SpaceX Launches Falcon 9 v1.1 Rocket for Testing; Sends Cassiope Satellite into Orbit
September 30, 2013 2:57 PM
SpaceX was able to collect data regarding both of the rocket's two stages when restarted during flight
sent its updated Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket on a test run Sunday where it successfully delivered a satellite into orbit.
, SpaceX sent an unmanned Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket (which is the upgraded version of the Falcon 9) into space off of a launch pad at the Vandenberg Air Force Station in California. The 22-story rocket had a smooth flight, according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.
Musk was interested in experimenting with both of the rocket's two stages when restarted during flight. He wants to create a system where the Falcon's first stage is flown back to the launch site or sent gently into the water below for recovery of motors -- allowing them to be refurbished and used again rather than completely destroyed, such as in traditional rocket flights.
The Falcon 9 v1.1 has engines that are 60 percent more powerful than previous versions. It also has updated avionics and software, and longer fuel tanks.
Sunday's test showed that neither engine restart test went perfectly, but enough data was collected to improve the system.
The unmanned Falcon 9 v1.1 also sent the Canadian science satellite called Cassiope into orbit yesterday, which was originally supposed to fly on SpaceX's Falcon 1 in 2008. Cassiope is a communications satellite that will monitor the space environment around Earth.
SpaceX's new Falcon 9 and upcoming Falcon Heavy rockets have contracts for over 50 launches -- 10 of which will fly cargo to the International Space Station for NASA. The others consist of non-U.S. government agencies and commercial satellite operators.
SpaceX stepped in with its Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket
as a means to send supplies
(and eventually astronauts) to the ISS after NASA retired its space shuttle fleet in 2011. This left American astronauts with no way to the ISS except aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket, but these seats became very costly.
SpaceX flew its Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket to the ISS
for the first time back in May
2012 for a test supply run. After that successful trip, SpaceX and NASA signed a $1.6 billion contract that allows SpaceX to complete supply trips to the ISS and back.
Check out this video of Sunday's Falcon 9 v1.1 launch:
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