SpaceX recently launched its Falcon 9 rocket from the Californian coast, on Sunday Sept. 29, representing the private spaceflight company’s first test flight from the West Coast of America.
Falcon 9 Rocket
SpaceX had originally set a launch date of Spet. 15, but were forced to delay the flight, in light of issues that materialized during a hot-fire engine test, which took place Sept. 12.
However, after a subsequent test, which the rocket successfully passed, the launch was given the go ahead from the company’s launch pad at the Vandenberg Air Force Base, some 150 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Prior to the Sunday launch, SpaceX had launched a range of rockets from Cape Canaveral in Florida; therefore, the spaceflight corporation’s latest mission represents quite a milestone.
The latest Falcon 9 v1.1 series of rockets offer 60 percent more power over their predecessors, and house larger propellant tanks, alongside fine-tuned software and avionics to provide improved performance.
Elon Musk, the American entrepreneur who established SpaceX, stated the launch to have been successful in a tweet on Sunday:
“All satellites deployed at the targeted orbit insertion vectors.”
Meanwhile, according to Space.com, John Insprucker spoke about the launch event in a recent webcast session:
“There’s tons of data coming back and it looks like it was a picture-perfect flight. Everything was looking good right down the middle of the track.”
The unmanned, 22-story rocket soared into the Californian skies at 12 p.m. EDT, with the Canadian Space Agency’s satellite, CASSIOPE. CASSIOPE is a small craft, approximately six feet long, and harbors a payload with two separate satellite functions, including a scientific payload (e-POP) and the Cascade commsat.
CASSIOPE will use e-POP’s instruments to investigate space storms within the upper atmosphere, and attempt to establish its influence upon radio transmissions and global positioning satellite technology.
Specifically, it is hoped that CASSIOPE will provide researchers with a better understanding of how solar particles impact our planet’s atmosphere, during space weather events. These storms are responsible for giving rise to polar aurora, which are capable of interfering with a number of space-based systems and communication devices.
Cascade, however, is a technology demonstrator courier. Constructed by MDA, the technology is designed to act as a digital broadband courier service, which can securely store and transfer large amounts of data from anywhere across the globe. It’s thought that oil and gas exploration companies and military personnel may take advantage of Cascade’s secure two-way transfer method.
Falcon 9 also carried three other smaller satellites, which were part of the secondary payload:
- CUSat – Uses a new GPS algorithm, called Carrier-phase Differential GPS
- Drag and Atmosphere Neutral Density Explorer (DANDE) – A spherical craft, manufactured to study the influence of satellite drag in the lower thermosphere
- Polar Orbiting Passive Atmospheric Calibration Spheres (POPACS) – a CubeSat mission (a miniaturized satellite used for space research) designed to monitor the density of the upper atmosphere, following solar flare and coronal mass ejection (CME) events.
SpaceX Company’s other Objectives
Aside from the company’s latest landmark launch, they have also formed a number of contracts with NASA, and have been tasked with performing a dozen missions to replenish stocks at the International Space Station (ISS). Thus far, SpaceX has successfully used Falcon 9 on three of its contracted ISS excursions.
In addition, SpaceX is currently in the process of developing a reusable rocket launch system. The company has recently tested its Grasshopper rocket technology at its development facility, based in McGregor, Texas.
Most of today’s rockets are expendable, and burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere. It is believed that SpaceX’s innovative Grasshopper technology, which returns back to its launch pad, could herald a new means by which rockets are recycled; thus far, it has reached a maximum altitude of over one thousand feet, before safely descending back to Earth.
This year will be a busy time for SpaceX, who will be launching future Falcon 9 missions, carrying a range of satellites, as part of a number of contracts. The company’s California launch will, no doubt, reassure their many clients.
By: James Fenner