipment at the pad.

“At the end of the day, there is a solution here that could potentially work or the future,” Bridenstine said. “It would require time, it would require cost, and there is risk involved, but guess what? If we’re going to land boots on the moon in 2024, we have time, and we have the ability to accept some risk and make some modifications.

“All of that is on the table,” Bridenstine said. “There is nothing sacred here that is off the table, and that is potential capability that could help us land boots on the moon in 2024.”

In his remarks last month in Alabama, Pence put NASA’s contractors on notice, saying the moon landing objective should not be tied to any single company.

“In order to succeed … we must focus on the mission over the means,” Pence said. You must consider every available option and platform to meet our goals, including industry, government and the entire American space enterprise. Our administration is committed to this goal.”

The launcher is just one piece of the puzzle. NASA must also develop or purchase a human-rated lunar lander that does not exist yet.

While the Falcon Heavy/ICPS launcher could be a viable alternative to the Space Launch System, Bridenstine said the SLS remains the surest way to launch astronauts to the moon by 2024.

Managers at NASA and Boeing, the SLS core stage’s prime contractor, are assessing how the SLS schedule might be accelerated. The SLS first stage engine section, which will house four RS-25 main engines, has been the primary culprit for the rocket’s recent delays.

Teams at the Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans, where the SLS core stage is manufactured, have devised a way to assemble the rest of the core stage without the engine section, allowing some work to proceed in parallel, rather than waiting for the aft propulsion module to be ready.

Managers are also considering whether to skip a full-duration eight-and-a-half-minute test firing of the core stage and its four engines at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. The four engines are leftovers from the space shuttle program with extensive flight history, and engineers may decide that a shorter hold-down firing on the launch pad in Florida could satisfy their test requirements.

“The best option to get us to lunar orbit as soon as possible is SLS and an Orion with a European service module,” Bridenstine said. “There’s nothing that beats that capability. Right now, what we’re doing is everything possible to accelerate that.”


Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2019/04/11/spacexs-falcon-heavy-successful-in-commercial-debut/

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SpaceX retrieves Falcon Heavy fairings from sea for reuse on future launch
April 12, 2019 Stephen Clark [Spaceflight Now]


One half of the Falcon Heavy’s payload fairing after retrieval from the Atlantic Ocean on Thursday night. Credit: Elon Musk/SpaceX

SpaceX founder and chief executive Elon Musk said Thursday that the company’s recovery fleet in the Atlantic Ocean recovered the two halves of the Falcon Heavy’s payload shroud after the heavy-lifter’s second launch from the Kennedy Space Center. Musk said the company plans to reuse the fairing for the first time later this year.

In a series of tweets Thursday night, Musk wrote SpaceX retrieved both halves of the Falcon Heavy’s payload shroud from the sea, and the hardware appears undamaged after riding to the edge of space and back.

Musk said the fairing halves will launch again later this year on a mission carrying a batch of satellites into orbit for SpaceX’s Starlink global broadband network. Two Starlink test satellites launched last year, and SpaceX’s next set of Earth-orbiting broadband relay spacecraft are scheduled for launch on a Falcon 9 rocket from Florida in the coming months, according to regulatory filings.



@elonmusk · Apr 12, 2019 The Falcons have landed


@elonmusk 3:31 AM - Apr 12, 2019
Both fairing halves recovered. Will be flown on Starlink 💫 mission later this year.

Twitter

On several missions since early 2018, SpaceX has tried to catch the payload fairings using a giant net on a ship named Mr. Steven, which tried to maneuver under the fairing as it descended under a steerable parachute. After several near-misses, SpaceX installed a bigger net on the vessel, but the company has not yet snatched a fairing using the ship.

SpaceX has recovered numerous fairings from the ocean. The concept of catching the fairing with Mr. Steven was intended to keep the hardware from being damaged by salt water. SpaceX’s experience with refurbishing Dragon cargo capsules that splash down at sea has shown the effort to be time-consuming.

In recent months, Musk has said cleaning fairings recovered from the ocean may not be a show-stopper to reusing the shroud.



Mr. Steven, SpaceX’s fairing recovery ship. Credit: SpaceX

After Mr. Steven narrowly missed catching a fairing after a Falcon 9 launch from California in December, Musk tweeted: “Falcon fairing halves missed the net, but touched down softly in the water. Mr. Steven is picking them up. Plan is to dry them out & launch again. Nothing wrong with a little swim.”

Mr. Steven sailed from California through the Panama Canal to Florida earlier this year, but was not deployed to catch the fairing Thursday.

Musk said Thursday night that the fairing halves from the Falcon Heavy launch Thursday will be the first to be re-flown.

The payload fairing typically jettisons from the rocket three or four minutes after liftoff, once the launcher has climbed into space. The aerodynamic shroud, or nose cone, shields satellite payloads from the airflow as the rocket ascends through the dense lower layers of the atmosphere.

Once in the vacuum of space, the fairing is no longer needed. It separates in two pieces, like a clamshell, and falls back to Earth.

The fairing used on Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches is about 43 feet (13 meters) long and 17 feet (5.2 meters) in diameter.



Part of a Falcon 9 payload fairing from an April 2018 launch from Cape Canaveral descends under a parafoil over the Atlantic Ocean. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX has outfitted its fairings with avionics, thrusters and steerable parachutes to aid recovery. The company wants to reuse the fairing, eyeing it as the next step in reducing launch costs after proving the landing and reuse of Falcon booster stages.

Musk told reporters last year that the fairing costs around $6 million.

He said the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket comprises about 60 percent of the cost of a launch, with the upper stage responsible for 20 percent, and the fairing another 10 percent. The remaining 10 percent of the cost of a Falcon 9 mission come from charges stemming from launch operations, propellant and other processing expenses, Musk said last year.


Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2019/04/12/spacex-retrieves-falcon-heavy-fairings-from-sea-for-reuse-on-future-launch/

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Falcon Heavy center core toppled after landing
by Jeff Foust — April 15, 2019 [SN]


The center core of the Falcon Heavy that launched April 11 landed successfully on a droneship in the Atlantic, only to topple over later in heavy seas. Credit: SpaceX webcast

WASHINGTON — The center core of the Falcon Heavy rocket that launched a communications satellite April 11 fell over after landing in rough seas, but SpaceX said the mishap won’t affect upcoming launches.

In an April 15 statement, SpaceX said that the booster core, one of three on the Falcon Heavy rocket, was unable to remain upright over the weekend because heavy seas prevented crews from securing the booster to the deck of the droneship Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic Ocean.

“Over the weekend, due to rough sea conditions, SpaceX’s recovery team was unable to secure the center core booster for its return trip to Port Canaveral,” spokesman James Gleeson said in response to a SpaceNews inquiry amid rumors that the booster fell over. “As conditions worsened with eight- to ten-foot swells, the booster began to shift and ultimately was unable to remain upright.”

SpaceX has developed a robotic system, colloquially known as “Octograbber,” to secure Falcon 9 booster cores that land on droneships. But company sources say that the Octograbber doesn’t work on the Falcon Heavy because it has different interfaces that the robot isn’t currently designed to grapple, requiring the use of personnel that could not safely operate in the heavy seas. “While we had hoped to bring the booster back intact, the safety of our team always takes precedence,” Gleeson said.

SpaceX didn’t provide any information on the status of the booster core, including whether it will be retrieved at all. The droneship has yet to return to Port Canaveral, the port next to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida where SpaceX hosts recovery operations for boosters that land at sea.

The mishap marred what had been a picture-perfect second flight of the heavy-lift rocket from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. The rocket successfully placed its payload, the Arabsat-6A communications satellite, into a geostationary transfer orbit. The two side boosters landed side-by-side at the former Launch Complex 13 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, several kilometers south of the launch site.

SpaceX also recovered the two halves of the payload fairing from the ocean shortly after they splashed down. SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk said in a tweet a few hours after the launch that the fairing will be reflown on a launch later this year of SpaceX’s Starlink broadband constellation, which may be the first reuse of the vehicle’s fairings.

The two side boosters will be reused on the next Falcon Heavy launch, of the Air Force’s Space Test Program (STP) 2 mission, carrying a number of technology demonstration satellites. However, even before the center core from the Arabsat launch was lost after landing, SpaceX had planned to use a new center booster core for the STP-2 launch. “We do not expect future missions to be impacted” by the loss of the Arabsat booster, Gleeson said.

That STP-2 launch is expected to take place in June, although no formal launch date has been set. The Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center, in an April 15 tweet, said the side cores “will require analysis to determine reusability.” The launch, it said, was scheduled for no earlier than June.


Source: https://spacenews.com/falcon-heavy-center-core-toppled-after-landing/

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Falcon Heavy core booster tips over in rough seas after drone ship landing
April 15, 2019 Stephen Clark [SFN]


The Falcon Heavy’s core booster is seen moments after landing on SpaceX’s drone ship Thursday. Credit: SpaceX

The core booster from the Falcon Heavy rocket that launched Thursday from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida tipped over in rough seas after landing on an offshore drone ship, SpaceX officials said Monday.

The Falcon Heavy’s core booster touched down around 10 minutes after the Falcon Heavy blasted off from Florida’s Space Coast, and moments after the rocket’s two side boosters returned to landing onshore at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The on-target landings marked the first time SpaceX landed all three Falcon Heavy boosters on the same mission. The core stage crashed at sea near the drone ship after running out of igniter fluid on the Falcon Heavy’s inaugural flight in February 2018.

But ocean swells rocking the drone ship, which SpaceX has named “Of Course I Still Love You,” caused the rocket to topple before recovery crews could secure the booster to the vessel.

“Over the weekend, due to rough sea conditions, SpaceX’s recovery team was unable to secure the center core booster for its return trip to Port Canaveral,” said James Gleeson, a SpaceX spokesperson. “As conditions worsened with eight to ten foot swells, the booster began to shift and ultimately was unable to remain upright.

“While we had hoped to bring the booster back intact, the safety of our team always takes precedence,” Gleeson said in a statement. “We do not expect future missions to be impacted.”

The launch was successful in its primary objective, and delivered the Arabsat 6A communications to orbit to begin a mission beaming video, radio and Internet signals across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe.

The Falcon Heavy side boosters and the two halves of the rocket’s payload shroud were recovered intact and will be reused on future missions, SpaceX said.

The system SpaceX typically employs to secure the booster to the drone ship was not able to be used on the Falcon Heavy mission because the core booster uses a different mechanical interface. But SpaceX intends to use the system on the next landing attempt.



SpaceX’s second Falcon Heavy rocket lifted off at 6:35 p.m. EDT (2235 GMT) Thursday from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: Walter Scriptunas II / Spaceflight Now

Lifting off with more than 5.1 million pounds of thrust, the Falcon Heavy arced toward the east from the Kennedy Space Center powered by 27 Merlin main engines — nine on each of the rocket’s three first stage boosters.

The Falcon Heavy’s core booster fired for three-and-a-half minutes on Thursday’s launch, accelerating to a speed of more than 6,600 mph (10,700 kilometers per hour) before detaching and giving way to the rocket’s upper stage to finish the task of placing the Arabsat 6A communications satellite into orbit.

The twin side boosters jettisoned a minute earlier — at about T+plus 2 minutes, 30 seconds — to begin their journeys back to Cape Canaveral. The core stage flew at a lower throttle setting to conserve fuel, then ramped up to full power after the side boosters separated.

SpaceX’s drone ship was parked around 615 miles (990 kilometers) east of Cape Canaveral for Thursday’s mission, farther downrange than the vessel’s typical position for a SpaceX launch, due to the high-speed staging on the Falcon Heavy.

The side boosters that landed after Thursday’s launch will be inspected and refurbished for the next Falcon Heavy flight scheduled for late June, which was already planned to use a new core booster. The two-piece payload shroud will be reused on a Falcon 9 launch later this year carrying a batch of SpaceX’s Starlink broadband Internet satellites into orbit.

With the Falcon Heavy’s core stage lost after landing, the tally of rocket boosters successfully recovered by SpaceX now stands at 37 vehicles — 23 on drone ships, 13 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and one at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.


Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2019/04/15/falcon-heavy-core-booster-lost-in-rough-seas-after-drone-ship-landing/

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Falcon Heavy launches on military-led rideshare mission, boat catches fairing (1)
June 25, 2019 Stephen Clark [SFN]


SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket took off at 2:30 a.m. EDT (0630 GMT) from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX’s third Falcon Heavy rocket took off from the Kennedy Space Center in a predawn launch Tuesday, delivering two dozen research and weather observation spacecraft into orbit on a marathon three-and-a-half mission for the U.S. Air Force.

The mission included the successful landing of the Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters back at Cape Canaveral, and a SpaceX recovery boat netted part of the rocket’s payload fairing for the first time after trying for more than a year.

SpaceX’s fairing recovery boat, recently renamed from “Mr. Steven” to “Ms. Tree,” is fitted with a giant net to catch the rocket’s fairing shell as it descends under a parafoil. The payload fairing protects satellites from aerodynamic friction during the first few minutes of launch, then jettisons in two halves in a clamshell-like fashion to lighten the rocket’s load once it has climbed into the rarefied upper atmosphere.

Since early 2018, SpaceX has tried using the fast-moving boat to steer underneath a fairing. But the efforts chalked up a series of near-misses, prompting engineers to evaluate reusing fairings that fell into the sea, which require more refurbishment after exposure to salt water.

But Tuesday’s catch shows there is promise for SpaceX’s preferred method of recovery.

SpaceX has outfitted its fairings with avionics, thrusters and steerable parachutes to make a soft landing. The company wants to reuse the fairing, eyeing it as the next step in reducing launch costs after proving the landing and reuse of Falcon booster stages.

Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO, told reporters last year that the fairing costs around $6 million. Musk has identified the payload fairing as the next component that could be recovered and reused, following SpaceX’s pioneering achievement in landing and re-flying first stage boosters.

SpaceX eventually aims to catch both halves of the fairing.



A camera on-board SpaceX’s fairing recovery vessel shows half of the Falcon Heavy’s fairing in the ship’s net. Credit: SpaceX

The U.S. military’s Space Test Program booked the mission, named STP-2, on SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy to exercise the launcher and gauge its suitability to loft high-value national security payloads. The mission also offered a ride to space for a suite of backlogged research satellites.

The intricate series of orbital maneuvers, and the long duration of the launch sequence, prompted SpaceX chief executive to Elon Musk to label it the most difficult launch in the company’s history.

“It’s been a bit of a marathon, but when you finish a marathon, you really feel good,” said John Insprucker, principal integration engineer at SpaceX, after the final satellite payload separated from the rocket. “We’ve had an outstanding mission tonight. We lifted off from 39A, turned night into day with the Falcon Heavy, over 5 million pounds of thrust.”

“The center core went downrange, and we knew it was going to be the toughest mission ever for a center core,” Insprucker said on SpaceX’s launch webcast. “We did get the visibility of the drone ship camera, but we just missed the drone ship, “Of Course I Still Love You.” However, the side cores made up for that with a great return to Landing Zones 1 and 2.”

“The second stage went into orbit,” Insprucker said. We did four burns of the second stage, all of them were right on target. We did 24 of 24 payload separations, and then the icing on the cake tonight was the ability to get one half of the payload fairing, as we were targeting, into the net above the ocean on our recovery ship known as ‘Ms. Tree.'”

The Air Force confirmed in a tweet Tuesday afternoon that all of the payloads launched by the Falcon Heavy were alive and transmitting signals.

“All satellites are on orbit and have made contact!” the Air Force Space and Missile Systems tweeted.


Falcon Heavy launches on action-packed mission

Running three hours late after a ground system hydraulic held up the countdown Monday night, the Falcon Heavy lit its 27 Merlin main engines at rocketed into a moonlit sky at 2:30 a.m. EDT (0630 GMT) Tuesday.

The Falcon Heavy’s three boosters drove the rocket off the pad with some 5.1 million pounds of thrust, more than any other launcher currently in service, and steered the vehicle toward the east.

The window-ratting launch was the first nighttime takeoff by a Falcon Heavy, coming after two daytime departures SpaceX’s heavy-lifter in February 2018 and on April 11.

Around two-and-a-half minutes into the launch, the side boosters shut down and separated from the Falcon Heavy’s center core to begin a series of propulsive maneuvers guiding the twin rockets back to Landing Zone 1 and Landing Zone 2 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, around 9 miles (15 kilometers) south of pad 39A.



In this photo, the Falcon Heavy’s two side boosters begin their “boost-back” burns to reverse course and return for landings at Cape Canaveral. At bottom, the Falcon Heavy’s center core booster continues downrange. Credit: Walter Scriptunas II / Spaceflight Now

Speeding back from the edge of space, the rockets reignited their engines for a re-entry braking burn, and a final maneuver to slow for nearly simultaneous landings at Cape Canaveral.

A pair of double sonic booms echoed across Florida’s Space Coast as the rockets returned.

Tuesday morning’s mission was the first time SpaceX has landed two rocket boosters at the same time at night. The side boosters both flew on the previous Falcon Heavy mission with the Arabsat 6A commercial communications satellite in April, when they also landed back at Cape Canaveral.

After release of the side boosters, the Falcon Heavy’s brand new center core throttled up its engines to full power. The core stage operated at partial power for the first couple of minutes of the mission to conserve fuel.

Around three-and-a-half minutes after liftoff, the core stage turned off its engines and separate to begin its own controlled descent to SpaceX’s offshore drone ship positioned nearly 770 miles (1,240 kilometers) east of Cape Canaveral.

Live video transmitted from the drone ship showed the core stage narrowly missed landing. The recovery vessel was parked farther downrange than for any previous SpaceX mission, and the Falcon Heavy’s core stage came down faster than any booster before.

Before Tuesday’s launch, Musk gave 50-50 odds of recovering the center core intact.

The core stage from the inaugural Falcon Heavy launch in February 2018 crashed on landing, and the center booster from the second Falcon Heavy mission in April made a successful touchdown, but tipped over before it could be secured for return to port.

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Falcon Heavy launches on military-led rideshare mission, boat catches fairing (2)

Falcon Heavy’s upper stage succeeds in intricate orbital ballet


The STP-2 mission’s multi-satellite stack before encapsulation inside the Falcon Heavy’s payload fairing. Credit: SpaceX

The booster and fairing recoveries were just the start of the Falcon Heavy’s mission Tuesday. The rocket’s second stage, powered by a single Merlin engine, ignited four times on the lengthy flight.

The first burn heaved the mission’s 8,157-pound (3,700-kilogram) payload stack into low Earth orbit, where 13 spacecraft deployed from adapters on the Falcon Heavy’s upper stage.

The first orbital target for the STP-2 mission ranged in altitude between about 186 miles (300 kilometers) and 534 miles (860 kilometers). The first orbit had an inclination, or tilt, of 28.5 degrees to the equator.

The first of the payloads to release from the Falcon Heavy will be Oculus-ASR, a microsatellite developed by students at Michigan Technological University in partnership with the Air Force Research Laboratory. Oculus-ASR will test the ability of ground-based observers to determine the orientation and configuration of a satellite in orbit using unresolved imagery. It will also release a pair of small spherical masses to help calibrate instruments that track orbiting space objects.

Twelve CubeSats also ejected from carrier modules on the upper stage.

The Naval Research Laboratory’s Tether Electrodynamics Propulsion CubeSat Experiment, or TEPCE, mission consists of two CubeSats that will be connected by a nearly 3,300-foot (1-kilometer) electrically conducting tether. The experiment will test the tether’s ability to provide electrodynamic propulsion in space, which future missions could use in place of conventional rocket fuel.

The FalconSat 7 satellite, a toaster oven-sized CubeSat developed at the U.S. Air Force Academy, next deployed from the rocket. FalconSat 7 will test a deployable optical solar telescope structure in orbit, a device that could be used on future military reconnaissance and surveillance missions.

The Falcon Heavy then released the ARMADILLO CubeSat developed at the University of Texas at Austin. ARMADILLO carries a dust detector to characterize the population of tiny space debris objects in low Earth orbit.

The U.S. Naval Academy’s PSAT 2 and BRICSAT 2 CubeSats, each carrying amateur radio payloads, then separated form the rocket. Then the rocket deployed a Prometheus CubeSat for U.S. Special Operations Command.

NASA’s two Enhanced Tandem Beacon Experiment, or E-TBEx, CubeSats were next to separate from the rocket. The CubeSats will transmit radio signals down to receiving stations on Earth for scientists to examine how the transmissions are perturbed by disturbances in the ionosphere, a layer in the upper atmosphere through which GPS navigation and satellite communication signals must traverse to reach users on the ground.



The E-TBEx CubeSats. Credit: University of Michigan/Michigan Exploration Lab

The final satellites to separate in the STP-2 mission’s first orbit were the Launch Environment Observer and StangSat CubeSats, which recorded telemetry and environmental data inside their deployer box during launch. The LEO CubeSat was built by students at Cal Poly, and StangSat comes from students at Merritt Island High School in Florida.

With the first batch of satellites away, a second firing by the Falcon Heavy’s upper stage engine propelled the rocket into a circular orbit around 447 miles (720 kilometers) above Earth, with an inclination at 24 degrees, closer to the equator.

Georgia Tech’s suitcase-sized Prox-1 microsatellite was the first spacecraft to deploy in the STP-2 mission’s second orbit. Prox-1, also funded through an Air Force Research Laboratory grant, will test proximity operations and in-orbit inspection techniques after releasing a daughter satellite July 1 named LightSail 2, a crowd-funded CubeSat from the Planetary Society designed to demonstrate the propulsion capability of a solar sail, which harnesses pressure from sunlight for thrust.

A satellite named NPSAT 1 developed at the Naval Postgraduate School next separated from the Falcon Heavy. NPSAT 1 carries two instruments from the Naval Research Laboratory to measure electron cloud densities in Earth’s ionosphere, a layer high above Earth that affects long-range radio communications. Engineers will also use the microsatellite to test a radiation-tolerant computer processor, experimental solar cells, and low-cost memory devices, rate sensors and a commercial digital camera.

The next event was the deployment of the Orbital Test Bed spacecraft built by General Atomics. The Orbital Test Bed, or OTB, mission hosts several payloads, including the Deep Space Atomic Clock experiment from NASA, which will test a new type of hyper-accurate atomic clock that could make it easier for deep space probes to navigate.

Another package attached to the OTB satellite carries the cremated remains of 152 people, including the late astronaut Bill Pogue and space journalist and historian Frank Sietzen. The payload, called “Heritage Flight” and arranged by Celestis, will remain in orbit with the OTB spaceraft for around 25 years.

NASA’s Green Propellant Infusion Mission also separated in the 447-mile-high orbit. Built by Ball Aerospace with a propulsion system from Aerojet Rocketdyne, the mission will test a new type of non-toxic “green” propellant that could be used on future satellites to replace hydrazine, a caustic fuel commonly used on spacecraft because it can be stored for years at room temperature.

Read our full story discussing NASA’s experiments on the STP-2 launch for details on the Deep Space Atomic Clock and the Green Propellant Infusion Mission.

The Falcon Heavy upper stage then maneuvered into the proper orientation for separation of six identical satellites for the Constellation Observing System for Meteorology, Ionosphere, and Climate-2, or COSMIC-2, mission.

The COSMIC-2 satellites, each about the size of a standard kitchen oven, will form a weather observation network collecting data on temperature, pressure, density and water vapor at various layers in Earth’s atmosphere. The COSMIC-2 mission was developed by an international consortium of institutions led by NOAA, the U.S. government’s weather agency, and Taiwan’s National Space Organization, with instrument contributions from the Air Force.



Artist’s concept of a COSMIC-2 satellite. Credit: NOAA

Telemetry data radioed from the Falcon Heavy rocket confirmed all six COSMIC-2 satellites separated as planned, setting the stage for the final phase of the STP-2 mission.

The rocket’s Merlin upper stage engine reignited two more times to target a unique orbit between 3,728 miles (6,000 kilometers) and 7,456 miles (12,000 kilometers) in altitude, with an inclination of 42 degrees to the equator.

The fourth burn set a record for a SpaceX mission. No previous Falcon 9 or Falcon Heavy launch had fired its upper stage engine more than three times.

At 6:04 a.m. EDT (1004 GMT), more than three-and-a-half hours after liftoff, the Falcon Heavy deployed the mission’s final payload — the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Demonstration and Science Experiments, or DSX, spacecraft.

The DSX satellite will fly in a slot region between the Van Allen radiation belts with instruments to measure the effects of very low frequency radio waves on space radiation, space weather conditions and the impact of radiation on electronics and spacecraft materials.

“The space domain has never been more important to our nation than it is today,” said Maj. Gen. William Cooley, commander of the Air Force Research Laboratory. “The DSX satellite experiment will greatly increase our understanding of the environment spacecraft operate in and will give us the knowledge to build even better satellites to protect and defend our space assets. I am immensely proud of the AFRL scientists, engineers, and technicians that conceived and built the DSX satellite.”

In addition to the Air Force experiments, DSX hosts NASA hardware to measure how radiation can corrupt spacecraft memory devices and damage electrical circuits.

With DSX off of the rocket, the Falcon Heavy’s upper stage was to be “passivated,” or put into a safe configuration, by dumping the rocket’s leftover propellant overboard. The passivation milestone was expected to mark the end of the full STP-2 launch sequence, which was expected to last between six and seven hours.

Tuesday morning’s launch was designed to exercise the Falcon Heavy to its limits, allowing SpaceX and the Air Force to collect data to ensure the rocket is ready to lift the military’s most expensive national security payloads into orbit.

“Volume-wise, the payloads take up about a third, maybe a little more than a third, of their payload fairing,” said Mike Marlow, the STP-2 mission manager at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, in a conference call with reporters before the launch. “But performance-wise, because we’re going to three different orbits, it takes up all of the Falcon Heavy’s performance, actually.”

The satellites on-board the STP-2 mission, while unique and valuable, are all experimental. The Air Force holds launch vehicles assigned to carry operational reconnaissance, communications and navigation payloads to a higher standard.

The Air Force announced the Falcon Heavy was certified after its inaugural flight last year, making it eligible to win contracts to launch the military’s most critical operational satellites. The Air Force signed the contract for the STP-2 mission with SpaceX in December 2012 as a purely experimental mission.

Since last year’s certification milestone, the Air Force has awarded SpaceX two launch contracts for missions codenamed AFSPC-44 and AFSPC-52, which are scheduled for launch from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in late 2020 and early 2021.

The STP-2 mission will now be the third certification flight for the Falcon Heavy as the Air Force prepares to entrust the launcher with more important payloads.

“What we’re doing now is what we call the spaceflight worthiness process,” said Col. Robert Bongiovi, director of the launch enterprise systems directorate at the Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center.

“This launch, STP-2, is the third certification flight. It’s one of many sets of data and reviews that we do with SpaceX and any contractor that we’re certifying for (and) doing non-recurring design and validation on … to get to the point where (we) can certify that that launch vehicle is ready to launch the critical national security payloads that we’ll be launching on those two missions,” Bongiovi said before the STP-2 mission.

The Air Force will also use the experience gained from the STP-2 mission to help certify reused rocket hardware for national security missions. The Air Force’s launches with SpaceX, to date, have all used newly-built Falcon 9 boosters.

“The launch was originally just an opportunity to characterize the launch vehicle for future use by the National Security Space Launch program, but now it is the Air Force’s first launch using previously-flown rocket hardware,” Bongiovi said.

With Tuesday’s Falcon Heavy flight, SpaceX has re-flown a Falcon booster 24 times since March 2017, all successfully.

“The use of the previously-flown hardware is providing critical insight into reusability and quality assurance that will allow us to provide space access to the warfighter in a more cost-effective and expedient manner, and I really appreciate the efforts of our industry partner SpaceX to make this happen,” Bongiovi said.

In the AFSPC-52 launch contract announced last year, the Air Force agreed to pay SpaceX $130 million for a Falcon Heavy mission. The Delta 4-Heavy rocket, the biggest vehicle the fleet of SpaceX rival United Launch Alliance, sells for about $300 million per flight.

If SpaceX convinces the Air Force to certify reused rockets for national security missions, the price of a Falcon Heavy mission could further fall.

“The reason that we’re excited about this, and about having previously-flown hardware on (STP-2) is that we’ve been able to fo follow along as we’ve done recovery and refurbishment of those boosters,” Bongiovi said.

The STP-2 mission was originally supposed to launch with all-new boosters, but the Air Force and SpaceX agreed late last year to change plans and fly reused side boosters.

STP-2 was supposed to launch on the second Falcon Heavy mission, but the contract modification pushed the STP-2 launch behind the launch of the Arabsat 6A telecom satellite in SpaceX’s queue.

The boosters from the Arabsat 6A mission were among the most “gently-used” in SpaceX’s inventory, Air Force officials said. They encountered relatively benign aerodynamic forces and structural loads on their descent back to Florida’s Space Coast in April.

The Air Force’s launch contract with SpaceX for the STP-2 mission was previously valued at $185 million, according to Lt. Col. Ryan Rose, chief of the small launch and targets division at Kirtland Air Force Base.

The launch is now costing the Air Force around $160 million, and a “big factor” in the cost reduction was the military’s agreement to fly the STP-2 mission with reused rocket boosters, Bongiovi said.

With STP-2 in the books, SpaceX is gearing up for a pair of Falcon 9 launches from Florida’s Space Coast in July.

One of the flights, set for July 21, will launch a Dragon cargo capsule on a resupply mission to the International Space Station.

SpaceX is preparing different Falcon 9 rocket to launch the Amos 17 communications satellite as soon as late July for Spacecom Ltd. of Israel. A target launch date for that mission has not been announced.

Meanwhile, Air Force launch teams will turn their attention to three missions in July.

The Air Force is supporting an atmospheric abort test of NASA’s Orion crew capsule scheduled for July 2 at Cape Canaveral. A test version of the Orion spacecraft will blast off aboard a converted Air Force Peacekeeper missile to demonstrate the capsule’s ability to escape from a launch failure.

Air Force communications and navigation satellites are set for launch from Florida’s Space Coast on July 12 and July 25 aboard United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 and Delta 4 rockets.


Source: https://spaceflightnow.com/2019/06/25/falcon-heavy-launches-on-military-led-rideshare-mission-boat-catches-fairing/