Yesterday SpaceX delivered to orbit Thaicom-8 communication satellite and performed successful landing on “Of course I love you” robotic ship. Is there anything more to show that reusable technology is pure success?
Mission with Thaicom-8 was planned by SpaceX originally for the day before – to May 26, 2016. Launch was scrubbed at 21:48 GMT and postponed for 24 hours due the spotted problem with engine actuator in second stage of the Falcon-9 1.2v (FT). Reason of delay was spotting small problems in second stage engine actuator. According to tweet by Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX:
“There was a tiny glitch in the motion of an upper stage engine actuator. Probably not a flight risk, but still worth investigating.”
It seems that problems were fixed today and launch hour was confirmed for 23:39 GMT. Today weather still remains very good and at 25th flight of Falcon-9 seemed to getting close with high chances for successful launch. SpaceX planned that during this mission another attempt of landing of the first stage of the Falcon rocket on Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS) “Of Course I Still Love You” will be performed (remaining on Atlantic at 28° 6′ 53″ N 73° 38′ 32″ W). Thaicom-8 satellite with mass of 3200 kg remained encapsulated under payload fairing, when SpaceX specialists begun procedure of filling tanks of the rocket remaining on SLC-40 with supercooled LOX and room temperature RP-1. At 21:24 first stage was already filled with propellant; at 21:30 GMT prevalves of the nine first stage Merlin-1D+ engines were open to start cooling engines with freely floating LOX. At 21:37 engines reached their launch temperature and Falcon-9 switched to internal power. Strongback tower was retracted at 21:36. At 21:38 Falcon internal computers took control over countdown. At 23:39 engines were ignited and Falcon-9 with roaring sound braking through water curtains of Niagara system, started to rise over launch pad. At T+00’24” rocket reached altitude of 1000 m and speed of 323 km/h. Speed of sound was reached at T+01’03” on altitude of 9 km. At T+02’00” rocket reached altitude of 33.4 km and speed of 4287 km/h – 13 seconds after passing point of maximum stress. Shutting off first stage and separation was performed at T+02’39” on altitude of 65.2 km and with speed at 8341 km/h. First stage from that moment deployed stabilizers and started to perform flip to prepare correct position for reentry; next, it started to burn central engine to reduce speed from 15753 km/h. At T+06’38” on altitude of 169 km; at T+08’41” first stage landed using deployed grids on the “Of course I love you” robotic ship. Shortly after landing of the first stage, second stage reached altitude of 165 km and stopped engines at T+9’10”. At T+25’44” second stage reached correct parking orbit on altitude of 260 km flying with speed of 26000 km/h. At T+27’00” second stage started its engine for the second and last time for around 1 minute. At T+28’25” engine was shut down after reaching altitude of 295 km and speed at 36400 km/h. At T+32’00” Thaicom-8 was successfully deployed on altitude of 560 km and started its 15 years mission. According to Thaicom Public Company Limited, satellite will start operating from 78.5° east longitude orbital slot in the beginning of July 2016.