SpaceX Manufactures New Age in Space Travel
Carlyn McGill posted on December 22, 2015 |
The Falcon 9. (Photo courtesy of Elon Musk via Twitter.)

The Falcon 9. (Photo courtesy of Elon Musk via Twitter.)

SpaceX has revolutionized space travel.

The Falcon 9 rocket was successfully launched into space to deploy a payload of 11 satellites. Afterward, the first stage returned safely to Earth, landing upright on its launch pad from a record altitude.

The first objective of the mission was to deploy all of the 11 ORBCOMM Next Generation OG2 satellites into orbit. The second test objective was to then land the Falcon 9 first stage vertically and safely on its landing pad.
 

This mission completed a $200 million 17-satellite network that aims to bring machine-to-machine communications on Earth for launch customer, ORBCOMM. Following a health check, the satellites will go through In-Orbit-Testing and are expected to provide full commercial M2M messaging and Automatic Identification System services in roughly 60 days.

Falcon 9 booster landing. (Photo courtesy of SpaceX.)

Falcon 9 booster landing. (Photo courtesy of SpaceX.)

Falcon 9 lifted off at 8:29 P.M. EST from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Falcon 9’s first-stage shut down about two minutes into the flight (50 m, or 80 km above the earth) and separated from the upper-stage booster.

A series of engine burns flew the booster to its landing pad roughly 10 minutes later. The landing pad was located about six miles (nine km) southeast of the launch pad.

The upper-stage booster continued its journey into Earth’s orbit (500 m, or 800 km). The first pair of 11 satellites were deployed roughly 15 minutes after take off. Once all 11 satellites were successfully deployed, the second stage fell back to the earth.

And the rest, is history.

Cape Canaveral sky during the mission. (Photo courtesy of SpaceX.)

Cape Canaveral sky during the mission. (Photo courtesy of SpaceX.)

SpaceX designed and manufactured the two-stage rocket, which includes nine first-stage engines. Later, a Dragon spacecraft is planned to be attached to the top of the rocket to carry payloads and astronauts.

Currently a Dragon spacecraft is used to carry payloads to orbit, with future plans for astronaut transportation.

The first stage of the Falcon 9 has nine Merlin engines and aluminum-lithium alloy tanks that contain liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene propellant.

Falcon 9’s engines generate over 1.5 million pounds of thrust when at sea level and continue going up to almost 1.7 million pounds of thrust once in space.

The second stage is powered by one Merlin vacuum engine. Once it transports the payload to orbit the second stage engine will ignite seconds after separation if there are multiple payloads. In the case that there are multiple payloads, the engine is capable of restarting more than once. The second stage is also made of aluminum-lithium alloy.

Refurbishing and reusing rockets would cut the company’s operational costs. With these capabilities other private space launch companies will struggle to compete.

Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO, tweeted pictures, video and words of triumph throughout the half-hour mission. Musk is also the CEO of Tesla Motors and co-founder of PayPal.

To keep up with the most current updates, follow along on SpaceX’s website.

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