Steve Campbell January 17, 2016
SpaceX has put another payload into orbit following December’s successful return to flight. Their fortunes have improved since last year’s failure of a Space Station Resupply mission.
Quoting Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) Press Release:
With this mission, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will deliver the Jason-3 satellite to low-Earth orbit for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), French space agency Centre National d’Etudes Spatiales (CNES) and the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT).”
“Jason-3 is the newest satellite in a series designed to maintain long-term satellite altimetry observations of global sea surface height. These data provide critical ocean information that forecasters need to predict devastating hurricanes and severe weather before they arrive onshore.”
Launch took place in California. Again from SpaceX press kit:
“Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California SpaceX’s Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base has a long history dating back to the early 1960s. Originally an Atlas launch pad activated in 1962, 4E was in active use until a 2005 Titan IV launch. SpaceX’s groundbreaking was in July 2011, and the pad was completed in November 2012 in just 17 months.”
The Vandenberg facility is built to accommodate the Falcon Heavy vehicle as well as this version of Falcon9. The California site is necessary for the orbital requirement of a 66 degree inclination. Launching such a mission from Florida would require passage over populated areas instead of the Vandenberg trajectory over the Pacific Ocean.
The launch went nominally and the satellite was successfully deployed. The “hosted video” is available ate this link:
The action starts at 19 minutes and 23 seconds. I will warn that a substantial fog was in place for the launch. Also, I should admit now that the attempted landing by the first stage on a barge at sea was almost successful as well. The “almost” means that one landing leg collapsed during a faster-than-anticipated approach. There is no video yet available on this but I expect it will be another of those “blown-to-bits” events.
But this was, of course, a secondary goal. The SpaceX team landed a first stage the last time on land at Landing Complex 1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station last December. There is a Landing Complex being prepared at Vandenberg, but for this mission and rocket, the fuel to return to land is just not available.
The “Success” part comes from the correct insertion of the satellite into the proper orbit. And that, of course, is the “bread and butter” that makes these attempted returns (i.e., “Icing on the Cake”)possible.