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Another successful Falcon 9 launch

The competition heats up: SpaceX has successfully put two commecial satellites in orbit. The first stage hit the barge, but the landing was unsuccessful. More details to come.

The full video of the entire launch is embedded below the fold. One interesting part includes a view from inside the first stage looking back at the second stage at separate, followed with images from the first stage on its way back to Earth..

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit. And if you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.


  • Calvin Dodge

    I think Jeff Bezos was feeling the heat of competition, since he sent out an email this morning about progress on the BE-4 engine.

  • wayne

    Yes!– the view from the 1st stage looking up toward the 2nd stage, at separation, is an amazing angle.
    >starts about 30:24 into this video.

    Gives you a really good perspective not often shown. The 2nd stage appears to hang in space for a second while the engine ignites.

  • mkent

    The real advance on this mission is, in my opinion, the satellites. These are not miniature satellites in anything but mass. Each one has 48 Ku-band transponders. The secret to their relatively small size is that they have no liquid or solid propulsion system. The main engine is an ion engine.

    Comsats have had ion attitude control engines for years, but these (actually the first pair launched last year) are the first comsats to have an ion engine for their main propulsion system. And unlike Dawn or Deep Space 1, the Boeing 702SP design was commercially developed.

    Commercially developed spacecraft with ion engines. Sounds like the 21st century has arrived!

  • Alex

    SpaceX has achieved major milestones regarding towards reusability by controlling and guiding F9’s first stage towards barge and braking it finally. However, the present landing failure shows that SpaceX is only at the beginning of the overall process of reusability, which may take a full decade or so towards its full implementation.

  • Joe

    “Rapid unscheduled disassembly” the man has a sense of humor, very cool video, at least the first stage made it to the drone ship.

  • wayne

    Excellent video of multiple “separation events,” from a Soyuz rocket launch April 3, 2014:

    Vintage Apollo “4 & 6” stage-separation footage. “Approximately real speed,” –2nd-stage looking down & 1st-stage looking up.

  • Edward

    You are correct. The “all electric” satellite, one that uses ion propulsion instead of chemical reaction propellants, is the wave of the early part of this century. As you noted, satellite owners are able to save weight, which is why they were able to launch two satellites for the (launch) price of one.

    A downside is the delay in starting revenue operations, as it takes a little longer to achieve the final orbit, but the reduced launch cost can make up for that lost revenue.

    SpaceX is using this time, before full implementation of reusablity, to test the limits of their new system. Just as Blue Origin landed fast during one of their New Shepard tests, SpaceX landed their previous Falcon with the “Rocket landing speed was close to design max,” as Elon Musk tweeted.

    It would be interesting to find out what test caused yesterday’s landing to fail.

  • Pzatchok

    ION engines use xenon gas a propellant.

    It packs smaller and is not explosive.
    It also reacts well to the engine design. It takes a charge well. It ionizes better than other gases.

    Ion engines have been used for years by the Soviet Union/Russians.

    They have no heat, use almost no fuel, are only about 3 inches thick and can be attached almost anyplace on a satellite.

  • Edward

    We forgot to mention that with ion engines the specific impulse is very high, allowing for excellent mass-efficiency. This is why the satellite is lighter than it would be for a chemical engine and chemical station-keeping thrusters.

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