Spacex reviewed the September 29th, 2013 launch of the upgraded falcon rocket. They included a picture of the first stage re-igniting its ending just above the ocean. This was to demonstrate using the engines to slow down and land for reusable rockets.
Though not a primary mission objective, SpaceX was also able to initiate two engine relights on the first stage. For the first restart burn, we lit three engines to do a supersonic retro propulsion, which we believe may be the first attempt by any rocket stage. The first restart burn was completed well and enabled the stage to survive reentering the atmosphere in a controlled fashion.
SpaceX then lit the center engine for a single engine burn. That relight also went well, however we exceeded the roll control authority of the attitude control thrusters. This particular stage was not equipped with landing gear which could have helped stabilize the stage like fins would on an aircraft. The stage ended up spinning to a degree that was greater than we could control with the gas thrusters on board and ultimately we hit the water relatively hard.
However, SpaceX recovered portions of the stage and now, along with the Grasshopper tests, we believe we have all the pieces to achieve a full recovery of the boost stage.
This launch also marked the first of three certification flights needed to certify Falcon 9 to fly missions for the U.S. Air Force under the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) program. When Falcon 9 is certified, SpaceX will be eligible to compete for all National Security Space (NSS) missions.
The next few months remain busy for SpaceX and the upgraded Falcon 9. We are currently preparing to launch our first geosynchronous transfer orbit mission out of Cape Canaveral with SES-8 followed by Thaicom and our next trip to the space station in the early part of next year.
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Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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