SpaceX sticks the landing perfectly!

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vreihen

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I was watching the webcast live last night, but they didn't show this view from a helicopter at the Cape:


Sorta bummed that they didn't try for the barge again, since they were stationing it right off the coast near where I'm spending the holidays. Still, impressive accomplishment for what is essentially a startup company with no long history of spaceflight through military contracts and stuff. (It was overcast here anyway.)

A news story on the local radio here this morning said that Musk wasn't sure if they would try to re-fly this booster or keep it around because it was the first to land successfully, but his engineers will have plenty of time to study it.....
 
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Uwe

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I wonder how much altitude and delta-V (and thus payload to orbit) they're giving up but doing stage separation early enough to retain sufficient fuel -- not so much for landing the first stage, the fuel needed to do that is apparently fairly minimal, but by turning it around (from a 6000 km/h velocity!) and bringing it back to the launch site. The original scheme of landing it on a barge positioned well down-range made far more sense to me from that perspective.

-Uwe-
 
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I wonder how much altitude and delta-V (and thus payload to orbit) they're giving up but doing stage separation early enough to retain sufficient fuel -- not so much for landing the first stage, the fuel needed to do that is apparently fairly minimal, but by turning it around (from a 6000 km/h velocity!) and bringing it back to the launch site. The original scheme of landing it on a barge positioned well down-range made far more sense to me from that perspective.
They've done some upgrades for this launch (like deep cryo propellants) and they're getting some more performance from both stages, and stage 2 in particular was stretched a bit. I think they stage a bit earlier as a result.

My understanding is this: Before the upgrades, they were in a position to land downrange on the barge for some missions, but others they had to fly expendable because they needed every bit of performance to hit their customer's requirement. After the upgrades, all of their currently contracted missions have enough margin for stage 1 recovery, usually back to land, or downrange on the barge if they must. Anything in the future that would need all of Falcon 9 v1.2's performance in expendable mode will instead be flown cheaper using Falcon Heavy in recoverable mode. Falcon Heavy side cores will RTLS as they separate pretty early but the center core will almost certainly need the barge due to downrange distance and speed.

Jason
 
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vreihen

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Turning the first stage around sans the mass of the second stage and all of the first stage fuel that was burned off on ascent probably isn't too difficult. During the live stream, they said that only three (of the 9?) engines were used on the first burn, and there was a lot of unpowered descent with the steering flaps guiding it towards LZ-1. This is the first flight of the new booster, and it was enlarged to provide enough fuel for a comfortable first stage RTLS. My impression is that the FAA would not give them permission to RTLS until they demonstrated the ability to control the booster, which was the whole purpose of the water landings and then two [long] shots at the barge. This was the first flight after the FAA signed off on RTLS, and obviously everything worked to perfection.....
 
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YES!

 
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vreihen

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Video from a KSC tour bus, moving the recovered booster back to the pad for test-firing:

 
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vreihen

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SpaceX stuck another landing on their barge early this morning, this time from a geosynchronous launch where they only gave the recovery a 50/50 chance due to the higher altitude/speed!

Skip to video time index 38:05 to see the touchdown:

https://youtu.be/L0bMeDj76ig?t=2285


Elon Musk mused that he's going to have to expand his rocket storage hangar at Kennedy Space Center if they keep recovering them like this.....
 
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vreihen

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SpaceX stuck their third barge landing in a row this evening!!!!!

(Fast forward to video time index 38:21)

 
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Uwe

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For the third time in two months -- these guys are on a ROLL!
 
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vreihen

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For the third time in two months -- these guys are on a ROLL!
Am I going crazy, or were the early failures because the rockets couldn't read the instructions? If I have the score correctly, they had zero successful landings on "Just Read the Instructions," and three good landings in a row on "Of Course I Still Love You".....
 
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vreihen

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I actually just learned something about the barges, if Wikipedia can be trusted as a source. SpaceX's first barge (scene of lots of crashes) was an early design named "Just Read the Instructions." It never saw a successful landing in Atlantic service before it was retired.

While they were working the kinks out, Musk had two new barges under construction incorporating a few changes learned from the first one. "Of Course I Still Love You" was stationed in Florida, and the second new barge (also named "Just Read the Instructions" to make things confusing) was sent through the Panama Canal to be stationed in California for Pacific launches.

The one Pacific test landing on the new "Just Read the Instructions" had the booster land upright, but subsequently tumble because one of the landing legs didn't lock properly. On the Atlantic side, they have three landings in a row on "Of Course I Still Love You" as of tonight. Long story short, I wasn't aware of the name re-use on the California-based barge, so maybe their success is due to improvements in the barges rather than the rockets not being able to read instructions.....
 
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vreihen

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United Launch Alliance finally got their Delta IV Heavy off the ground this afternoon, after weather holds on Thursday. Is it just me, or is their live-streamed video reminiscent of 1960's TV after watching the exciting SpaceX launch broadcasts?????

 
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Uwe

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Dang, it really does look like they're using cameras and animation from the last century.

Of course throwing away first stage boosters is starting to look kinda last-century too. :)
 
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