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Falcon 9 progress, Events leading up to the first Falcon 9 Launch
ugordan
post Jan 15 2009, 09:41 AM
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I'm not personally betting on it. I can imagine getting 3 F9s off the ground this year with a couple of months between them. Still a long way to go before the pad is fully armed and operational.


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Pavel
post Mar 8 2009, 04:47 AM
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I'm worried that there have been no news from SpaceX for almost two months. Falcon 9 is vertical, but what is happening to it now? How long can it stand on the launch pad, exposed to the elements?
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imipak
post Mar 8 2009, 12:52 PM
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Nothing to worry about; see post #23 and #24, above... Also, the only information about the schedule I'm aware of (dated Feb 2008) talks about delays due to regulatory clearances and approvals leading to a launch late in Q1 2009.



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stevesliva
post Jun 19 2009, 01:23 PM
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37-page presentation to the Augustine Comission. (dun, duuuuuun, dun dun!)
http://spacex.com/SpaceXBriefing_AugustineCommission.pdf

And similar content here:
http://www.spacex.com/updates.php

Sounds like F9 flies in November '09 and Jan '10.
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Greg Hullender
post Jul 29 2009, 08:08 PM
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New press release from SpaceX about Falcon 9. Not posted on spacex.com yet. Basically good news, but still no concrete launch date.

--Greg

SPACEX COMPLETES QUALIFICATION OF FALCON 9 FIRST STAGE TANK AND INTERSTAGE
________________________________________
McGregor, TX (July 29, 2009) – Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) announces the successful completion of qualification testing for the Falcon 9 launch vehicle first stage tank and interstage. Testing took place at SpaceX's Texas Test Site, a 300 acre structural and propulsion testing facility, located just outside of Waco, Texas.

The first stage tank and interstage hardware were subjected to a proof test of 1.1 times the maximum expected operating pressure (MEOP), and a burst pressure proof test of 1.4 MEOP; qualifying both articles with a 1.4 factor of safety. The 1.4 factor of safety designation means that the first stage tank and the interstage can withstand 140 percent the maximum internal pressure expected during flight, and qualifies both pieces of hardware to meet human rating safety requirements, as defined by NASA. The first stage also passed this human rating milestone when subjected to structural bending tests.
The testing regimen included over 150 pressurization cycles, exceeding the number of required life cycles by more than 100. In addition, the first stage and interstage were subjected to stiffness tests, maximum dynamic pressure loading and main engine cutoff conditions; all at expected values, as well as ultimate loads.

"Falcon 9 continues to pass qualification testing in preparation for its first flight, scheduled for 2009," said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. "All hardware was designed to be man-rated, and these tests confirm that SpaceX is one step closer to flying humans on the Falcon 9/Dragon system."
Falcon 9's first stage and interstage also passed ground wind qualification tests, critical for when the vehicle is vertical on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Both components were designed, built and tested by SpaceX.
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ugordan
post Aug 21 2009, 04:20 PM
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It's a slow news month from SpaceX so in the meantime here's a pretty nice video (via NSF.com) of an acceptance firing of one Merlin 1c engine. If you click the HQ version, you can discern the engine gimbal test at around 22 sec. Nine of these engines on the Falcon 9 first stage produce slightly more liftoff thrust than an Atlas V.


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djellison
post Aug 21 2009, 10:17 PM
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That video is from quite...err...close. Wow.

Worth going for the hq vid for the good sound ohmy.gif
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climber
post Aug 24 2009, 08:21 PM
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From Spacefightnow: http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n0908/24falcon9/
I learnt a few things.


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MahFL
post Aug 26 2009, 02:52 PM
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That page appears empty to my IE browser.
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djellison
post Aug 26 2009, 03:08 PM
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Still fine here ( Chrome, Firefox, Safari )
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Greg Hullender
post Sep 24 2009, 05:19 PM
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SpaceX e-mailed an update this morning -- it's not posted at http://spacex.com/ yet, so I'll summarize here -- skipping all references to MSF, of course. :-)

The first Falcon 9 will be assembled on the pad in November. It will launch between December and February, depending on factors like weather and the launch schedule at the cape. Payload will be the "Dragon Qualification Unit" which will give them aerodynamic and performance information for the payloads on the subsequent COTS flights.

The second flight will use a real Dragon capsule (unmanned, of course) to deliver cargo to the ISS and return for reuse. This will use their Dragoneye system for automated docking (which they tested in July on a Shuttle mission) and their parachute system, which they tested in Texas. (Parachute was the last step for "primary structure qualification".)

They have booked 22 Falcon 9 flights now. Since they plan to reuse the first stage, they're only making 18 first-stage Merlin engines right now, plus at least two of the Vacuum Merlins that the second stage uses. That vacuum engine completed qualification testing last week, but it still has to complete acceptance testing before the inaugural launch.

The first-stage for flight #1 is being assembled in Texas right now and they'll test-fire it there before they ship it to Florida. The second stage is due to start testing there shortly.

For flight #2, they're still fabricating the tanks in California, and they're about half done.

--Greg
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ugordan
post Sep 24 2009, 05:26 PM
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QUOTE (Greg Hullender @ Sep 24 2009, 07:19 PM) *
SpaceX e-mailed an update this morning -- it's not posted at http://spacex.com/ yet

Yes, it is: http://www.spacex.com/updates.php

QUOTE
The second flight will use a real Dragon capsule (unmanned, of course) to deliver cargo to the ISS and return for reuse.

It will fly a functioning Dragon, including recovery systems but it will not go to ISS. It's a 5 hour flight to check out Dragon subsystems, AFAIK it won't even need solar panels for that flight.

QUOTE
Since they plan to reuse the first stage, they're only making 18 first-stage Merlin engines right now, plus at least two of the Vacuum Merlins that the second stage uses.

They're eventually hoping to reuse the stages, but that won't happen that soon. They're still ramping up production of Merlin engines to a goal of one per week. NASA CRS contract also demands a brand new Falcon 9 + Dragon on each of the 12 resupply flights so it's no-go on reuse there, they need all the engines they can build right now.


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Greg Hullender
post Sep 27 2009, 04:50 PM
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I just noticed a Spaceflight Now article was posted a couple of days with some information I hadn't seen before, which they got from a phone interview with Elon Musk:

http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n0909/24falcon/

The dragon capsule for Flight #1 will end up in a circular orbit 155 miles up, but won't have engines to maneuver itself. Nevertheless, it'll carry a payload of some sort for an unidentified customer.

SpaceX has actually requested a November 29 launch date, but Musk says that'll only happen if everything goes according to plan. He said that on the last two Falcon 1 flights everything actually DID go according to plan, but, of course, this is a brand new rocket.

It agrees with UGordan that Flight #2 won't even try to get close to the ISS, and #3 will approach but not try to dock. It implies that #4 WILL try to dock, assuming the other flights went okay.

(Apologies if there are any errors in the summary.)

UGordan: I really appreciate your corrections, clarifications, and new information -- especially since you seem to have some kind of inside information. :-) Do you know why they're not trying harder to recover and reuse the rockets? They've made a big deal in their printed materials about how important that is.

--Greg
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ugordan
post Sep 27 2009, 05:16 PM
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QUOTE (Greg Hullender @ Sep 27 2009, 06:50 PM) *
The dragon capsule for Flight #1 will end up in a circular orbit 155 miles up, but won't have engines to maneuver itself. Nevertheless, it'll carry a payload of some sort for an unidentified customer.

No, the first Falcon 9 was supposed to carry a (tentatively government) payload and use the large 5m payload fairing, but the customer dropped out at one point so the plan until now was to fly a dummy payload (similar to F1 flight 4). Since Avanti, their 1st F9 customer, also dropped out recently and switched to Ariane 5 or Soyuz, the immediate need for demonstrating the 5m fairing went away. Along with the fact it's apparently a pacing item in development, they decided not to postpone the inaugural F9 flight any more than necessary to wait for the fairing and just fly a Dragon structural qualification unit instead. But there won't be any other payload onboard. It'll be just an instrumented shell. Maybe they'll throw in some bricks to simulate mass, but that's it...

QUOTE
UGordan: I really appreciate your corrections, clarifications, and new information -- especially since you seem to have some kind of inside information. :-) Do you know why they're not trying harder to recover and reuse the rockets? They've made a big deal in their printed materials about how important that is.

No inside information here, I've just been closely following them. Regarding stage recovery the story goes something like this: back after flight 2 (or 3) they realized the first stage gets cooked on the way down so they need to improve its thermal protection system. Since flt3 was a failure that destroyed the 1st stage and they wanted to go ahead with flt4 ASAP (it went just 2 months after No.3), there was no time to fix the known TPS issue. Then came F1-05 and Razaksat and they decided they wouldn't try recovery on it yet - in fact they had to remove the recovery hardware to install a vibration dampener system for the satellite once the vibration problem was discovered. They said they'll make a bigger effort in recovering 1st stages with the Falcon 1e.

As for Falcon 9, Elon did say they were going to try recovering the 1st stage on the first flight (not 2nd stage yet), but that was several months ago and I wouldn't be surprised if schedule pressure made them drop recovery again. He stressed this is something that's untrivial to pull off and it might take them several flights and years to work out - hence why their pricing assumes no stage recovery.


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Greg Hullender
post Sep 27 2009, 05:44 PM
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QUOTE (ugordan @ Sep 27 2009, 10:16 AM) *
But there won't be any other payload onboard. It'll be just an instrumented shell.

You know, on rereading the article, it's clear you're correct, but on a first read it definitely seemed as though they were talking about the contents of the Dragon capsule. The human ability to read what one expects to see -- regardless of the actual text -- is very strong . . .

It's a shame that the stage recovery is so difficult. I'd guess the loss of the engines is the worst part, just in terms of expense.

Do you actually think they'll ever be able to recover the second stage? I'd have thought it would burn up on reentry. Especially if even the first stage is "cooked."

--Greg
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