Launches

By | August 11, 2008 | Satellite News Feed

SpaceX Launch Failed When First Stage Hit Second Stage Tiny Bit Of Extra Thrust Caused Disaster In Mission

Next SpaceX Falcon Flight Goes To Launch Pad Next Month

That Falcon 1 rocket launch on Aug. 2 failed because the first stage had just enough extra fuel and thrust that it hit the second stage, according to Space X CEO and CTO Elon Musk.

The flight used a new first stage engine, the regeneratively cooled Merlin 1C, and it has a longer decline in its thrust than the old ablatively cooled Merlin 1A engine, Musk explained.

SpaceX knew this before the launch, and compensated for it, he said. But clearly the private launch firm didn’t provide quite enough compensation, Musk explained.

Therefore, SpaceX suffered its third launch failure in as many attempts. (Please see Space & Missile Defense Report, Monday, Aug. 4, 2008.)

"At this point, we are certain as to the origin of the problem," Musk said. "Four methods of analysis — vehicle inertial measurement, chamber pressure, onboard video and a simple physics free body calculation — all give the same answer:

"The problem arose due to the longer thrust decay transient of our new Merlin 1C regeneratively cooled engine, as compared to the prior flight that used our old Merlin 1A ablatively cooled engine."

Musk explained why the new type of engine had extra thrust, enough to cause a problem.

"Unlike the ablative engine, the regen engine had unburned fuel in the cooling channels and manifold that combined with a small amount of residual oxygen to produce a small thrust that was just enough to overcome the stage separation pusher impulse," Musk reported.

This situation was anticipated by SpaceX, he wrote in a note.

"We were aware of and had allowed for a thrust transient, but did not expect it to last that long," Musk continued. "As it turned out, a very small increase in the time between commanding main engine shutdown and stage separation would have been enough to save the mission."

So near and yet so far.

He outlined why this problem occurred.

"The question then is why didn’t we catch this issue?" he wrote. "Unfortunately, the engine chamber pressure is so low for this transient thrust — only about 10 psi — that it barely registered on our ground test stand in Texas where ambient pressure is 14.5 psi. "However, in vacuum that 10 psi chamber pressure produced enough thrust to cause the first stage to recontact the second stage."

While at first SpaceX suspected the launch failure was caused by an incomplete separation of the first stage from the second stage, perhaps because of a problem with pyrotechnic bolts, Musk how reports that "all bolts fired and the pneumatic pushers delivered the correct impulse."

Musk, who said after the failure that he will never give up his quest for a viable, dependable launch capability, turned to the future and the next SpaceX launch.

"It looks like we may have flight four on the launch pad as soon as next month," he said.

That fairly quick turnaround time is because there are no major changes in the hardware.

"The long gap between flight two and three was mainly due to the Merlin 1C regen engine development, but there are no technology upgrades between flight three and four," Musk wrote.

He also said he is confident that installation of baffles will prevent the sloshing of fuel that caused a loss of flight two.

AMRAAM Fired From Super Hornet In Test

An Advanced Medium-Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) was fired from an F/A-18F Super Hornet strike fighter aircraft in developmental tests, Raytheon Co. [RTN] announced.

In the May 22 test, the AIM-120D AMRAAM passed well within lethal range of the QF-4 target drone. The missile destroyed the target and met all primary test objectives, Raytheon stated.

The AIM-120D builds on the combat-proven AMRAAM family of missiles. It offers improved capabilities compared with its predecessor, the AIM-120C7.

"AIM-120D’s advanced features offer U.S. aviators a critical advantage in the beyond-visual-range fight," said Jim Knox, Raytheon Missile Systems AMRAAM program director. "There is no missile in development or in any air force’s inventory that can even come close to matching what the AIM-120D can do."

The AMRAAM family of missiles has been in production for more than 20 years. It is operational with the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps, Army and 33 international customers. More than 16,000 AMRAAMs have been produced. The missile is responsible for nine successful combat intercepts, according to Raytheon.

Multiple Kill Vehicle Propulsion Unit Passes Test

A key propulsion system component for the Multiple Kill Vehicle-L (MKV-L) payload passed a test, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) announced.

A post-test assessment showed that the divert thruster stem met performance requirements in a series of static, hot-fire tests at NASA’s White Sands Test Facility in Las Cruces, N.M.

During an engagement with the enemy, this high-performance propulsion system maneuvers the carrier vehicle and its cargo of kill vehicles into the threat complex to intercept the targets.

With tracking data from the Ballistic Missile Defense System and its own seeker, the carrier vehicle dispenses and guides the kill vehicles to destroy targets in the complex. This technology will negate more advanced countermeasures that could be aboard hostile ballistic missiles, according to MDA.

Next, a hover test of the carrier vehicle will be conducted at the National Hover Test Facility at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. later this year. In this controlled flight test, the carrier vehicle, with a load of 12 inert kill vehicles, will maneuver while tracking a surrogate target complex a distance away.

The MDA Multiple Kill Vehicle is a force multiplier for all of the land- and sea-based weapons of the integrated midcourse missile defense system. In the event of an enemy launch, a single interceptor equipped with this payload destroys not only the re-entry vehicle but also all credible threat objects, including countermeasures the enemy deploys to try to spoof our defenses.

This many-on-many strategy eliminates the need for extensive pre-launch intelligence while leveraging the Ballistic Missile Defense System discrimination capability, ensuring a robust and affordable solution to emerging threats, MDA stated.

The MKV-L development team for MDA includes Lockheed Martin Corp. [LMT] unit Space Systems in Sunnyvale, Calif., as the prime contractor; Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne of Canoga Park, Calif., a United Technologies Corp. [UTX] company, and Octant Technologies Inc., San Jose, Calif.

Raytheon Co. [RTN] also is developing a separate multiple kill vehicle technology on a dual-path basis.

NASA’s Shuttle and Rocket Missions

Updated — August 7, 2008 – 12:10 p.m. EDT

Legend: + Targeted For | *No Earlier Than (Tentative) | **To Be Determined

2008 Launches

Date: October +

Mission: TacSat-3

Launch Vehicle: Orbital Sciences Minotaur Rocket

Launch Site: Wallops Flight Facility – Goddard Space Flight Center

Description: NASA will support the Air Force launch of the TacSat-3 satellite, managed by the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Space Vehicles Directorate. TacSat-3 will demonstrate the capability to furnish real-time data to the combatant commander. NASA Ames will fly a microsat and NASA Wallops will fly the CubeSats on this flight in addition to providing the launch range.

Date: Oct. 5

Mission: IBEX

Launch Vehicle: Orbital Sciences Pegasus XL Rocket

Launch Site: Reagan Test Site, Kwajalein Atoll

Launch Window: 12:41 to 12:48 p.m. EDT

Description: IBEX’s science objective is to discover the global interaction between the solar wind and the interstellar medium and will achieve this objective by taking a set of global energetic neutral atom images that will answer four fundamental science questions.

Date: Oct. 8 +

Mission: STS-125

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Atlantis

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Launch Time: 1:34 a.m. EDT

Description: Space Shuttle Atlantis will fly seven astronauts into space for the fifth and final servicing mission to the Hubble Space Telescope. During the 11-day flight, the crew will repair and improve the observatory’s capabilities through 2013.

Date: Nov. 10 +

Mission: STS-126

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Endeavour

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Description: Space Shuttle Endeavour launching on assembly flight ULF2, will deliver a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module to the International Space Station.

Date: Nov. 20 *

Mission: STSS Demonstrators Program – Missile Defense Agency

Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Delta II

Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station – Launch Complex 17, Pad A

Description: STSS Demonstrators Program is a midcourse tracking technology demonstrator and is part of an evolving ballistic missile defense system. STSS is capable of tracking objects after boost phase and provides trajectory information to other sensors and interceptors. To be launched by NASA for the Missile Defense Agency.

Date: Dec. 16 *

 

Mission: GOES-O

Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Delta IV

Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station – Launch Complex 37

Description: NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are actively engaged in a cooperative program, the multimission Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite series N-P. This series will be a vital contributor to weather, solar and space operations, and science.

2009 Launches

Date: Jan. 15

Mission: OCO

Launch Vehicle: Orbital Sciences Taurus Rocket

Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base – Launch Pad SLC 576-E

Description: The Orbiting Carbon Observatory is a new Earth orbiting mission sponsored by NASA’s Earth System Science Pathfinder Program.

Date: Feb. 4

Mission: NOAA-N Prime

Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Delta II

Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base – Launch Pad SLC-2

Description: NOAA-N Prime is the latest polar-orbiting satellite developed by NASA/Goddard Spaceflight Center for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA uses two satellites, a morning and afternoon satellite, to ensure every part of the Earth is observed at least twice every 12 hours. NOAA-N will collect information about Earth’s atmosphere and environment to improve weather prediction and climate research across the globe.

Date: Feb. 12 +

Mission: STS-119

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Discovery

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Description: Space shuttle Discovery launching on assembly flight 15A, will deliver the fourth starboard truss segment to the International Space Station.

Date: Feb. 27 *

Mission: LRO/LCROSS

Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Atlas V

Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station – Launch Complex 41

Description: LRO will launch with the objectives to finding safe landing sites, locate potential resources, characterize the radiation environment and test new technology. The Lunar CRater Observing and Sensing Satellite mission is seeking a definitive answer about the presence or absence of water ice in a permanently shadowed crater at either the Moon’s North or South Pole.

Date: April 10

Mission: Kepler

Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Delta II

Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station – Launch Complex 17 – Pad 17-B

Description: The Kepler Mission, a NASA Discovery mission, is specifically designed to survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy to detect and characterize hundreds of Earth-size and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone.

Date: April 30

Mission: STSS ATRR – Missile Defense Agency

Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Delta II

Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base – Launch Pad SLC-2

Description: STSS ATRR serves as a pathfinder for future launch and mission technology for the Missile Defense Agency. To be launched by NASA for the MDA.

Date: May 15 +

Mission: STS-127

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Endeavour

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Description: Space shuttle Endeavour will deliver the exposed facility of Japan’s Kibo laboratory to the International Space Station.

Date: June 15

Mission: Glory

Launch Vehicle: Orbital Sciences Taurus Rocket

Launch Site: Vandenberg Air Force Base – Launch Pad SLC 576-E

Description: The Glory Mission will help increase our understanding of the Earth’s energy balance by collecting data on the properties of aerosols and black carbon in the Earth’s atmosphere and how the Sun’s irradiance affects the Earth’s climate.

Date: July 30 +

Mission: STS-128

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Atlantis

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Description: Space shuttle Atlantis will use a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module to carry experiment and storage racks to the International Space Station.

Date: Sept. 15 *

Mission: Mars Science Laboratory

Description: The Mars Science Laboratory is a rover that will assess whether Mars ever was, or is still today, an environment able to support microbial life and to determine the planet’s habitability.

Date:Oct. 15 +

Mission: STS-129

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Discovery

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Description: Space shuttle Discovery will deliver components including two spare gyroscopes, two nitrogen tank assemblies, two pump modules, an ammonia tank assembly and a spare latching end effector for the station’s robotic arm to the International Space Station.

Date: November +

Mission: WISE

Description: The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) will survey the entire sky in the mid-infrared with far greater sensitivity than any previous mission or program ever has. The WISE survey will consist of over a million images, from which hundreds of millions of astronomical objects will be catalogued.

Date: Dec. 10 +

Mission: STS-130

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Endeavour

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Description: Space shuttle Endeavour will deliver the final connecting node, Node 3, and the Cupola, a robotic control station with six windows around its sides and another in the center that provides a 360-degree view around the International Space Station.

2010 Launches

Date:Jan. 26

Mission: SDO

Launch Vehicle: United Launch Alliance Atlas V

Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station – Launch Complex 41

Description: The first Space Weather Research Network mission in the Living With a Star (LWS) Program of NASA.

Date: Feb. 11 +

Mission: STS-131

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Atlantis

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Description: Space shuttle Atlantis will carry a Multi-Purpose Logistics Module filled with science racks that will be transferred to laboratories of the International Space Station.

Date: April 8 +

Mission: STS-132

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Discovery

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Description: Space shuttle Discovery mission will carry an integrated cargo carrier to deliver maintenance and assembly hardware, including spare parts for space station systems. In addition, the second in a series of new pressurized components for Russia, a Mini Research Module, will be permanently attached to the bottom port of the Zarya module.

Date: May 31 +

Mission: STS-133

Launch Vehicle: Space Shuttle Endeavour

Launch Site: Kennedy Space Center – Launch Pad 39A

Description: Space shuttle Endeavour will deliver critical spare components including antennas and gas tanks to the International Space Station.

Source: NASA

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