Vandenberg Air Force Base's California SpaceX teams are preparing to launch a Falcon 9 rocket into orbit on Sunday powered by a reused 1st stage booster on its third mission Long-term goal to fly the same rocket on consecutive days again.
This intoxicating target is still some time away – SpaceX chief Elon Musk said in May that a 24-hour missile turnaround could take place in 2019 – but the company's efforts to gradually shorten the time between flights of the same first stage, are driven forward.
Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX's Vice President for Construction and Flight Safety, said in October that the Falcon 9 rockets will soon be flying on the same rocket Airframe, a step-by-step approach to Vandenberg's Sunday mission , a military base some 225 kilometers northwest of Los Angeles, will make a big leap forward.
"So far, we have only flown with an airplane booster twice," said Koenigsmann on October 3 in a speech at the International Astronautical Congress in Bremen. "Soon we will start with a booster three times and then take it four times, five times and so on. Of course, we need to be very careful about rating boosters who come back after several flights. We want to make sure we do not see any wear in the wrong places.
SpaceX is now releasing the final version of the Falcon 9 – Block 5 – which debuted on May 11 with a launch of Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The booster, which had launched this mission and put Bangabandhu 1 into orbit for Bangladesh, landed on the SpaceX drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean, returned to Florida for inspection and rehabilitation, and flew again on paddock on 7 August 40 to neighboring Cape Canaveral Air Force Station with the Indonesian communication aircraft Merah Putih.
After another landing on the drone ship in the Atlantic, the rocket returned to land and SpaceX brought her across California to California to prepare her third flight. now for sunday. The launch of the rocket Falcon 9 is at 10:31:47 PST (1:31:47 EST, 1831: 47 GMT) from the Space Launch Complex 4-East in Vandenberg, at the opening of a half-hour start window. Sixty-four small cars ranging in size from the Rubik's Cube to the refrigerator are mounted on the rocket from 17 nations. Its clients include the US Department of Defense, the planet Earth Corporation, international space agencies, universities and art museums.
Spaceflight, a Seattle-based company that arranges launch services for small satellites, booked the full capacity of the Falcon 9 mission in 2015 and then signed contracts with small owners to complete the journey on a 357-mile route – high (575 kilometers) sun-synchronous polar orbit.
SpaceX plans to land the first stage for the third time on a drone ship stationed in the Pacific off the coast of Vandenberg, possibly for a future quarter launch.
While the new Block 5 version of the Falcon 9 rocket introduced changes to facilitate the recovery and reuse of the first stage, reboosting the boosters is still a learning process for SpaceX, Koenigsmann said in October.  "One of the problems is fatigue," he said. "You have to watch the lifecycle of components. Basically, they vibrate and you need to keep an eye on the fracture control and make sure there are no fractures on those components. This is not really new. Helicopters do that now. They are basically vibratory machines, and they actually track the number of cycles and know exactly when to go into maintenance or preventive maintenance.
"Something similar we can do here on the rocket," continued Koenigsmann. "Basically, we can capture the flight load and then add it to the history of the part and find out when it needs to be replaced, if it needs to be replaced. Ideally, you do not want to change parts.
Asked how well the Block 5 boosters last every launch, Koenigsmann said, "I'm actually surprised. Of course, when the engines are introduced, the engines are getting pretty hot exhaust, so it should be good to get the engines into the (reentry) flow. I'm surprised how well the engines last. There are details. We get damage and made adjustments, I would say. That's one reason why we have these blocks. Basically, we roll in changes to improve the vehicle. I'm actually pretty happy at this point.
For missions that launch satellites in the geostationary orbit, a difference in altitude of more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) above the Earth, the first stage may reach speeds in excess of 5,000 miles per hour, resulting in hotter re-entry conditions leads back to earth. For payloads that are destined for a low orbit of Earth, a few hundred miles higher, the first stage does not have to be that fast.
"There are some hotter reentries that we are still working on to perfect them to be safe," Koenigsmann said. "In the end, the goal is to take the rocket, move it over and start again. Our goal is basically to start within two days and that would be huge if we did that. "
" The main part of the job is the engine, "he said. "We overtake the engine. Most of them are parts that are not suitable for the next flight, so we just swap the parts. It is not actual damage. This is a preventative maintenance that we know may be canceled next time. So we do not take the risk and replace it. We have some impact damage from things flying out of the heat shield and hitting the air cover. That's pretty much what it is. It's not that bad. "
" The Aero cover is what's basically the racetrack on the side, "he said. "We look in the tanks to make sure there are no surprises in the tank. So far, we have only found clean tanks inside. Sometimes we see damage from the thermal protection system acting on the aero covers, reinforcing them to make sure nothing gets broken during the landings. "
" As for refurbishing and building a new rocket, refurbishment is much cheaper, "said Koenigsmann.
" This did not happen overnight, "Koenigsmann said of reusability." We have many, many years worked on it, and we invested a lot of money there, and it was our own money that we used there. "
SpaceX had some financial support, not only from Musk's fortune, but also from venture capital investments and a cash infusion of Google's earnings also generated revenue from commercial customers, as well as from NASA and the US Air Force, which have signed billion-dollar contracts with SpaceX.
SpaceX has discounts on Falcon 9's announced plans A $ 62 million sale price was offered to customers ready to put their satellites on a reused rocket, or, as SpaceX likes it gt, a flight-tested booster. Musk said in May that SpaceX then charged about $ 50 million for flights in a previously flown first stage. He expects a "steady price cut" as the company gains rocket missile reuse experience and pays SpaceX, which Musk said was a $ 1 billion investment in the ability to recover and fly boosters. In May, Musk said the Falcon 9 launch could cost as little as five or six million dollars per flight in about three years, assuming SpaceX could quickly be reused, stage amplifiers, payload covers, and eventually Falcon's second stage 9. But after upgrades were considered to improve the second level of Falcon 9 for re-entry, it travels faster than the first stage and would have to withstand higher entry temperatures – Musk tweeted on November 16, "SpaceX is no longer planning to launch Falcon 9 Update second stage for reusability. "
He said in May that about 60 percent of the marginal cost of a Falcon 9 launch comes from the first stage, 20 percent from the second stage, 10 percent from the payload fairing – aerodynamic coverage protects satellites during launch before the onslaught of air – and about 10 percent in the processing, testing and installation of a missile for the flight.
SpaceX has successfully landed one of its rockets 31 times since its orbital launch – all since December 2015 – The 15-story boosters are being returned from space at speeds of more than 5,000 km / h (nearly 2.3 km per second) , The company has reused a rocket 17 times since March 2017.
Thirty-six missions have been launched by SpaceX since the company resumed flights in January 2017 following an explosion of a Falcon 9 rocket last September. The company's record since returning almost two years ago is perfect. After two outages in 2015 and 2016 – one in flight and one in the country – a supply ship for the space station and a communication satellite located in Israel was destroyed
The mission on Sunday will be the 64th flight of a Falcon 9 rocket in total since the first variant of the SpaceX workhorses debuted in June 2010. If the SSO-A mission is going well, SpaceX wants to continue with the launch of a brand New Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral on Tuesday with another cargo flight to the space station.
"In addition to economic reusability, there is an additional benefit or side effect," Koenigsmann said. "And that's basically the look of the post-flight booster, and you can find things that you would not otherwise see. You can see where things leak or where heat comes through or something like that. You may find loose joints that were previously solid and that you need to protect. This kind of thing is really incredibly valuable to make a more reliable rocket. You can actually inspect it.
"If you do not know what's happening, you can just drop a GoPro in place and watch it start up. That's what we do, we just pull it out and watch and leave, OK, that seems okay, or we find that this is something that needs to be amplified. Telemetry is usually limited by bandwidth. We only log telemetry on-site, just in case, and we get all high-speed data directly from a solid-state state of the vehicle, and use that to see all the loads the vehicle sees, all the data that exists is important to us, and try to improve the vehicle based on this data.
"So there is not just the economic part," he said. "It's the part that I'm actually interested in. My job is reliability and the benefits that greatly improve reusability.
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