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SpaceX launches and lands prototype of its Mars rocket Starship in key short flight test – CNBC

SpaceX’s prototype Starship launches in a short first flight test at the company’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas.


The fifth prototype of SpaceX’s next-generation Starship rocket passed its most critical test yet, taking off and landing in a short flight on Tuesday at the company’s facility in Texas.

Starship prototype Serial Number 5, standing at about 100 feet tall, launched gradually and rose to about 500 feet above the ground before returning back to land on a concrete area near the launchpad. 

“Progress is accelerating,” SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted after the flight.

SpaceX’s prototype Starship launches in a short first flight test at the company’s facility in Boca Chica, Texas.


SpaceX has a fleet of rockets that it uses to launch satellites and astronauts, anchored by its Falcon 9 series that has launched 87 times — and landed its booster after 48 of those launches. But Starship represents the company’s aim to make obsolete even the cost-saving advances of its Falcon 9 rockets. While Falcon 9 rockets are partially reusable, Musk’s goal is to make Starship fully reusable — envisioning a rocket that is more akin to a commercial airplane, with short turnaround times between flights where the only major cost is fuel.

Musk last year unveiled the Starship prototype, built of stainless steel and dwarfing the company’s existing spacecraft. SpaceX is developing Starship with the goal of launching as many as 100 people at a time on missions to the moon and Mars.

SpaceX’s Starship prototype SN5 on the company’s landing pad after completing its flight test.


After SpaceX in May launched a pair of NASA astronauts in its first crewed mission, Musk pivoted the company’s attention, declaring that the top SpaceX priority is now development of Starship. Musk said in an email obtained by CNBC that Starship’s program must accelerate “dramatically and immediately,”

SpaceX released video of the flight test captured by an aerial drone, as well as a camera underneath the rocket that showed the Raptor engine and the legs deploy for landing.

President Donald Trump also shared video of SpaceX’s SN5 flight, although he appeared to confuse the company with NASA in a tweet.

Although it wasn’t a NASA test, leaders of the agency were notably paying attention to the SpaceX flight. NASA associate administrator Dr. Thomas Zurbuchen offered his congratulations to Musk’s company on the successful flight.

Starship is one of SpaceX’s ambitious programs, for which the company has raised about $3.5 billion in private capital to fund. But after a successful test flight a year ago completed by a previous iteration, known as Starhopper, the Starship program suffered several explosive setbacks in development. Those setbacks are part of Musk’s motivation for asking more of SpaceX’s about 8,000 employees to spend more time in Texas, even offering use of the company’s private jet if people are willing to move from the company’s facilities in California and Florida.

The extraordinary relocation offer underlines how crucial Musk sees the Starship project. SpaceX is already bidding for NASA contracts with Starship, most recently winning $135 million to compete against Jeff Bezos‘ Blue Origin to deliver astronauts to the Moon. The company’s Boca Chica team is already working nearly around the clock but Musk wants more, urging SpaceX employees to help Starship development progress even more quickly.

A look at the Raptor engine underneath SpaceX’s prototype Starship rocket and the small legs that deployed for landing.


Musk revealed in a series of tweets what the next steps for Starship’s development will be. He said the company will conduct “several short hops to smooth out launch process” before adding more pieces to the rocket for high altitude flights. Additionally, the stubby legs underneath the rocket won’t remain as Musk said the next version will be about “60% longer,” with later iterations being “much wider & taller.”

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SpaceX Crew Dragon astronauts describe thrilling return to Earth – CBS News

Plunging back to Earth in a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule Sunday amounted to a high-speed thrill ride, astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken reported Tuesday. The fiery, flawlessly-controlled descent to splashdown went off without a hitch — a major step toward certifying the vehicle for operational flights.

“What a ride!” Behnken tweeted, sharing long-range tracking camera footage of the Crew Dragon’s dramatic descent.

Tracking footage of Crew Dragon’s descent, parachute deployments and splashdown

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) August 4, 2020

The Crew Dragon splashed down south of Pensacola, Florida, amid dozens of boaters, some motoring close to the gently rocking capsule despite earlier Coast Guard warnings to stay clear. The spacecraft, with Hurley and Behnken still strapped in their seats, was hauled aboard a SpaceX recovery ship without incident.

It was the first water landing for astronauts or cosmonauts returning from orbit since the final Apollo capsule closed out a joint flight with a Russian Soyuz spacecraft 45 years ago.

Behnken and Hurley, veterans of two space shuttle flights each, said the ride down was possibly more exciting than either expected. Behnken provided a blow-by-blow description Tuesday during a virtual news conference at the Johnson Space Center.

Robert Behnken, left, and Douglas Hurley answer phoned-in questions from reporters during a news conference two days after their historic return to Earth aboard a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule.


“Once we descended a little bit into the atmosphere, Dragon really came alive. It started to fire thrusters and keep us pointed in the appropriate direction. The atmosphere starts to make noise. You can hear that rumble outside the vehicle,” he said.

“And as the vehicle tries to control (its orientation), you feel a little bit of that shimmy in your body, and our bodies were much better attuned to the environment (after two month in weightlessness) so we could feel those small rolls and pitches and yaws,” he added.

“As we descended through the atmosphere, the thrusters were firing almost continuously … But it doesn’t sound like a machine,” Behnken explained. “It sounds like an animal coming through the atmosphere with all the puffs that are happening from the thrusters and the atmospheric noise. It just continues to gain magnitude.”

When the capsule’s stabilizing drogue parachutes deployed, followed by four large main chutes inflating, it felt “very much like getting hit in the back of the chair with a baseball bat,” Behnken said. “It was a pretty significant jolt.”

“If you’ve seen an old movie that happened to have some guys who’d been in a centrifuge, that’s what we felt like,” he said. “When the time came to splash down … we felt the splash and we saw it splash up over the windows. It was just a great relief.”

They did not say whether they felt any nausea before the gently bobbing spacecraft was recovered and pulled onto the recovery ship Go Navigator, something they mentioned before launch as a possibility.

Behnken and Hurley had nothing but praise for SpaceX and NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, thanking SpaceX for the extensive training they received and for audio recordings and video from an unpiloted Crew Dragon test flight last year that let them know what to expect during the trip back to Earth.

The Crew Dragon descending under parachutes Sunday, moments before splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico south of Pensacola, Florida.

NASA/Bill Ingalls

“When it performed as expected, and we could check off those events, we were really, really comfortable coming through the atmosphere, even though, you know, it felt like we were inside of an animal,” Behnken said.

Hurley and Behnken were launched atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on May 30. The spacecraft carried out an automated rendezvous to catch up with the International Space Station and, after the astronauts tested its manual control system, docked with the lab complex using the same forward port that once accommodated visiting space shuttles.

The Crew Dragon astronauts were welcomed aboard by Expedition 63 commander Chris Cassidy and two Russian cosmonauts, Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner.

Over the next two months, Hurley and Behnken assisted Cassidy with a full slate of U.S. and partner agency research, logging 114 hours carrying out experiments that would not otherwise have gotten done with a single U.S. astronaut aboard.

Behnken also participated in four spacewalks with Cassidy to wrap up installation of replacement batteries in the station’s solar power system. Including six excursions during two previous shuttle missions, Behnken now ranks fourth on the list of most experienced spacewalkers, with 61 hours and 10 minutes spent outside the station.

Hurley, who piloted two shuttle missions, including the winged orbiter’s final flight to the space station in 2011, said he expected some surprises during the Crew Dragon’s reentry.

“I expected there to be some divergence and attitude control, because it’s a real tough problem for the ship as it gets into the thicker air to maintain perfect attitude and control,” he said. “And … the vehicle was rock solid.”

The Crew Dragon is the first American spacecraft to launch astronauts into orbit from U.S. soil since the space shuttle’s final flight in 2011. For the past nine years, NASA has relied on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft to ferry U.S. and partner agency astronauts to and from the station, paying more than $80 million per seat under recent contracts.

The Crew Dragon and, eventually, Boeing’s Starliner CST-100 capsules are intended to end that sole reliance on Russia while opening up low-Earth orbit to private-sector development.

Robert Behnken, left, and spacecraft commander Douglas Hurley, greet recovery crews moments after the hatch of their Crew Dragon capsule was opened.

NASA/Bill Ingalls

SpaceX launched and recovered an unpiloted Crew Dragon capsule last year and carried out a dramatic in-flight abort, again unpiloted, earlier this year. That cleared the way for Hurley and Behnken to blast off on the program’s first piloted mission, a test flight known as Demo 2.

The spacecraft performed in near-flawless fashion throughout its first piloted mission and, if a detailed post-flight review confirms that, NASA managers hope to certify the spacecraft for operational crew rotation missions to and from the space station starting this fall.

That instant at splashdown when we knew we did it. Congratulations to @SpaceX and @NASA on an incredible mission! It’s great to have such an uplifting story at the intersection of innovation and humanity’s desire to do great things. #LaunchAmerica

— Christina H Koch (@Astro_Christina) August 4, 2020

“They do need to look at the data from our entry,” Behnken said. “They will do a very thorough review, both on the SpaceX side and the NASA side, to make sure that they’re comfortable. But from a crew perspective, I think that it’s definitely ready to go.”

That will be good news for Behnken’s wife, astronaut Megan McArthur. She’s one of four astronauts scheduled to blast off next year aboard the same Crew Dragon capsule that carried Behnken and Hurley back to Earth.

“My wife is assigned to a SpaceX mission, and we have a young son,” Behnken said. “So I’ll definitely be focused on making sure that her mission’s as successful as possible and supporting her just as she did for me over the last five years.”

SpaceX splashdown marks a milestone


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SpaceX successfully flies its Starship prototype to a height of around 500 feet – TechCrunch

SpaceX has been developing Starship, its next-generation spacecraft, at its site in Boca Chica, Texas. The company has built a number of different Starship prototypes to date, include one prior version called the Starhopper that was essentially just the bottom portion of the rocket. Today, the company flew its first full-scale prototype (minus the domed cap that will appear on the final version, and without the control fins that will appear lower down on its sides), achieving an initial flight of around 150 m (just under 500 feet).

This is the furthest along one of these prototypes has come in the testing process. It’s designated Starship SN5, which is the fifth serialized test article. SpaceX actually built a first full-scale demonstration craft called the Starship Mk1 prior to switching to this new naming scheme, so that makes this the sixth one this size they’ve built — with the prior versions suffering failures at various points during preparations, including pressure testing and following a static engine test fire.

SN5 is now the first of these larger test vehicles to actually take off and fly. This prototype underwent a successful static test fire earlier this week, paving the way for this short flight test today. It’s equipped with just one Raptor engine, whereas the final Starship will have six Raptors on board for much greater thrust. It managed to fly and land upright, which means that by all external indications everything went to plan.

Starhopper previously completed a similar hop in August of 2019. SpaceX has an aggressive prototype development program to attempt to get Starship in working order, with the ambitious goal of flying payloads using the functional orbital vehicle as early as next year. Ultimately, Starship is designed to pair with a future Falcon Heavy booster to carry large payloads to orbit around Earth, as well as to the moon and eventually to Mars.

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SpaceX Crew Dragon astronauts pack for historic undocking and splashdown – CBS News

SpaceX astronauts cleared for return

SpaceX astronauts cleared for return


Crew Dragon astronauts Douglas Hurley and Robert Behnken thanked their space station crewmates for a successful two-month visit and readied their SpaceX capsule for undocking Saturday, setting up a historic Gulf of Mexico splashdown Sunday afternoon.

“All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go,” Behnken tweeted.

All my bags are packed, I’m ready to go… #LandAmerica

— Bob Behnken (@AstroBehnken) August 1, 2020

It will be the first splashdown for U.S. astronauts in 45 years and the first entry, descent and landing of a piloted Crew Dragon spacecraft, one of the final steps before NASA can certify the SpaceX ferry ships for operational six-month flights to the space station.

“We’re about to embark on the the final portion of the journey,” Behnken said in a brief departure ceremony Saturday morning. “The hardest part was getting us launched. But the most important part is bringing us home.”

“I look forward to the test objectives of not only separating from the International Space Station smoothly, but then coming down to a nice splashdown off the Florida coast to come full circle with bringing that capability to launch astronauts again to the United States.”

With Hurricane Isaias threatening Florida’s East Coast, ruling out a splashdown off the coast from Jacksonville to Cape Canaveral, NASA and SpaceX managers met Saturday and tentatively cleared the crew for an on-time undocking Saturday and splashdown off the coast of Pensacola, Florida, Sunday afternoon.

A final go/no-go weather review was expected shortly before undocking.

Crew Dragon astronauts Bob Behnken, front left, and Doug Hurley, front right, show off an American flag they plan to return to Earth that was left aboard the space station during the final shuttle mission in 2011. Also visible: Tremor, the toy dinosaur, that was given to Hurley and Behnken by their sons to serve as a reminder of home and as a zero-gravity indicator. Looking on were Expedition 63 crewmates Ivan Vagner, back left, commander Chris Cassidy, center, and Anatoly Ivanishin, back right.


In the meantime, with favorable weather expected off Pensacola and a backup site near Panama City, Hurley and Behnken planned to undock from the space station’s forward port at 7:34 p.m., leaving Expedition 63 commander Chris Cassidy and cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner behind.

After moving a safe distance away from the space station, Hurley and Behnken plan to monitor a series of computer-orchestrated thruster firings to fine-tune their orbit before going to bed around 11:40 p.m.

After a 7:40 a.m. Sunday wakeup call, the astronauts will work through a detailed pre-entry checklist before the Crew Dragon jettison’s its no-longer-needed trunk section around 1:45 p.m., exposing the capsule’s protective heat shield.

Then, starting around 1:50 p.m., the Crew Dragon’s forward thrusters are scheduled to fire for nearly 10 minutes, slowing the craft by about 105 mph, just enough to drop the far side of its orbit deep into the atmosphere.

A half-hour later, approaching the Gulf of Mexico from the southwest, the Crew Dragon is expected to plunge back into the discernible atmosphere, quickly slowing down as the heat shield endures temperatures higher than 3,000 degrees. Small drogue parachutes will then stabilize the capsule before four main parachutes unfurl at an altitude of about 6,000 feet.

Splashdown near Pensacola is expected around 2:41 p.m.

The SpaceX recovery ship Go Navigator will be stationed nearby carrying medical personnel, support crews and initial responders with “fast boats” who have trained to reach the spacecraft within minutes.

Within the hour, they are expected to stabilize and “safe” the capsule, haul it on board the Go Navigator, open the side hatch and help Hurley and Behnken out as they begin re-adjusting to gravity after two months in space.

Both astronauts said they expect a bit of nausea and possibly vomiting as they bob about in the capsule awaiting recovery. During an earlier interview aboard the station, Hurley joked, “there’s a pretty good likelihood that we may see breakfast twice on that particular day.”

The Crew Dragon spacecraft, docked to the space station’s forward port and extending to the far right in this image, is wrapping up a two-month-long test flight with a planned undocking Saturday night and splashdown Sunday in the Gulf of Mexico.


In any case, after initial medical checks aboard the the recovery ship, the astronauts will be flown by helicopter to a nearby airport where a NASA jet will be waiting to fly them back to the Johnson Space Center in Houston for debriefing and reunions with family members.

Since the space shuttle’s retirement in 2011, NASA has relied on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft to ferry U.S. and partner agency astronauts to and from the station at some $80 million per seat.

The Crew Dragon and, eventually, Boeing’s Starliner CST-100 capsules are intended to end that sole reliance on Russia while opening up low-Earth orbit to private-sector development.

SpaceX launched and recovered an unpiloted Crew Dragon capsule last year and carried out a dramatic in-flight abort, again unpiloted, earlier this year. That cleared the way for Hurley and Behnken to blast off on the program’s first piloted mission, a test flight known as Demo 2, on May 30.

“The DM-2 test flight is in some ways just two thirds complete,” Hurley said Saturday. “We did the ascent, the rendezvous and the docking, we completed our docked objectives and now is the entry, descent and splashdown phase.”

During the departure ceremony, Cassidy presented Hurley and Behnken with an American flag the crew of the final shuttle mission left aboard the lab complex in 2011. Hurley was the pilot of shuttle Atlantis for that final flight and “capturing the flag” marked a special moment.

The flag first flew in space aboard Columbia during the first shuttle mission in 1981 and if all goes well, it will be aboard NASA’s Orion capsule during a flight to the moon in the next few years.

“This flag has spent some time up here, on the order of nine years since we dropped it off on STS-135,” Hurley said. “So very proud to return this flag home and see what’s next for it on its journey to the moon.”

Also coming home is “Tremor,” the toy dinosaur that served as an ever-present zero-gravity indicator during the crew’s stay aboard the station. It was given to them by their sons, six-year-old Theo Behnken and 10-year-old Jack Hurley.

“My son and Doug’s son are really excited, not only to get their fathers back, but to get our apatosaurus, our zero-G indicator that they nominated to go with us on this historic mission,” Behnken said. “For Jack and Theo: Tremor, the apatosaurus, is headed home soon and he’ll be with your dads.”

Both men are married to astronauts. Hurley’s wife, Karen Nyberg, is retired from the astronaut corps, but Behnken’s wife, Megan McArthur, is in training to fly to the space station next year aboard the same Crew Dragon bringing her husband home Sunday.

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NASA astronauts set to ride a SpaceX Crew Dragon back to Earth for the 1st time this weekend –

After a busy two months in space, the first two NASA astronauts to visit the International Space Station on a commercial vehicle are ready to come back to Earth — if the weather cooperates.

Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken arrived at the International Space Station on May 31, the day after becoming the first astronauts to launch from Florida tucked inside a SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule. But this weekend, they have to tackle one of the most challenging aspects of the mission: leaving the space station, spending hours inside that same capsule, parachuting through Earth’s atmosphere and splashing down off the coast of Florida.

“It’s just time to go give it a try and see how it goes,” Hurley said during a news conference on Friday (July 31) held with his colleagues in orbit during his last full day on the space station.

Hurley and Behnken are currently scheduled to climb into the Crew Dragon capsule Saturday (Aug. 1) and splash down on Sunday (Aug. 2). Their initial splashdown target site is in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Florida’s Panama City, NASA officials have said.

Related: SpaceX’s historic Demo-2 Crew Dragon test flight: Full coverage

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, Chris Cassidy and Doug Hurley answer questions on July 31, 2src2src, from the International Space Station in advance of Behnken and Hurley's departure for Earth the next day.

NASA astronauts Bob Behnken, Chris Cassidy and Doug Hurley answer questions on July 31, 2020, from the International Space Station in advance of Behnken and Hurley’s departure for Earth the next day. (Image credit: NASA TV)

The splashdown procedure marks the final hurdle of the duo’s mission, dubbed Demo-2, and marks the final test for SpaceX’s commercial crew system. After a safe return, the company should be clear to launch regular missions to the orbiting laboratory.

Every step of the Demo-2 mission has been an evaluation of the new spacecraft, and both Behnken and Hurley and NASA leadership have emphasized throughout the mission that it has been a test flight. The astronauts’ job has been to vet every aspect of the vehicle and ensure it is ready for regular use by crewmembers, but it also means that they have been guinea pigs of a sort throughout the mission, and that holds for their return as well, although the astronauts said they’re unfazed.

“As we get closer, I think we really focus more and more on our preparations to be ready for the splashdown activities,” Behnken said. “I still don’t feel nervous about it.”

For decades, U.S. astronauts returning from space have touched down on land, either in a runway landing like those conducted by NASA’s space shuttles or in a parachute landing as the Russian Soyuz capsules do. The last American crew to return to the ocean did so 45 years ago, at the end of the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project mission in which astronauts met up with Soviet cosmonauts in orbit.

“The water landing portion of it is pretty challenging from a physiological standpoint, just after coming back from being in microgravity for on the order of one to two months,” Hurley said. “The ground teams are fully aware of the challenges of a water landing and what it does to the human body and we’ll just take it from there.”

In photos: SpaceX’s historic Demo-2 test flight with astronauts 

Although NASA is eager to see the Demo-2 capsule undock, the scheduling of the return trip isn’t set in stone. NASA and SpaceX will base the timing of the procedure on a host of weather and ocean criteria at whichever of the seven splashdown sites the team ends up targeting.

Right now, those conditions are looking tricky. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Hurricane Center is monitoring a system called Hurricane Isaias as it barrels through the Caribbean Sea, heading toward Florida. 

This NASA graphic shows seven potential splashdown sites for SpaceX's Crew Dragon Endeavour carrying NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on the Demo-2 test flight.

This NASA graphic shows seven potential splashdown sites for SpaceX’s Crew Dragon Endeavour carrying NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley on the Demo-2 test flight. (Image credit: NASA/SpaceX)

As of this morning, forecasts predict the storm will head up the eastern coast of Florida throughout the day on Sunday, potentially leaving safe conditions on the Gulf coast, where four of the seven potential sites are located.

The astronauts said they’re leaving weather concerns to staff on the ground and are ready to do what mission control advises. “We don’t control the weather and we know we can stay up here longer,” Behnken said. “There’s more chow and I know the space station program’s got more work that we can do for those [researchers] and other folks that have sent science up here to the space station.”

A safe return for Demo-2 is the last piece of the puzzle for NASA approval of SpaceX’s next crewed launch, the company’s first full-length mission to the space station. Dubbed Crew-1, that mission is currently targeting launch in late September.

Crew-1 will carry three NASA astronauts — Michael Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker — and Japan’s Soichi Noguchi to the space station for a stay more than six months long that will put the orbiting laboratory’s staff count at seven.

NASA also recently announced staffing for the next mission, Crew-2, which will see U.S. astronauts Megan McArthur (who is married to Behnken) and Shane Kimbrough, Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European astronaut Thomas Pesquet blast off Earth in 2021. That mission will use the same Endeavour Crew Dragon capsule as the Demo-2 crew.

Email Meghan Bartels at or follow her on Twitter @meghanbartels. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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Elon Musk’s SpaceX to launch French astronaut into space next year – Politico


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SpaceX delivers South Korea’s first military satellite into on-target orbit – Spaceflight Now

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Monday. Credit: Ken Kremer/

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket deployed South Korea’s first dedicated military satellite into orbit Monday a half-hour after a fiery launch from Cape Canaveral, helping fulfill an agreement between Lockheed Martin and the South Korean government in exchange for Korea’s purchase of F-35 fighter jets six years ago.

South Korea’s Anasis 2 military communications satellite rocketed away from Cape Canaveral at 5:30 p.m. EDT (2130 GMT) Monday on top of a Falcon 9 launcher. Nine Merlin main engines on the Falcon 9 rocket propelled the 229-foot-tall (70-meter) launcher off the ground, and the Falcon 9 turned east over the Atlantic Ocean, exceeding the speed of sound within about one minute.

Powered by the same first stage booster that launched astronauts May 30 on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, the Falcon 9 thundered into a sunny sky after a 30-minute delay Monday the company attributed to a passing rain shower.

The first stage shut down and separated from the Falcon 9’s second stage about two-and-a-half minutes after liftoff, beginning maneuvers to precisely touch down on SpaceX’s floating landing platform around 400 miles (645 kilometers) east of Cape Canaveral. The reusable first stage landed on target aboard the drone ship “Just Read The Instructions,” ready for return to Florida’s Space Coast for another flight.

The booster used on Monday’s launch set a record for the quickest turnaround time between flights of an orbital-class rocket stage at 51 days. The shortest span between launches of the same Falcon 9 booster was previously 62 days, which SpaceX achieved with a Feb. 17 mission.

NASA achieved a 54-day turnaround time between two launches of the space shuttle Atlantis in late 1985, a record never again matched during the 30-year-long shuttle program. The time elapsed between Atlantis’s landing and next launch was 50 days.

SpaceX may eclipse its rocket turnaround time record again in the coming weeks, with more missions on the company’s jam-packed launch schedule, all using reused rocket stages. The next brand new Falcon 9 booster is not expected to fly before late September.

SpaceX confirms a successful landing of the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

This is the same booster that previously launched SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft May 30 with astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken.


— Spaceflight Now (@SpaceflightNow) July 20, 2020

Meanwhile, SpaceX’s second stage engine ignited two times to inject the Anasis 2 spacecraft into an elliptical transfer orbit stretching thousands of miles above above Earth. The satellite will use its on-board engine to circularize its orbit more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) over the equator, where it will provide services for the South Korean military.

John Insprucker, a SpaceX engineer and manager who co-hosted the company’s launch webcast Monday, declared it a “totally successful mission.”

The Anasis 2 spacecraft was manufactured by Airbus Defense and Space in Toulouse, France, and is based on Airbus’s Eurostar E3000 satellite design.

Anasis 2 “will provide secured communications over wide coverage,” Airbus said in a statement.

South Korea procured the satellite — formerly known as KMilSatCom 1 — through an “offset” arrangement to offset South Korea’s purchase of F-35 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin. In exchange for South Korea’s purchase of 40 F-35 fighter jets — a deal reportedly valued at more than $6 billion — Lockheed Martin agreed to provide the Anasis 2 satellite to the South Korean military, among other offsets.

Lockheed Martin ultimately subcontracted the satellite manufacturing deal to Airbus, and booked launch services for Anasis 2 with SpaceX.

“Lockheed Martin is honored to deliver on the promise and commitment made to the Republic of Korea government with the successful launch of the Anasis 2 satellite,” Lockheed Martin said in a statement. “This launch and the expected in-orbit handover later this year are the first milestones signifying the completion of an offset project related to the sale of F-35s to the ROKG (Republic of Korea Government) in 2014.”

Before Anasis 2, South Korea’s military has relied on international and civilian-owned satellites for communications. A dual-use satellite named Anasis 1 launched in 2006 to provide commercial and military telecom services.

Further details about the Anasis 2 satellite are shrouded in secrecy at the wishes of the the spacecraft’s owner — the South Korean government. SpaceX did not broadcast live video of the Anasis 2 satellite deploying from the Falcon 9 rocket, citing a request from its customer.

The Anasis 2 satellite is prepared for shipment to Cape Canaveral from Airbus’s facility in Toulouse, France. Credit: Airbus Defense and Space

Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO, tweeted later Monday that the company had successfully recovered both halves of the Falcon 9 rocket’s payload fairing using two boats stationed offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.

The twin fairing recovery vessels — named “Ms. Tree” and “Ms. Chief” — were dispatched to positions nearly 500 miles (800 kilometers) east of Cape Canaveral. Both ships are fitted with giant nets to try to catch the fairing halves, which descend under parachutes.

The Falcon 9 released the clamshell-like payload fairing around three-and-a-half minutes after liftoff Monday, once the rocket flew above the dense, lower layers of the atmosphere. The shroud protected the Anasis 2 satellite during the rocket’s initial climb away from Florida.

The successful fairing recovery marked the first time SpaceX achieved a double catch of both fairing halves on the same mission. On previous flights, SpaceX has either caught just one of the fairing shells, or retrieved them after splashing down in the ocean.

Monday’s mission was SpaceX’s 12th launch of the year, but it was the company’s first launch of 2020 dedicated to a customer other than NASA, the U.S. military, or SpaceX’s own Starlink Internet project.

Of SpaceX’s 11 previous missions this year, seven launched clusters of satellites for the company’s own Starlink broadband network. One of those missions carried a rideshare payload of three commercial SkySat Earth-observing satellites for Planet.

Three of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 missions so far in 2020 have been for NASA.

A Falcon 9 flight Jan. 19 launched a Crew Dragon capsule for a high-altitude test of the spaceship’s abort system. A Dragon cargo ship launched March 6 on a Falcon 9 rocket to resupply the International Space Station, and the first Crew Dragon flight with astronauts took off on a Falcon 9 rocket May 30.

SpaceX’s most recent launch before Monday delivered a GPS navigation satellite into orbit for the U.S. Space Force.

The market for large commercial geostationary satellites has experienced a downturn in the last few years, although there are signs that orders to build and launch geostationary communications spacecraft are on the uptick again.

SpaceX has another launch planned for an external foreign customer coming up later this month. Argentina’s SAOCOM 1B radar observation satellite is being prepared for launch at Cape Canaveral on a Falcon 9 rocket as soon as next week.

The launch of SAOCOM 1B was originally scheduled in March, but officials from CONAE — Argentina’s space agency — requested a delay in the launch due to travel and work restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic. Using new physical distancing and safety protocols, crews returned to Cape Canaveral from Argentina earlier this month to resume preparations on the SAOCOM 1B satellite.

SpaceX also has several more Falcon 9 launches with Starlink satellites from Florida’s Space Coast in August. In September, SpaceX is gearing up for a launch with the next Crew Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts to the space station, and another Falcon 9 flight with a GPS navigation satellite for the U.S. military.

Other missions on SpaceX’s manifest later this year — besides regularly-scheduled flights to add satellites to the Starlink Internet network — include Falcon 9 launches with a Dragon cargo craft to deliver supplies to the space station, commercial communications satellites for Turksat and SiriusXM, a joint U.S.-European oceanography satellite, and a rideshare mission carrying dozens of small satellites into polar orbit.

There is also a launch of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket on the company’s schedule in late 2020. After taking off from the Kennedy Space Center, the heavy-lift rocket will deploy classified payloads into geostationary orbit for the U.S. Space Force.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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SpaceX seeks to set turnaround record for an orbital rocket on Monday – Ars Technica

reuse record —

Every booster still undergoes detailed inspections between launches.

  • Falcon 9 B1058.2 stands tall on SLC-40, ready to launch the South Korean military’s Anasis 2 communications satellite.

    Trevor Mahlmann

  • This booster 1058.2 is the Falcon 9, supposedly with the NASA worm logo on the other side, but that side of the rocket was facing away from where the media set up cameras.

    Trevor Mahlmann

  • The Korean flag graces the Falcon 9 payload fairing, containing a South Korean military comms satellite.

    Trevor Mahlmann

  • Close-up of the Korean fairing artwork.

    Trevor Mahlmann

SpaceX will attempt to launch a South Korean military communications satellite on Monday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The Anasis 2 mission has a nearly four-hour launch window, running from 5pm ET (21:00 UTC) to 8:55pm (00:55 UTC Tuesday).

This effort follows a delay from last week, when SpaceX called off a launch attempt to investigate a second stage issue. The company has not said whether it replaced the second stage for this launch or fixed a problem with the existing hardware.

Perhaps the most notable aspect of Monday’s launch is that, if successful, it would break the company’s record for turnaround time for a Falcon 9 rocket first stage. This booster was first used on May 30 with the launch of the Demo-2 mission for NASA, successfully sending astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station. A launch Monday means the company will have reused this booster in just 51 days.

This time period would not only break SpaceX’s previous turnaround record by a couple of weeks, it would also break the record turnaround for any orbital rocket. In 1985, before the space shuttle Challenger accident caused NASA to slow its efforts to refurbish the shuttle between flights, Atlantis returned to space just 54 days after landing, marking the shortest time between orbiter reuse.

Ultimately, SpaceX hopes to reduce the turnaround time between launches from weeks to days, but as it is still learning from the process, extra care is being taken between launches. After a booster is returned to the company’s hangar in Florida, the first stage is inspected for leaks and good welds, then the rocket’s avionics are tested, plus some additional testing. This investigation takes nearly a month before a booster is put back into the processing flow for a new mission.

After today’s launch, SpaceX will attempt to land the Falcon 9’s first stage on its Just Read the Instructions drone ship, which will be stationed in the Atlantic Ocean. The satellite is scheduled to deploy 32 minutes after the launch, following a second burn of the rocket’s second-stage Merlin engine.

There is a 70-percent chance of favorable conditions this evening in Florida. The webcast below should begin about 15 minutes before the launch window opens.

Anasis 2 launch.

Listing image by Trevor Mahlmann

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SpaceX test-fires Falcon 9 rocket launch next week with Korean military satellite – Spaceflight Now

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A Falcon 9 rocket — without its payload fairing — fired up on Cape Canaveral’s Complex 40 launch Saturday for a pre-flight test-firing. Credit: William Harwood/CBS News

Hours after calling off a launch of a different rocket from a nearby launch pad, SpaceX’s launch team loaded a Falcon 9 rocket with propellant Saturday and fired its nine main engines on pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, setting the stage for a liftoff with a South Korean military satellite as soon as Tuesday amid a busy stretch of missions for the California-based rocket company.

SpaceX ground crews raised the Falcon 9 rocket vertical on pad 40 Saturday morning. An automated computer-controlled sequencer commanded super-chilled, densified kerosene and liquid oxygen into the Falcon 9 Saturday afternoon.

The countdown culminated in ignition of the rocket’s nine Merlin 1D main engines at 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT). The engines throttled up to full power, generating 1.7 million pounds of thrust for several seconds while clamps restrained the Falcon 9 on the launch pad.

Onlookers observed a plume of exhaust coming from the rocket and confirmed the the test-firing occurred. SpaceX was expected to officially release an update on the outcome of the static fire test after a quick-look data review.

The Falcon 9 will be lowered and rolled back inside SpaceX’s hangar near pad 40, where technicians will attach a European-made communications satellite named Anasis 2 built for the South Korean military.

Assuming the final days of launch preparations go according to plan, SpaceX plans to launch the mission Tuesday during a nearly four-hour window opening at 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) and extending until 8:55 p.m. EDT (0055 GMT).

The static fire test Saturday for the Anasis 2 mission occurred the same day SpaceX planned to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, located a few miles north of pad 40. SpaceX announced Saturday morning that it called off the launch from pad 39A “to allow more time for checkouts.”

SpaceX tweeted that teams “working to identify the next launch opportunity” for the mission from pad 39A, which will loft SpaceX’s next 57 Starlink broadband Internet satellites and a pair of commercial BlackSky Earth-imaging microsatellites.

The Starlink/BlackSky launch was supposed to take off June 26, but SpaceX delayed the mission to conduct additional pre-launch checkouts. A launch attempt Wednesday was scrubbed minutes before liftoff by poor weather.

The company has not disclosed any details about the nature of the problems — other than weather — that have delayed the Starlink/BlackSky mission. As of Saturday evening, it was not clear whether SpaceX might proceed with Tuesday’s planned Anasis 2 launch next, or if there might be another opportunity to launch the Starlink/BlackSky mission as soon as Monday.

SpaceX has launched 11 Falcon 9 missions so far this year, most recently on June 30, when a Falcon 9 rocket took off from pad 40 with a U.S. military GPS navigation satellite.

The Anasis 2 satellite is prepared for shipment to Cape Canaveral from Airbus’s facility in Toulouse, France. Credit: Airbus Defense and Space

Developed by Airbus Defense and Space, the Anasis 2 satellite is shrouded in secrecy at the wishes of the the spacecraft’s owner — the South Korean government.

Anasis 2 is based on the Eurostar E3000 spacecraft platform made by Airbus, but details about its performance have been kept under wraps. The Anasis 2 satellite is expected to launch into an elliptical transfer orbit, then use its on-board propulsion system to reach a circular orbit at geostationary altitude more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) over the equator.,

South Korea purchased the satellite — formerly known as KMilSatCom 1 — through an arrangement to offset South Korea’s purchase of F-35A fighter jets from Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin ultimately subcontracted the satellite manufacturing deal to Airbus.

Before Anasis 2, South Korea’s military has relied on international and civilian-owned satellites for communications.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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SpaceX Falcon 9 landing leg accidentally dropped during retraction attempt – Teslarati

SpaceX has accidentally dropped one of its newest Falcon 9 booster’s landing legs during a retraction attempt in Port Canaveral while crews worked to prepare the rocket for transport.

Falcon 9 booster B1060 safely arrived in Port Canaveral, Florida on July 4th after a flawless June 30th launch debut, delivering the US military’s GPS III SV03 navigation satellite to an accurate orbit and becoming the first SpaceX rocket to launch and land as part of an operational US military mission. The major landing milestone was supported by drone ship Just Read The Instructions (JRTI) as part of its second East Coast recovery mission ever after an ~8000 km (~5000 mi) journey from Los Angeles and months of slow and steady upgrades.

Thankfully, despite the mishap caught on camera by diligent, unofficial observers, things appeared to work out just fine for booster B1060 as crews threaded recovery operations between bouts of disruptive Florida weather.

Based on video of the accidental leg drop captured by US Launch Report on July 7th, the most obvious conclusion is that operators either failed to release tension on a winch line or some kind of hardware/software/sensor failure unintentionally over-stressed the line. Regardless, around the same time as Falcon 9 or its ground operators were likely commanding the landing leg latch closed, one or both of the lines attached to the top of the retracting leg snapped, causing it to very quickly redeploy as gravity pulled it back to earth.

Almost certainly by design, nobody was underneath the ~1000 kg (~2200 lb) landing leg during retraction, and a small stand used to prop up the leg for winch line installation seems to have been moved out of the line of fire as part of the process. As a result, when the leg was accidentally released, it simply fell onto drone ship JRTI’s flat, steel deck under its own weight. Most importantly, nobody was (visibly) injured or at risk of injury

Jump to ~3:45 to catch one of SpaceX’s 2018 landing leg deployment tests on a recovered booster.

The landing leg’s impact and aftershock looks undeniably harsh in the footage but the reality is that SpaceX has already performed almost identical tests (albeit intentionally) on recovered boosters while leg retraction was still in development. Captured in the video above, B1049’s September 2018 leg retraction and deployment test appeared to be marginally gentler than B1060’s accidental leg smack, and B1049 went on to complete four more orbital-class launches without issue. That still ignores the fact that Falcon 9’s landing legs are designed to withstand extremely rough landings of entire ~30 metric ton boosters traveling up to several meters per second (~5 mph) – vastly more force than a single landing leg can exert on itself with gravity as the only input.

(Richard Angle)

Confirming those suspicions, SpaceX ultimately got back on the saddle after a few slight weather delays and successfully retracted all four of B1060’s landing legs without issue. The once-flown rocket was quickly broken over (referring to the process of lowering it horizontally) and installed on a custom transporter, which will soon move it from Port Canaveral to a nearby SpaceX hangar (likely Pad 39A’s) to prepare for its next launch.

Check out Teslarati’s newsletters for prompt updates, on-the-ground perspectives, and unique glimpses of SpaceX’s rocket launch and recovery processes.

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