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Greg Hullender
SpaceX just sent a press release with an update on the Falcon 9. They successfully did a 5-engine test. They also mentioned the next Falcon 1 attempt will be late June "or July," presumably meaning "late June or early July," but you never know. :-)

Here's the full text. This isn't on their web page yet, the last I looked:

McGregor TX – Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) conducted the first five-engine firing of its Falcon 9 medium to heavy lift rocket at its Texas Test Facility outside McGregor on Thursday, May 29. At full power the engines generated almost half a million pounds of force, and consumed 1,750 lbs of fuel and liquid oxygen per second. This five engine test again sets the record as the most powerful test yet on the towering 235-foot tall test stand.
The test of the five Merlin 1C engines, arranged in a cross pattern like the Saturn V moon rocket, is the last step before firing the full complement of nine engines, scheduled for this summer. With all engines operating, the Falcon 9 generates over one million pounds of thrust in vacuum - four times the maximum thrust of a 747 aircraft.
“This is the first time that we’ve added more than one engine at a time, and all phases of integration and testing went smoothly,” said Tom Mueller, Vice President of Propulsion for SpaceX. “As with previous tests, we saw no unexpected interactions between the engines, and are on schedule for adding four more engines.”
The first Falcon 9 will arrive at the SpaceX launch site at Cape Canaveral by the end of 2008. The next flight of SpaceX’s smaller Falcon 1 rocket is scheduled for late June or July of 2008.
jekbradbury
Wikipedia quotes June 23, 23:00 GMT for the next F1 launch, but cites a source that doesn't mention the date.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_in_spaceflight
Greg Hullender
In all the excitement around the Falcon 1 launch earlier this month, no one reported that Space X managed an all-engines firing of the Falcon 9.

Admittedly, it's hard to get excited about Falcon 9 when Falcon 1 has yet to fly successfully, but all signs are they really do intend to try to launch this thing this year. Their web page still says "Q4 2008" so I guess we'll see.

--Greg

SpaceX Conducts Full Thrust Firing of Falcon 9 Rocket
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Major milestone achieved towards demonstrating U.S. transport to the International Space Station following retirement of the Space Shuttle

McGregor TX – August 1, 2008 - Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) conducted the first nine engine firing of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle at its Texas Test Facility outside McGregor on July 30th. A second firing on August 1st completed a major NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) milestone almost two months early.

At full power, the nine engines consumed 3,200 lbs of fuel and liquid oxygen per second, and generated 832,000 pounds of force (lbf) – four times the maximum thrust of a 747 aircraft. This marks the first firing of a Falcon 9 first stage with its full complement of nine Merlin 1C engines . Once a near term Merlin 1C fuel pump upgrade is complete, the sea level thrust will increase to 950,000 lbf, making Falcon 9 the most powerful single core vehicle in the United States.

“This was the most difficult milestone in development of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and it also constitutes a significant achievement in US space vehicle development. Not since the final flight of the Saturn 1B rocket in 1975, has a rocket had the ability to lose any engine or motor and still successfully complete its mission,” said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. “Much like a commercial airliner, our multi-engine design has the potential to provide significantly higher reliability than single engine competitors.”

“We made a major advancement from the previous five engine test by adding four new Merlin engines at once,” said Tom Mueller, Vice President of Propulsion for SpaceX. “All phases of integration went smoothly and we were elated to see all nine engines working perfectly in concert.”

Greg Hullender
Another Falcon 9 update. They claim they're still on target to launch this year.

SpaceX Receives USAF Operational License for Cape Canaveral Launch Site

Company Remains on Schedule to Initiate Falcon 9 Commercial Operations in Q4 2008

Cape Canaveral FL – Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) has been granted an Operational License by the US Air Force for the use of Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on the Florida coast. Receipt of the license, in conjunction with the approved Site Plan, paves the way for SpaceX to initiate Falcon 9 launch operations later this year.

"We are developing Falcon 9 to be a valuable asset to the American space launch fleet," said Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX. "The support we received from General Helms and the US Air Force has been immensely helpful in developing the pathfinder processes necessary for SpaceX to realize commercial space flights from the Cape."

"Our developments at Complex 40 continue with great speed," added Brian Mosdell, Director of Florida Launch Operations for SpaceX. "We have moved our massive oxygen storage tank into place, and expect to complete construction of our hangar later this year."

dvandorn
So Falcon 9 will be using the old Titan III pad, eh? Are they also going to use the old Titan assembly building, I wonder?

-the other Doug
MahFL
So we can expect a huge explosion there then when Falcon 9 blows up ?
ugordan
I'm hoping that the launch is successful even more now just so I don't have to read snide comments like that. The easiest thing is being a bystander mocking other people's failures.
mchan
QUOTE (dvandorn @ Sep 9 2008, 09:10 PM) *
So Falcon 9 will be using the old Titan III pad, eh? Are they also going to use the old Titan assembly building, I wonder?

IIRC, the LC40/41 Vertical Integration Building will be or has already been dismantled. This is the 4 bay building where the core is built. The building in the middle of the rail line where the SRMs are attached may be retained for possible use.
GravityWaves
I heard range safety or ground safety and personnel problems were delaying this one
Greg Hullender
I just noticed that SpaceX has added a document discussing the use of the Falcon 9 to launch payloads to the moon.

http://www.spacex.com/FalconLunarCapabilityGuide.pdf

It says they can put 1.925 metric tons into a Trans-lunar Injection orbit for $46.8M. It also mentions (in a graph) putting 1.2 tons into "Mars XFER". I was trying to see how that compares to either Phoenix or MSL, but I can't quite find the equivalent numbers. Anyone have them handy?

--Greg
Greg Hullender
Elon apparently did an online interview with the Washington Post.

http://www.spacex.com/media.php?page=20080926

Here are some excerpts I thought were interesting:

Washington, D.C.: If and when you manage to get all the Falcons and Dragon up and running, what's next? Further incremental improvements on these or something more revolutionary? Also, where do you stand on the value of the various X-prizes (and equivalents)?

Elon Musk: Still a long way to getting *all* the Falcons and Dragons flying. We need to get F1 to orbit for one thing smile.gif Then F9, F9 with Cargo Dragon, F9 with crew Drago and F9 Heavy. My interest is very much in the direction of Mars, so a Mars lander of some kind might be the next step.

Stillwater, Minn.: Mr. Musk, first of all, I've been following SpaceX via your website since before Flight 1, and I hope to join you all someday (I'm an undergrad ChEg at Notre Dame). Talk about the inherent advantages of your rockets over those designed by Lockheed Martin and Boeing (reusability, smaller size = significantly smaller cost, redundancies on the Falcon 9, etc.)

Elon Musk: The full answer for why SpaceX is lower cost is too long for this forum and I don't like to give soundbite answers if they are incorrect. The cost of a single use rocket is:

* Engines

* Structures

* Avionics

* Launch operation

* Overhead

We are better on every one at SpaceX vs competitors -- by a factor of two vs most international and four vs domestic. That is before reuse is considered, which could ultimately be a 10X or more additional reduction.

Los Angeles, Calif.: Elon: What's the latest news on Flight 4?

Elon Musk: Launch window is still holding for Sunday through Tuesday.

Urbana, Ill.: Right now you have two rockets based on the same first-stage engine (Merlin). To launch Falcon 9 Heavy, you'll need 27 of those engines to fire simultaneously. Do you have any plans to develop a larger engine in the future so that such clustering is not necessary?

Elon Musk: Yeah, I think there is an argument for a really really big Falcon engine or BFE, as we call it smile.gif

That would be equal or greater to the thrust of 27 Merlin 1C engines. Would be exciting to see that fire! On the other hand, lots of small engines can give very high reliability. Google uses lots of small PC computers for their search service and it has never ever gone down.

Calistoga, Calif.: Elon,

Your business plan emphasis low man power as cost savings method, how does NASA documentation requirements impact your man power requirements? In other words, how many of SpaceX staff are on board solely to deal with NASA requirements?

Elon Musk: The documentation does add to the cost per flight, perhaps on the order of 25% or so. However, the NASA people we deal with seem genuinely interested in reducing that cost (without affecting reliability, of course). Since we are not a cost plus contractor, we are incented towards efficiency, much like an airline.

-----

--Greg
mcaplinger
QUOTE (Greg Hullender @ Sep 24 2008, 12:18 PM) *
It also mentions (in a graph) putting 1.2 tons into "Mars XFER". I was trying to see how that compares to either Phoenix or MSL, but I can't quite find the equivalent numbers.

PHX injected mass was 670 kg, but one always has to be careful about the specifics of the transfer orbit for any given mission, since the C3 to Mars can vary by a factor of 2. You need more information than a single number to assess mission feasibility.

MSL injected mass is, according to http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/mission/spacecraft.html, about 3400 kg.
nprev
A little birdie just told me to check spacex.com on Sunday afternoon around 1600 PDT (2300 GMT) for live streaming video of the F1 flight 3 launch from Kwajalein.

(I make no claims for the veracity of little birdies, BTW, but thought you'd all like to know.)
ugordan
A major milestone in Falcon 9 development was completed last night with a full duration, 3 minute static firing of the first stage engines in McGregor, Texas. There's no official SpaceX release yet, but this site reported on the test and includes SpaceX official video and also an interview with a SpaceX employee who conducted the test.

There's also an interesting amateur video on youtube showing the test and rattling of his house walls/windows. Apparently, the meteorological conditions conspired to make the test felt quite a long way away and scared a big bunch of people as far as 25 miles away.

EDIT: Video now up on SpaceX site: Falcon 9 Nine Engine Test - MDC
MahFL
Wow, that sounds powerful.
ugordan
Just a heads-up for those of you who are interested, but weren't following it closely; the updates page on the SpaceX site has frequent updates with images on the status of Falcon 9 shipping to the Cape. They're pressing on with their (self-imposed) deadline of having a Falcon 9 integrated and even vertical at the Cape by the end of the year. It's gonna be tight with only 8 more days left, but they say they're on track.

An interesting bit is they are currently assembling it practically in the open, the hangar isn't built yet. I believe a tent will be the interim solution.
The first Falcon 9 will not consist 100% of flight hardware, some of it is qualification hardware (flight worthy, but designed for testing) meaning that not all of the current components will actually fly, but it will show for the first time what an actual vehicle looks like, at least from the outside.

It will be interesting to follow the development which should culminate in a static firing at the pad in a few months, before the first actual launch (which apparently has an Air Force payload booked).
jekbradbury
Apparently SpaceX has won 1.6 billion dollars in firm NASA contracts and beaten out Orbital to become the ISS Commercial Orbital Transportation Services provider. If the Falcon 9 missions are really priced at about 50 million, that means 32 missions, which would be a great start for a new and potentially planetary mission class launch vehicle.
Del Palmer
QUOTE (jekbradbury @ Dec 24 2008, 01:47 AM) *
Apparently SpaceX has won 1.6 billion dollars in firm NASA contracts and beaten out Orbital to become the ISS Commercial Orbital Transportation Services provider.


Not quite -- NASA has awarded two contracts: to Orbital (8 flights) and SpaceX (12 flights).
Rakhir
It's impressive to see for the first time a Falcon 9 fully integrated.
SpaceX updates
ugordan
A couple of images via Flickr:

http://flickr.com/photos/hansepe/3171886829/
http://flickr.com/photos/hansepe/3172718456/

Externally, the vehicle is still missing the engine fairings and base heat shield.
OKB001
That is one nice looking rocket, for sure. I just wishes they had more successful Falcon 1 missions under their belt before moving on to the Falcon 9 ...
ugordan
Another Falcon 1 is slated to be launched before the first Falcon 9. There's a point of diminishing returns in what you learn for F9 from successive F1 flights. By now they have already verified that F1 avionics, propulsion and structure pretty much work as advertised. Since both vehicles share a good deal of those that bodes well for the larger vehicle. Other aspects of F9 can't be tested with the F1 anyway and ground testing/simulations only work so well.

In the end you simply have to fly that thing and see what happens.
dvandorn
Now, my understanding is that this particular Falcon 9 that is being assembled contains "many" flight systems but also contains some non-flight components, and will never fly as a unit. That it's rather like the 500-F version of the Saturn V, that was stacked and rolled out to the pad as a test vehicle to validate the procedures needed to get the bird ready to fly.

So, before a Falcon 9 actually flies, the article we're seeing right now will need to be taken apart and a full flight vehicle will need to be assembled. Correct?

Ergo, it's not like we're on the verge of seeing this bird take to the skies... and in fact, this particular bird never will, in its present configuration.

So I wouldn't worry about it flying before they have a chance to get a couple more Falcon 1 successes under their belts.

-the other Doug
ugordan
QUOTE (dvandorn @ Jan 6 2009, 06:58 PM) *
Now, my understanding is that this particular Falcon 9 that is being assembled contains "many" flight systems but also contains some non-flight components, and will never fly as a unit. That it's rather like the 500-F version of the Saturn V, that was stacked and rolled out to the pad as a test vehicle to validate the procedures needed to get the bird ready to fly.

So, before a Falcon 9 actually flies, the article we're seeing right now will need to be taken apart and a full flight vehicle will need to be assembled. Correct?

Correct, this vehicle is not the exact maiden flight vehicle, but it does contain the majority of actual flight hardware that'll see flight. It's unclear what exactly components will be replaced for the flight, in this regard it's not like SA-500F in that this one will not be shelved and discarded, but the majority of what you see here is actually bound to fly. Elon can't afford building too many non-flight items just for this purpose if he wants to get this bird off the ground and start making profit.

The non-flight ready (perhaps qualification components) will for the time being be used for pathfinding activities at the pad, once the hangar is built it will be destacked and the remaining non-flight components will be replaced with flight units. It's possible the 1st stage engines will be replaced since these are the ones that disturbed Texans for 3 minutes in November. The 2nd stage engine is missing the huge nozzle extension (not visible inside the interstage) and probably none of the avionics are installed yet. The 2nd stage might be a qualification unit altogether.

QUOTE (dvandorn @ Jan 6 2009, 06:58 PM) *
So I wouldn't worry about it flying before they have a chance to get a couple more Falcon 1 successes under their belts.

As I said above, the launch manifest calls for just one Falcon 1 launch before the maiden Falcon 9 flight is scheduled. There's a total of 2 F1s manifested in 2009 so unless F9 is seriously delayed, that'll be it. For comparison, there are 5 (!) F9 flights scheduled for this year.
Zvezdichko
SpaceX announces, that Falcon 9 is now vertical:

http://www.spacex.com/updates.php

It's great!

DarthVader
That is pretty neat indeed. That's one good looking rocket there :-)
dvandorn
I dunno -- from some angles, it looks a lot like my old Centuri Payloader... huh.gif

-the other Doug
ElkGroveDan
QUOTE (dvandorn @ Jan 11 2009, 02:09 PM) *
it looks a lot like my old Centuri Payloader...

Better yours than mine. Last time I saw that rocket, it was swinging from a 500kv line 100 feet off the ground.
ugordan
Several new nice looking pictures are now posted at the update page above.
Vultur
QUOTE (ugordan @ Jan 6 2009, 07:12 PM) *
As I said above, the launch manifest calls for just one Falcon 1 launch before the maiden Falcon 9 flight is scheduled. There's a total of 2 F1s manifested in 2009 so unless F9 is seriously delayed, that'll be it. For comparison, there are 5 (!) F9 flights scheduled for this year.


That sounds ambitious; I hope they can do it.
ugordan
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.
Pavel
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?
imipak
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.

stevesliva
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.
Greg Hullender
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.
ugordan
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.
djellison
That video is from quite...err...close. Wow.

Worth going for the hq vid for the good sound ohmy.gif
climber
From Spacefightnow: http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n0908/24falcon9/
I learnt a few things.
MahFL
That page appears empty to my IE browser.
djellison
Still fine here ( Chrome, Firefox, Safari )
Greg Hullender
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
ugordan
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.
Greg Hullender
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
ugordan
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.
Greg Hullender
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
ugordan
QUOTE (Greg Hullender @ Sep 27 2009, 07:44 PM) *
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.

They're expensive, no doubt, but I believe the majority of the vehicle cost is concentrated not in the first stage, but in the upper stage where all the expensive avionics and air-startable/restartable engines are.

QUOTE
Do you actually think they'll ever be able to recover the second stage?

Don't know; probably nobody knows that yet. They are planning on flying a heat shield on the stage similar to the Dragon one, but that and deorbit propellant comes directly from the vehicle's total payload capacity so it's a tradeoff between getting max payload and getting the stage back.
Reentering a stage which has its center of gravity at the back (the engine section) is dynamically unstable so active control is needed etc. Keep in mind salt water exposure is one of the bigger problems in recovering stages - the thing is corrosive, it harms avionics and engines.
Greg Hullender
Another press release: http://spacex.com/press.php?page=20091021

They completed their structural and propulsion acceptance tests for the first stage with two static firings of all nine engines at their Texas test site, and they're shipping it to Cape Canaveral next month.

No word on the static firing for the second stage, but one would guess that'll happen soon. They still seem to be right on target to do vehicle integration in November, with the maiden launch anywhere from December to February.

--Greg
imipak
Full nine-engine test firing: http://www.youtube.com/watch?gl=GB&hl=...p;v=BYLtXhCcNWc

(Also on the SpaceX site at http://spacex.com/multimedia/videos.php?id=32 .)
ugordan
imipak, that's the last year's test. This is currently the only image from the two recent firings - the 10 second one to be specific (higher res image, courtesy Business Wire). You can see the flight stage is not completely painted white yet.
imipak
D'oh! I didn't realise they'd done a previous nine-up test firing. Thanks for the correction smile.gif
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