News from Cape Canaveral
Updated January 19, 2018

 

 

January 19, 2018

Atlas V Successfully Launches SBIRS GEO-4 Satellite

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket successfully launched the Air Force SBIRS GEO-4 satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Pad 41 at 7:48 p.m. EST tonight. Launch was delayed 24 hours while engineers troubleshooted a stuck liquid oxygen fill and drain valve located in ground support equipment. SBIRS GEO-4, short for Space Based Infra-Red System Geosynchronous Flight 4, is the fourth in a four-satellite SBIRS constellation positioned in geosynchronous orbit about 22,000 miles above Earth.

 

SBIRS Launch 1

Atlas V Launch View From Launch Pad 41, Photo Courtesy United Launch Alliance

According to an Air Force publication, the SBIRS mission is “to provide global, persistent, infrared surveillance and environmental monitoring capabilities to our warfighters and the nation.” The SBIRS GEO-4 satellite consists of multiple subsystems that allow the satellite to conduct its primary mission of global missile warning via infrared sensing. The satellite subsystems include communication, flight software, electrical power, structures and mechanisms, propulsion, command and data handling, thermal control and guidance, navigation and control.

 

SBIRS Launch 2

Atlas V Launch View From Launch Complex 41, Photo Courtesy United Launch Alliance

Among the SBIRS GEO-4 “advertised” capabilities are the ability to provide faster and more accurate missile warning to the warfighter, detection of much dimmer events and shorter missile burns than previous missile warning satellites, enhanced point-of-origin determination and point-of-impact prediction as well as fulfilling multiple national defense requirements in a single satellite. The SBIRS GEO-4 satellite weighed about 10,000 pounds fully fueled at launch and has a design life of 12 years with 9.8 years average mission duration. The satellite’s prime contractor is Lockheed Martin Space Systems Corporation.

 

Atlas V Launch View From Press Site, Photo Courtesy Liz Allen/Lloyd Behrendt, The Space Coast

 

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January 18, 2018

Atlas V SBIRS GEO-4 Launch Scrubbed

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

Launch of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Air Force SBIRS GEO-4 payload scheduled for this evening has been scrubbed. Late in the countdown, engineers discovered a potentially faulty stuck liquid oxygen fill and drain valve located in ground support equipment. There was reportedly nothing amiss on the rocket itself.

If the issue can be resolved fairly quickly, the launch may be rescheduled as early as Friday, January 19. Launch window on January 19 extends from 7:48 p.m. to 8:28 p.m. EST. Air Force meteorologists predict a 90% chance of favorable weather for a launch attempt on Friday. The rocket will launch the SBIRS GEO-4 (Space Based Infra-Red System Geosynchronous-4) satellite, the fourth in a four-satellite constellation designed to detect ballistic missile and rocket launches anywhere on the globe. Launch will be from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Pad 41.

 

Atlas V Viewed From Press Site, Photo Courtesy Liz Allen/Lloyd Behrendt, The Space Coast

 

 

SBIRS Scrub.jpg

Atlas V Viewed From Launch Pad 41, Photo Courtesy United Launch Alliance

 

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January 9, 2018

More Mystery As ZUMA Payload Is Reported To Be Lost

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

There is now even more mystery surrounding the secret ZUMA payload launched aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Pad 40 on January 7, 2018. A number of reliable news sources have reported that the payload was lost when it failed to separate from the Falcon 9 second stage and plunged back to Earth, according to anonymous sources. SpaceX has officially disputed this claim, stating that the Falcon 9 rocket performed nominally during its flight. So, if the payload  has indeed failed, it would be a problem with the payload itself, not the Falcon 9 rocket. Northrup Grumman, who scheduled the ZUMA launch for an undisclosed U.S. Government customer, has declined comment because the payload and its mission are secret. We will have more on this story as new information becomes available.

 

Zuma Landing 2

Falcon 9 Booster Lands At Landing Zone 1, Photo Courtesy SpaceX

 

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January 7, 2018

Falcon 9 Successfully Launches Mysterious ZUMA Payload

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

The Cape’s first rocket launch of 2018 is in the books. A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket successfully launched the mysterious ZUMA payload at 8:00 p.m. EST tonight from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Pad 40. Little is known about ZUMA, other than that its launch was scheduled by Northrup Grumman on behalf of an undisclosed U.S. government customer. Neither the National Reconnaissance Office nor any military branch has said that the ZUMA payload belongs to them. Ownership and purpose of the payload remains secret. Northrup Grumman has confirmed that the payload was launched to Low-Earth Orbit, primarily owning to the fact that the Falcon 9 first stage booster returned for a successful landing at the Cape’s Landing Zone 1 about eight minutes after liftoff. The booster is typically recovered on land during missions to Low-Earth Orbit. During launches to Geostationary Transfer Orbit, the booster is typically recovered on a barge at sea. Although various theories about the purpose of the ZUMA payload abound, it is Spaceline policy not to speculate regarding secret payloads.

 

Zuma Launch

Falcon 9 Launches With ZUMA Payload, Photo Courtesy SpaceX

 

 

Zuma Landing

Falcon 9 First Stage Booster Lands At Landing Zone 1, Photo Courtesy SpaceX

 

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January 3, 2018

Navy Confirms No Eastern Range Trident II Launches In 2017

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

The Navy Office of Strategic Systems Programs has confirmed that there were no Eastern Range Trident II submerged submarine launches in 2017. This was only the third year since 1957 that the Navy has not launched test vehicles or missiles over the Atlantic Ocean. There were also no Eastern Range Trident II launches in 2008 and 2011. The first Cape launch of a Navy vehicle tied to the submarine-based missile effort, that of a Polaris Flight Test Vehicle (Polaris FTV), a modified X-17 research rocket, was conducted on April 13, 1957. The first launch of a missile from a submerged submarine was conducted over Atlantic waters from the USS George Washington on July 20, 1960. The first launch of a Trident II missile from a submerged submarine was conducted on March 21, 1989 from the USS Tennessee. That launch resulted in the infamous “pinwheel” failure, prompting a redesign of the missile’s first stage steering system before launches resumed. The record for total number of Navy launches over the Eastern Range was 82, set in 1963.

 

Trident II Launch

Trident II Launch From Submerged Submarine, File Photo Courtesy U.S. Navy

 

 

Trident II Failure

Trident II Failure From USS Tennessee 3-21-1989, File Photo Courtesy U.S. Navy

 

Trident II History

First Missile Launch From A Submerged Submarine 7-20-1960, File Photo Courtesy U.S. Navy

 

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December 28, 2017

Falcon Heavy Raised Vertically On Launch Pad 39A

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

A SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket was raised vertically on Launch Pad 39A today. This marks the first time a Falcon Heavy has been erected at the launch pad. The rocket is expected to be lowered to a horizontal position and returned to its assembly hangar tomorrow. Still no word on when the rocket will again be raised vertically at the launch pad for a planned test firing of its 27 first stage booster engines, capable of producing over 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff. The Falcon Heavy will be making its maiden launch, still scheduled for some time in January, 2018. Set to perform a demonstration flight, the rocket will carry a Tesla Roadster automobile on a deep space trajectory.

 

Falcon Heavy On Pad

Falcon Heavy Rocket On Launch Pad 39A, Photo Courtesy SpaceX

 

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December 26, 2017

SpaceX Releases Photos Of Falcon Heavy Payload

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

Tesla Payload 2

Tesla Roadster Falcon Heavy Payload, Photo Courtesy SpaceX

SpaceX has released photos of the payload set to fly aboard a Falcon Heavy rocket on its maiden flight scheduled for January, 2018. The payload is indeed a red Tesla Roadster automobile that will be sent on a solar orbit at approximate Mars distance. SpaceX and Tesla head Elon Musk has said that he hopes the automobile will remain in orbit for “billions” of years. The photos depict the automobile perched inside the cavernous Falcon Heavy composite payload fairing. Officially, the Falcon Heavy rocket will be performing a demonstration flight. Musk has maintained that there is a high probability that the mission will not be successful.

 

Tesla Payload 1

Tesla Roadster Falcon Heavy Payload, Photo Courtesy SpaceX

 

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December 20, 2017

SpaceX Unveils Falcon Heavy Rocket

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

SpaceX today released photos of a Falcon Heavy rocket targeted for its maiden launch in January, 2018. The photos were taken inside a horizontal assembly hangar adjacent to Launch Pad 39A, from which the launch is scheduled to occur. The Falcon Heavy is comprised of three Falcon 9 first stage booster cores strapped together, with a total of 27 engines fired at liftoff. The rocket can produce 5.13 million pounds of thrust at launch, making it the world’s most powerful launch vehicle. Historically, the Falcon Heavy is second only to the mighty Saturn V in liftoff thrust. The Saturn V produced 7.5 million pounds of thrust at launch.

 

Falcon Heavy Engines

Falcon Heavy Triple Core Booster Engines, Photo Courtesy SpaceX

The Falcon Heavy rocket stands 229.6 feet tall with a total width of 39.9 feet. Fully fueled, the rocket has a total mass of 3.125 million pounds at launch. The rocket can carry a composite fairing or a Dragon capsule, depending on mission requirements. Like the Falcon 9 rocket, the Falcon Heavy first stage and second stage burn a combination of liquid oxygen and RP-1 (kerosene) fuel. All three first stage core booster segments are recoverable. The outside two core boosters will both land at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Landing Zone 1, while the central core booster will be recovered on a barge at sea.

With the capability of carrying a maximum 140,600 pounds of payload to Low Earth Orbit, the Falcon Heavy performance is far and above that of comparable launch vehicles. Payload capability to Low Earth Orbit of the Falcon Heavy is roughly three times greater than the Space Shuttle and Delta IV Heavy, and roughly four times greater than the Atlas V. The Falcon Heavy can also carry a maximum 58,860-pound payload to Geostationary Transfer Orbit, a maximum 37,040-pound payload to Mars or a maximum 7,720-pound payload to Pluto. The first Falcon Heavy launch will be a demonstration flight, but SpaceX has said that the rocket will carry a Tesla automobile which will be sent on a deep space trajectory.

 

Falcon Heavy From Above

Falcon Heavy Rocket, Photo Courtesy SpaceX

 

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December 19, 2017

Merry Christmas As Spaceline Remembers Apollo 8

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

Santa

Santa Claus In Space, File Photo Courtesy NASA

Christmas had been celebrated in space for many years now. Apollo 8, Skylab 4, STS-103 and crews aboard the International Space Station have all celebrated Christmas in space. Santa Claus actually visited Space Shuttle Discovery during STS-103, a Hubble Space Telescope servicing mission, on Christmas Eve, 1999. Mission controllers in Houston were stunned as Santa visited Discovery in the dead of night, delivering presents for the seven-member crew.

 

ISS Astronaut

Expedition 42 Astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti Aboard ISS, File Photo Courtesy NASA

But for those of us who have been around for a while, the most memorable Christmas mission remains Apollo 8, mankind’s first journey to the Moon and back. While Apollo 8 astronauts Frank Borman, James Lovell and William Anders orbited the Moon on Christmas Eve, 1968, they took time to read from the Bible’s Book of Genesis Chapter 1, verses 1 through 10, King James version. The reading was included as part of a televised broadcast, which at the time was the most watched broadcast in television history.

 

Anders

Astronaut William Anders Aboard Apollo 8, File Photo Courtesy NASA

Astronaut William Anders began:

We are now approaching lunar sunrise, and for all the people back on Earth, the crew of Apollo 8 has a message that we would like to send to you. In the beginning, God created the heaven and the earth, and the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness.

 

Lovell

Astronaut James Lovell Aboard Apollo 8, File Photo Courtesy NASA

Astronaut James Lovell continued:

And God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament, and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day.

 

Borman

Astronaut Frank Borman Aboard Apollo 8, File Photo Courtesy NASA

Astronaut Frank Borman concluded:

And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear; and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called He seas; And God saw that it was good. And from the crew of Apollo 8, we close with good night, good luck, a Merry Christmas, and God bless all of you, all of you on the good Earth.

 

Earth

The “Good Earth” Photographed During Apollo 8, File Photo Courtesy NASA

It was one of those really significant and memorable broadcasts in the history of the U.S. space program, not that secular concerns were ignored. On Christmas Day, 1968, the Apollo 8 crew performed a Trans-Earth Injection burn, which was conducted from the dark side of the Moon, out of reach of communication with Earth. Once voice contact was restored, astronaut James Lovell exclaimed, Please be informed, there IS a Santa Claus! Ken Mattingly, the Mission Control Capsule Communicator at the time, replied, That’s affirmative, you are the best ones to know!

We hope this humble article brings back Christmas memories, or creates new ones. Merry Christmas from all of us here at Spaceline!

 

 

 

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December 15, 2017

Falcon 9 Successfully Launches CRS-13 For NASA

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

CRS-13 Launch

 

SpaceX Falcon 9 Launches With CRS-13 Payload, Photo Courtesy NASA

                                                                                                           

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the CRS-13 payload was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Pad 40 at 10:36 a.m. EST today. Launch Pad 40 is now officially back in service following a Falcon 9 explosion on the pad in September 2016. This gives SpaceX added flexibility with two active Cape launch pads, Launch Pad 40 and Launch Pad 39A, which is currently undergoing renovation for the mammoth Falcon Heavy rocket, targeted for its maiden launch in early 2018.

 

The CRS-13 payload consists of a Dragon capsule bound for the International Space Station (ISS). The Dragon capsule will be docked to ISS on Sunday, December 17. Today’s Falcon 9 launch featured two pieces of flight proven hardware. The Falcon 9 first stage booster was previously flown on CRS-11 launched in June 2017 while the Dragon capsule was previously flown on CRS-6 in April, 2015. The Falcon 9 first stage booster launched today completed a successful landing at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Landing Zone 1, formerly Launch Complex 13. Launch was conducted under the NASA Commercial Resupply Services contract.

 

The SpaceX Dragon capsule carries about 4,800 pounds of International Space Station supplies and equipment, divided into pressurized and unpressurized payloads. Pressurized payloads include about 1,000 pounds of crew supplies, 1,500 pounds of science investigations, 350 pounds of spacewalk equipment, 400 pounds of vehicle hardware and 10 pounds of computer resources. A total of about 1,400 pounds of equipment and supplies are unpressurized. Scientific investigations carried include:

 

Plant Gravity Perception (PGP), which is designed to study how plants sense and respond to gravity; Biorasis Glucose Biosensor (BGB), which seeks to improve the accuracy of a wireless medically implantable continuous glucose biosensor for day-to-day diabetes management; Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS), which measures total solar irradiance and solar spectral irradiance to help determine Earth’s total energy input from the Sun; Space Debris Sensor (SDS) which is a calibrated impact sensor designed to directly measure the International Space Station orbital debris environment for a period of two to three years.

 

 

CRS-13 Booster Landing

 

Falcon 9 First Stage Booster Approaches Landing Zone 1, Photo Courtesy NASA

 

 

December 12, 2017

CRS-13 Launch Delayed Again

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

Launch of the CRS-13 payload aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket has been postponed again. Launch is now targeted for Friday, December 15, 2017 at 10:35 a.m. EST. SpaceX reported that the delay will allow additional time for the launch team to conduct full inspections and cleanings due to detection of particles in the Falcon 9 second stage fuel system. The company said that if the launch does not occur on Friday, it will be postponed to no earlier than late December. The CRS-13 payload consists of a SpaceX Dragon capsule filled with about 4,800 pounds of supplies and equipment for the International Space Station. Launch will occur from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Pad 40, which will host its first launch since a Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the pad in September 2016. The launch is being conducted under the NASA Commercial Resupply Services contract.

 

Falcon 9 In Flight

 

Falcon 9 Rocket In Flight, File Photo Courtesy SpaceX

 

 

December 11, 2017

CRS-13 Launch Delayed

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

Launch of the CRS-13 payload aboard a Falcon 9 rocket scheduled for December 12, 2017 has been postponed. The launch is now scheduled for Wednesday, December 13 at 11:24 a.m. EST. SpaceX reported that the delay will allow additional time for pre-launch ground system checks. The CRS-13 payload consists of a SpaceX Dragon capsule filled with about 4,800 pounds of supplies and equipment bound for the International Space Station. Launch will occur from Launch Pad 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, which is hosting its first launch since a Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the pad in September 2016. The launch is being conducted under the NASA Commercial Resupply Services contract. For the latest updates, click “Launch Schedule” above. It is typically updated before stories are posted here.

 

Falcon 9 Launch

 

Falcon 9 Launch, File Photo Courtesy SpaceX

 

 

December 6, 2017

CRS-13 And Other Launch Updates

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

The CRS-13 launch aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket has been postponed again, this time to Tuesday, December 12 at 11:46 a.m. EST. CRS-13 consists of a SpaceX Dragon capsule which carries supplies and equipment for the International Space Station (ISS). CRS-13 will dock with ISS two days after launch and the mission is being conducted as part of the NASA Commercial Resupply Services contract. Launch will be from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Pad 40, which will return to service after refurbishment resulting from a Falcon 9 launch pad explosion at the site in September 2016.

 

In other launch news, the mysterious ZUMA payload previously scheduled for launch from Launch Pad 39A atop a Falcon 9 rocket on November 15, 2017 has been rescheduled for a target date of January 4, 2018. The launch was postponed while SpaceX investigated potential payload fairing problems discovered during preparation for another mission. As surmised in a previous Spaceline News article, the launch of ZUMA, an undisclosed government payload, has been relocated to Launch Pad 40 but will likely occur before the launch of a Falcon Heavy rocket which is targeted for January, 2018 from a renovated Launch Pad 39A. Launch of an Atlas V rocket carrying the Air Force SBIRS GEO-4 payload from Launch Pad 41 remains scheduled for January 18, 2018 while the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Pad 40 carrying the commercial SES-16/GOVSAT-1 payload is targeted for January 30, 2018.

 

For the latest updates on launch activity at Cape Canaveral, click “Launch Schedule” above.

 

Falcon 9 Landing

 

Falcon 9 Booster Landing, File Photo Courtesy SpaceX

 

 

December 6, 2017

CRS-13 Falcon 9 Static Test Firing

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

SpaceX today conducted a static test fire of a Falcon 9 first stage booster on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Pad 40, the first time a rocket has been fired there since a Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the pad in September 2016. The test firing of the Falcon 9’s nine first stage engines for several seconds occurred at 3:00 p.m. EST in advance of the upcoming CRS-13 launch now targeted for Tuesday, December 12 at 11:46 a.m. These static test fires are conducted to validate fueling operations, ground equipment and engine performance. SpaceX reported that the test firing was successful. CRS-13 consists of a Dragon space capsule that will carry supplies and equipment to the International Space Station under the NASA Commercial Resupply Services contract.

 

 

Falcon 9 On Launch Pad 40, File Photo Courtesy SpaceX

 

 

December 4, 2017

CRS-13 Launch Update

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

Launch of the CRS-13 payload aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket previously scheduled for December 4, 2017 has been postponed to Saturday, December 9, 2017. No reason for the delay has been announced. CRS-13 will dock with the International Space Station with supplies and equipment under the Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA. Launch time on December 9 is 12:57 p.m. EST. This will be the first launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Launch Pad 40 since it was destroyed by a Falcon 9 explosion in September 2016.

 

CRS-13 Processing

 

CRS-13 Payload Processing, Photo Courtesy NASA

 

 

December 4, 2017

Falcon Heavy Launch Update

Reported by Cliff Lethbridge

 

The maiden launch of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket has been postponed to no earlier than January 2018. SpaceX head Elon Musk has said that the rocket will carry his Tesla Roadster automobile on a Mars or deep space trajectory, but that has not been confirmed. Launch of the Falcon Heavy has been delayed from 2015. It will be the most powerful modern unmanned rocket. Launch will be from Launch Pad 39A, which is currently being renovated for the Falcon Heavy. Launch of the mysterious ZUMA payload aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Pad 39A previously scheduled for November 15, 2017 has been postponed indefinitely as SpaceX investigates potential payload fairing problems. Launch of ZUMA, an undisclosed government payload, will likely not occur until after the Falcon Heavy and may be moved to Launch Pad 40, which is now back in service following a Falcon 9 explosion in September 2016.

 

Falcon Heavy

 

Falcon Heavy Artist Conception, Photo Courtesy SpaceX