Upgraded Falcon 9 Mission Overview

May 1, 2016 – 08:55 am

On Sunday, Sept. 29th, SpaceX successfully completed the demonstration mission of its upgraded Falcon 9 rocket, delivering the CASSIOPE, CUSat, DANDE and POPACS satellites to their targeted orbits. All of the satellite owners are in contact with their spacecraft and are reporting nominal operations.

This was the first Falcon 9 launch using SpaceX’s new 17 foot diameter fairing, designed and built in house by SpaceX. The fairing separates using pneumatic pushers instead of explosives and is large enough to fit a city bus. This was also the first launch from SpaceX’s newly refurbished launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base, and the first demonstration of a number of technologies on the upgraded vehicle.

On this mission, Falcon 9 lifted off with nine Merlin 1D engines, generating 1.3 million pounds of thrust at liftoff and increasing to 1.5 million pounds of thrust as it approached the vacuum of space—nearly twice the thrust than when previously powered by the Merlin 1C. The engines were configured in a more robust engine support structure called the Octaweb, which is easier to manufacture and improves the vehicles reliability. To fuel the more powerful engines, SpaceX extended the propellant tanks by approximately 60%. The upgraded vehicle featured a triple-redundant avionics system similar to that used on Dragon, providing a single-fault tolerant architecture. A new stage separation system reduced the number of connection points from 12 to 3, and the vehicle also flew with a stronger heat shield that allows the rocket to reenter Earth’s atmosphere and eventually land propulsively.

The flight proceeded according to plan, with a nominal first-stage flight and shutdown 2 minutes and 41 seconds after launch. Stage separation occurred at 2 minutes and 45 seconds, with MVac ignition following 7 seconds later. SpaceX's new fairing separated at approximately 3 minutes 32 seconds into launch. Nine minutes and 2 seconds into flight, the upper stage engine shut down. Approximately 14 minutes into flight, CASSIOPE was deployed directly at its target orbit of 325x1500km, 81 deg inclination. Each system performed as expected and all payloads were delivered to their intended destinations.

View from the onboard rocket cam looking down the first stage.

First stage separates 2 minutes and 45 seconds into the flight, prepares to reenter the Earth's atmosphere

Merlin Vacuum engine on the second stage ignites 7 seconds after stage separation

SpaceX's new fairing separates approximately 3 minutes and 32 seconds into launch, preparing for payload deployment

Nine minutes and 2 seconds into flight, the upper stage engine shuts down in preparation for payload deployment

Source: www.spacex.com

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