Saturday, March 2, 2013

private robot spaceship launch

SpaceX CRS-2:
SpaceX CRS-2 is the fourth flight for SpaceX's uncrewed Dragon cargo spacecraft, the fifth and final flight for the company's two-stage Falcon 9 v1.0 launch vehicle, and the second SpaceX operational mission contracted to NASA under a Commercial Resupply Services contract.
The launch occurred on 1 March 2013. A minor technical issue on the Dragon module involving the thruster pods and solar panels occurred upon reaching orbit, but it was recoverable and solar panels were deployed after an hour delay.

The launch video is amazing. There is little action and only a few scene changes, but these are jaw-dropping: earth to space, first stage to second stage, orbital deployment.

Falcon 9 second stage just after ignition, illuminating the ejected first stage.

Falcon 9 second stage exhaust nozzle, glowing orange hot.

Falcon 9 second stage just after shutdown. "Vehicle is orbital."
Falcon 9:
Both stages of this two-stage-to-orbit vehicle use liquid oxygen (LOX) and rocket-grade kerosene (RP-1) propellants. The Falcon 9 can lift payloads of 13,150 kilograms (29,000 lb) to low Earth orbit, and 4,850 kilograms (10,700 lb) to geostationary transfer orbit, which places the Falcon 9 design in the medium-lift range of launch systems.

SpaceX uses multiply-redundant flight computers. Each Merlin engine is controlled by three voting computers (each composed of two physical processors constantly checking each-other) to instantiate  a fault-tolerant design. For flexibility, commercial off-the-shelf parts and system-wide "radiation-tolerant" design are used instead of rad-hardened parts. The software runs Linux and was written in C++.

If all goes well Dragon will dock with the International Space Station tomorrow, 3 March 2013:

Dragon ISS docking, grappled with Canadarm2 on 3 March, 2013

Dragon's unberthing, release and splashdown are planned for 25 March 2013. The Dragon will return 3,020 lb (1,370 kg) of cargo, 2,668 lb (1,210 kg) without packaging. Included is 210 lb (95 kg) of crew supplies, 1,455 lb (660 kg) of scientific experiments and experiment hardware, 884 lb (401 kg) of space station hardware, 84 lb (38 kg) of spacesuit equipment and other miscellaneous items.

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