An update on SpaceX’s recovered first stage


Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar to the right. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.

Link here. The story not only gives a detailed description of the prep work done to get the stage, dubbed CRS-8 S1, ready for transportation to the test facility where it will undergo static fire tests, it also gives an update on the status of SpaceX’s upcoming launches. This one sentence sums it up:

The frequency of SpaceX launches is expected to pick up the pace in June with up to three launches planned, potentially including the historic reuse of the CRS-8 S1.

If SpaceX can get three rockets off the ground in one month, a first for the company, they will help ease their launch backlog while also demonstrating that they can launch at a fast and reliable rate.

5 comments

  • Three launches in a month may not indicate much of anything except that they kept working and building flight-ready rockets during the stand down after their recent launch failure.

  • Dick Eagleson

    It may demonstrate any of a few other things as well.

    1) If all three putative June launches are conducted from SLC-40, it will demonstrate that SpaceX’s previously demonstrated ability to turn that pad around in two weeks was not an isolated incident; especially if they do it at least twice, back-to-back.

    2) Alternatively, if one or more(!) of said three missions launches from LC-39A at KSC, it will be a spectacular “champagne bottle moment” for SpaceX’s modifications and updates to that facility.

    3) If the 1st stage booster for one of the June missions is the one recovered at sea as part of the CRS-8 mission, it will mark another major forward step in SpaceX’s campaign to make 1st stage recovery and reuse a repeatable, routine reality. That will be especially true if the stage is successfully recovered a second time.

    If any of these scenarios come to pass, singly or in combination, it will signal an undeniable jump in SpaceX’s ability to service its manifest and step up its launch cadence. SpaceX already has three missions accomplished this year. A fourth is scheduled for launch near the end of April. Two more are manifested for May. If it can pull off three more in June, that will put SpaceX halfway to their stated total missions goal by the halfway point of the year. Flying nine missions by June 30 will make Gwynne Shotwell’s announced goal of 18 flight missions for 2016 much less uncertain of achievement.

  • Wayne

    Interesting topic. ( Not familiar with their business-model, just that it’s all amazing stuff!)

    Does anyone else use SpaceX’s Merlin engine? Or do they internally use all the engines they produce?

  • Tom Billinga

    “Does anyone else use SpaceX’s Merlin engine? Or do they internally use all the engines they produce?”

    Since the Merlin was introduced during the days when the cost+ contractor’s club was sneering at any efforts not from themselves, no one else picked up the Merlin. The Raptor, now being developed in the light of SpaceX successes may have a different history.

  • Edward

    Dougspace wrote: “Three launches in a month may not indicate much of anything except that they kept working and building flight-ready rockets during the stand down after their recent launch failure.”

    It also means that they are able to keep their launch teams busy without exhausting them. Traditionally, launches happen (roughly) monthly, for each pad. This has allowed for some less-busy time that allows launch teams to decompress between launches. Work and stress increase as launch-day nears.

    To launch biweekly (I suspect that SpaceX intends to ramp up to weekly launches) puts more stress on — and reduces decompression time for — the teams.

    ULA recently launched two rockets on opposite coasts in five days. They were very proud of being capable of doing that (they bragged about it with ads in the trade magazines), and for very good reason. It isn’t easy, but hard-working, experienced teams make sophisticated technology seem simple (as Robert noted: http://behindtheblack.com/behind-the-black/the-evening-pause/hi-tech-shrimp-fishing/ ).

    That SpaceX is finding ways to reduce the stress and workload suggests that they are making rocket launches more routine, working more like a humming, finely tuned machine than like a pulsejet engine.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *