Falcon 9 Launch Update (1)

Waiting.. Credit: SpaceX

Credit: SpaceX

Update 1:

After two aborts earlier during the day on Friday, SpaceX has completed a test firing of the Falcon 9 booster intended to launch the Orbcomm OG2 mission. According to Elon Musk, who provided occasional updates via Twitter, the first abort was caused by an upper stage throttle valve, while the second triggered by a ground side valve. Both issues were cleared by minor adjustments, and hours later the SpaceX founder tweeted tweeted the following:

More to come..

Original story:

As promised, the SpaceX Falcon 9 rolled the short distance from its hangar out to the pad at Cape Canaveral’s SLC-40 on Wednesday in advance of a much anticipated return to flight. A short time later, it went vertical, prompting a tweet from the company that a brief hot fire test of all 9 first stage engines would take place the following day.

As it turned out however, Thursday came and went with little more coming from the booster than the typical small white clouds which are indicative of liquid oxygen boiling off. In what should have been a surprise to no-one, company founder  and CEO Elon Musk provided a brief explanation by way of Twitter.

One of the numerous changes to the upgraded, full power edition of the Falcon 9 is the fact that the company is using densified liquid oxygen in order increase the booster’s propellant load and performance. Liquid oxygen, or LOX, has a boiling point of -297 F, and freezes at -361 F.

The advantages to be gained from lowering the operating temperature of LOX are substantial, particularly in an arena where even the most minute of gains can have a meaningful payoff. In the early 1990’s, NASA”s Glenn Research Center conducted a series of experiments with propellant densification of both liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. Undertaken in collaboration with Lockheed Martin and intended to apply to the X-33, SSTO demonstrator, the experiments confirmed that a 10% gain on LOX density was achievable on a relevant scale. Combined with an equivalent gain of 8% on liquid hydrogen, the studies suggested a net reduction of 20% of gross lift off weight for a SSTO vehicle was feasible.

While the X-33 program was cancelled due to a myriad of technical problems, foremost among them a multi-lobed, composite tank for the liquid hydrogen, some of that work may soon be paying off for just the type of application NASA intended.

From a paper, available here, summarizing the work:

“These were milestone achievements in the field of cryogenic propellants that will allow subsequent private industry commercialization of a new technology having benefit to space applications involving potential future launch vehicle systems like VentureStar, Space-Liner 100, Kistler K1, Second Generation RLV and ARES V.”

Note: This page will be updated throughout the launch campaign.

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1 Comment on "Falcon 9 Launch Update (1)"

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  1. Keith Pickering says:

    Interesting stuff. Given these and other substantial changes, should we be calling this booster Falcon 9 v2.0 ?

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