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SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy successfully launches Space Force satellites

SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy rocket today successfully launched a Space Force communications satellite plus a secondary military payload.

The two side boosters completed their second flight, landing at Cape Canaveral. The core stage was not recovered, as planned. Actual deployment of the satellites will not occur for another six hours.

At this moment China leads SpaceX 5 to 3 in the 2023 launch race. No one else has as yet launched successfully.

Conscious Choice cover

Now available in hardback and paperback as well as ebook!

 

From the press release: In this ground-breaking new history of early America, historian Robert Zimmerman not only exposes the lie behind The New York Times 1619 Project that falsely claims slavery is central to the history of the United States, he also provides profound lessons about the nature of human societies, lessons important for Americans today as well as for all future settlers on Mars and elsewhere in space.

 
Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
Conscious Choice does more however. In telling the tragic history of the Virginia colony and the rise of slavery there, Zimmerman lays out the proper path for creating healthy societies in places like the Moon and Mars.

 

“Zimmerman’s ground-breaking history provides every future generation the basic framework for establishing new societies on other worlds. We would be wise to heed what he says.” —Robert Zubrin, founder of founder of the Mars Society.

 

All editions are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and all book vendors, with the ebook priced at $5.99 before discount. The ebook can also be purchased direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit, in which case you don't support the big tech companies and I get a bigger cut much sooner.

 

Autographed printed copies are also available at discount directly from me (hardback $24.95; paperback $14.95; Shipping cost for either: $5.00). Just email me at zimmerman @ nasw dot org.

16 comments

  • Jeff Wright

    If only we had that….I hope Elon rethinks wings…

  • John

    I think we should get two for that falcon heavy. I mean, there were two landings, right? I

  • John

    I think we should get two for that falcon heavy. I mean, there were two landings, right?

  • Ray Van Dune

    I wonder if we will ever see an FH do a three-core RTLS recovery, like in the early PR videos? I’ll bet not: if you have enough bonus juice to do a center core RTLS, you probably didn’t need a Heavy in the first place.

    Nevertheless, a beautiful machine!

  • Stephen Richter

    I find the coverage of these launches lacking in terms of technical information. The recovery of the two side cores is important for cost savings, but then the loss of the center core and the 2nd stage is acceptable? Could SpaceX add another core, thereby enabling the center core to have enough spare fuel that it could use to safely return to Earth? Are the cores of fixed length and fuel capacity? That is, could the cores be extended in height and carry more fuel? Which would enable the center core to land safely?

  • pzatchok

    The landing legs will not allow a three booster configuration, But would allow a four.

    As for not recovering the center stage its up to the customer and the payload weight.

  • Ray Van Dune

    I am uncertain of your meaning here: “The landing legs will not allow a three booster configuration, But would allow a four.”

    There were no landing legs on this center core only because there was no intent to recover it, instead using all its propellant to achieve launch performance. For the same reason, there were no grid fins. A four booster configuration does not exist, but legs and fins there might be problematic.

    At least some previous center cores were intended to be recovered, and had both legs and fins. I believe all those attempts have failed however, due to the effects related to the center core being powered for a longer distance, and thus to a higher speed and probably altitude.

  • Ray Van Dune: I think one Falcon Heavy core landed successfully, but then was lost when it tipped over on the drone ship. Others can provide more precise info.

  • Stephen Richter

    “… I believe all those attempts have failed however, due to the effects related to the center core being powered for a longer distance, and thus to a higher speed and probably altitude. …”

    This makes sense. The higher/faster the rocket is moving, the more effort needed to slow it down. That I can understand. But the YT channels I watched all just repeated what SpaceX said about not choosing to recover the center stage.

    Starship will be able to slow down and land because it will have heat tiles? And the SH booster is recoverable because it only goes as high and fast as the F9 boosters which are currently being recovered?

  • Stephen Richter: The core stage can be recovered. One landed on a drone ship but later fell over and was lost. I think one other (on the very first demo launch) failed entirely on its return. Most of the others were discarded after use in order to maximize payload capacity.

    That is at least how I remember it.

  • Edward

    Stephen Richter asked: “The recovery of the two side cores is important for cost savings, but then the loss of the center core and the 2nd stage is acceptable? Could SpaceX add another core, thereby enabling the center core to have enough spare fuel that it could use to safely return to Earth? Are the cores of fixed length and fuel capacity? That is, could the cores be extended in height and carry more fuel? Which would enable the center core to land safely?

    The move to Starship resolves these concerns.

    Ray Van Dune wrote: “I am uncertain of your [pzatchok’s] meaning here: ‘The landing legs will not allow a three booster configuration, But would allow a four.’

    I believe that pzatchok meant that three strap-on boosters (120 ˚ apart) would not easily fit between the legs (90 ˚ apart) but that the legs would fit between the strap-ons if there were four (also 90 ˚ apart), for a total of five first-stage rockets. Of course, there would be a challenge getting the landings for them all, as there are only two landing zones at Canaveral Space Force Station and three landing ships, where one is routinely stationed on the West Coast.

  • Doubting Thomas

    I was at Kennedy Space Center for the first Falcon Heavy launch with Elon’s Red Tesla Sportscar and the Starman dummy. They recovered the two side boosters at the KSC landing sites. What an AMAZING sight!!!! There was an attempt to recover the center core of the first stage on one of SpaceX’s barges at sea in the Atlantic but the core ended up not having sufficient fuel to make it back to the barge.

    I do recollect that very briefly, there were discussions and artwork of a Falcon Super Heavy which consisted of 4 side cores and a center core. That went away very quickly and I never had a chance to capture a screen shot of the illustrations. I think that the Falcon Super Heavy was quickly replaced with Starship work.

  • Richard M

    From what I am hearing, it seems unlikely that we will ever see another Falcon Heavy center core recovery attempt. Ray hits at the reason why: “If you have enough bonus juice to do a center core RTLS, you probably didn’t need a Heavy in the first place.” The performance hit is just too much.

    Trying to upgrade Falcon Heavy to make more of it recoverable just doesn’t seem like it could be worth the investment to SpaceX, for a rocket it really did not want to develop once Block 5 ate up most of its assumed launch market: Elon went ahead with it only because it was needed to have a chance of winning the USSF’s NSSL Phase II contracts. Because Falcon 9 cannot hit all of the Space Force’s nine reference orbits. Winning a few major NASA payloads (Psyche, Gateway, Europa Clipper, Nancy Grace Roman ST) has been a nice bonus, though there are not enough of them to pay for FH’s development costs…

    The real answer, of course, is going to be Starship. It has none of these compromises to worry about!

  • Edward

    Stephen Richter,
    I probably should not have been so dismissive of your thoughts. Your thoughts show us that SpaceX left room for improvement on its designs. This means that other companies could be able to do better than SpaceX has done and successfully compete with them. SpaceX is making profits because it found efficiencies that allow it to put large masses into orbit at lower cost and lower prices to the customer. The profit is the reward for finding these efficiencies, and the benefit that we all receive from SpaceX’s endeavor is the service that comes from the companies that buy this greatly increased number of worldwide launches.

    As other companies find efficiencies or produce better services, they make profits, too. The current smallsat launch companies are improving efficiency over the Pegusus smallsat launcher that Orbital Sciences developed three decades ago. These smallsat launch companies have launched more smallsats into orbit in the past three years than Pegusus did in three decades, and they did it for about an order of magnitude reduction of the price. One of the reasons that there are more smallsats to launch, these days, is the lower price to launch.* The lower costs to these companies allows them to be able to make a profit where just a decade ago they could not. Other countries are starting to explore the Moon and Mars, which they now can afford to do. And it is all because some people asked questions about how to do better with launch and with miniaturization.

    SpaceX expects Starship to launch about 100 tons into low Earth orbit for a “unit” cost to SpaceX of around 2 million 2019 dollars (not including amortization of fixed costs), but the engineers think they may be able to increase this to 150 tons. In the past I have guessed that SpaceX may charge $20 million for each of these launches (between $100 and $67 per lb.), which would give them a revenue of $1 billion for every 50 launches,** from which the development costs would be repaid. If they can get rapid turnaround, then they won’t need many Starships and the turnaround costs would be low. While developing Starship, SpaceX has likely made tradeoffs that conceivably leave other companies room to make improvements, allowing them to make their own profits.
    _______________
    * It used to be that companies would put as much as possible onto each satellite to improve the efficiency for each launch, but lower launch costs and reduced satellite production and operation costs allow each satellite to be more efficient by being specialized. In addition, constellations have bloomed in size and number. In the 1990s, the Iridium and Globalstar communication constellations started with fewer than 100 satellites, but the modern constellations are not only made up of hundreds (or thousands) of satellites but seem to be able to make money by relaying internet signals from remote locations. Miniaturization is helping satellite companies to save money and to improve their own services, too.

    ** If they charge $50 million, then it would only take 20 launches to recover each billion dollars or 200 launches to recover a $10 billion development cost. The price per pound increases to between $250 and $170.

  • pzatchok

    I was just thinking.

    If they strapped on 4 first stages they might not need the center engines or fuel. Which could give them a higher payload and make the center section a little more recoverable.
    It would only need one engine a just enough fuel for a landing.
    Doing this they might be able to add more reinforcements to the center rocket and thus carry a heavier or larger load.

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