Saturday, February 28, 2015

SpaceX / Eutelsat Launch This Sunday ~

I almost missed this one. SpaceX's next launch is scheduled for this weekend: 

Sunday, March 1, 10:50 pm EST (7:50 pm PST, 4:50 am March 2 CET) from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral. SpaceX and NASA TV will have live coverage, starting an hour before the launch. has countdown coverage available now. The launch window is 42 minutes and weather conditions are forecast as 70% favorable. In case of a scrub, another launch window is available on Monday, March 2.

During this mission, SpaceX will not attempt to land Falcon 9's upper stage on a drone ship in the Atlantic. The Falcon 9 v1.1 used for this launch does not have the required grid fins and landing legs. The next Falcon 9 landing attempt is scheduled for April as part of the CRS-6 mission, SpaceX's sixth commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station.

Photo credit: SpaceX

ABS/Eutelsat will launch on a Falcon 9 v1.1, which has extended fuel tanks and 9 Merlin engines arranged in SpaceX's Octaweb configuration. Falcon 9 v.1.1 first launched in 2013.

Photo credit: Boeing

The ABS-3A and Eutelsat 115 West B spacecraft are mated at Boeing in preparation for launch. These satellites are the first ever satellites to enter service with an all-electric propulsion system. Boeing chose electric over chemical propulsion to increase payload performance and reduce launch costs. Both satellites where designed to improve coverage and a variety of services in North and South America, Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Monday, February 16, 2015

DSCOVR Launches, Picture-Perfectly

SpaceX's first deep space mission was scrubbed three times due to weather, wind and radar issues. On February 11, a fourth attempt to deliver and position the DSCOVR satellite a million miles from Earth was not only successful, but breathtakingly beautiful. These pictures speak for themselves:

Image credit: SpaceX

Falcon 9 launches with its DSCOVR payload against a beautiful Cape Canaveral sunset backdrop.

 Image credit: SpaceX

Falcon 9 in flight with landing legs visible.

Image credit: SpaceX

Falcon 9 on its first deep space mission, looking back at Earth. The visible landmass is Australia.

SpaceX had planned to land the rocket's upper stage on an autonomous spaceport drone ship in the Atlantic. However, extreme stormy weather and high seas interfered, so SpaceX decided to scrub the drone ship landing. Still, we got this amazing picture as the rocket descended, showing off its grid fins in action.

Click here and scroll down for a picture of hypersonic grid fins being tested at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, CA. 

Elon Musk added that the rocket soft landed in the stormy ocean within 10 meters of the target and nicely vertical, suggesting a high probability of a good drone ship landing in non-stormy weather.

Last, but not least - this jaw-dropping launch picture taken from an airplane. I haven't been able to find an explanation for the spiral plumes near the horizon.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

DSCOVR Will Launch - Falcon 9 Plans Landing

Update - February 11, 12:15 pm:

Today's DSCOVR launch attempt is still on track for 3:03 pm PST. NASA and SpaceX will have live feeds.

Unfortunately, SpaceX will not attempt to land the Falcon 9 upper stage on a barge today due to extreme weather in the Atlantic. SpaceX reports 3-story-high waves crashing over decks and says the company plans a soft water landing through the storm to collect valuable landing data.

Please scroll down for more information about the DSCOVR mission and landing attempt.


Update - February 10, 3:00 pm:

Launch was scrubbed today due to persistent upper level winds just above the safe margin. Next attempt will be tomorrow:

Wednesday, February 11, 3:03 pm PST (6:03 pm EST, 00:03 Feb.12 CET).


Update - February 9, 8:00 am:

NOAA tweeted this morning that launch will be delayed one more day due to unfavorable weather conditions. New launch time: 

Tuesday, February 10, 3:05 pm PST (6:05 pm EST, 00:05 Feb.10 CET).

A backup launch window is available on Wednesday, February 11, 3:03 pm PST (6:03 pm EST, 00:03 Feb.12 CET).


Update - February 8, 3:20 pm

Today's launch was scrubbed three minutes prior to lift-off time. According to "The Air Force Eastern Range called a hold due to a loss of tracking with the rocket. The SpaceX launch team was also working a telemetry problem in the final minutes of the countdown, and it's not clear if both conditions were "no go" for launch."

The launch window was instantaneous and there won't be another attempt today. Falcon 9 is being put in safe mode. SpaceX will try again tomorrow:

Monday, February 9, 3:05 pm PST (6:05 pm EST, 00:05 Feb.10 CET). 
Weather conditions are about 50% favorable. A backup launch window is available on Wednesday. The 1-day delay will also give SpaceX a chance to replace a video transmitter on the rocket's first stage.


Tomorrow, February 8, Space X will launch the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) for NASA, NOAA and the U.S. Air Force. This launch has been delayed a few times throughout January and is now scheduled for 3:10 pm PST (6:10 pm EST, 00:10 Feb. 9 CET). In North America, we'll see a Sunday afternoon launch from Cape Canaveral. NASA TV and SpaceX will have live coverage.

 NASA / NOAA / USAF DSCOVR Mission Patch

Nine minutes after launch - and this time in daylight - the Falcon 9's first stage will prepare to land on SpaceX’s autonomous spaceport drone ship in the Atlantic. The private rocket company tried this maneuver for the first time last month - an almost-nailed-it landing attempt that ended, as Elon Musk tweeted, with a full RUD event - rapid unscheduled disassembly. Sunday's landing attempt on a drone ship, if successful, will mark a historic occasion in the history of rocketry. You can find more details about the launch and landing timeline here.

  SpaceX DSCOVR Mission Patch

The DSCOVR satellite will be positioned 1 million miles (1.6 million km) from Earth, and about 90 million (145 million km) from the Sun at the L1 libration point, where the gravitational influence of the Sun and the Earth are exactly balanced. This places DSCOVR into a stable orbit, where the satellite will monitor space weather, such as solar winds that can affect communication grids and other equipment on Earth. DSCOVR is also tasked with Earth observing functions. Read more about DSCOVR here.

 Photo credit: NASA

Getting ready for launch: Enclosing DSCOVR in the Falcon 9's 43-foot-tall (13 m) payload fairing.