Next Week’s SpaceX Launch Aims for a Pacific Landing

According to industry analyst  Charles Lurio, next week’s Jason-3 launch from Vandenberg, Ca. will include a new attempt to recover a Falcon 9 first stage at sea.

Marmac 303 Credit: McDonough Marine Service

Marmac 303
Credit: McDonough Marine Service

In this case, SpaceX will be using its second Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship, bearing the only slightly less cumbersome name Of Course I Still Love You, which transited the Panama Canal from the East Coast this summer. Converted from a Marmac 303 water ballested barge owned by McDonough Marine Service of Metarie, La, SpaceX’s second ASDS would have seen its first service as a rocket landing platform in June 2015 during the NASA CRS-7 mission, but returned to port without its intended passenger for obvious reasons.

Given that the Falcon 9 which will carry the Jason-3 to orbit is the final V1.1 version of the booster and lacks some of the improvements which contributed to December’s successful landing of the newest version of the rocket, one which has yet to receive an official designation, it might have been easy to conclude that SpaceX would forego a new landing attempt in this case. Unlikely. For SpaceX, which is wholly focused on perfecting the art of recovering rockets, each new launch presents an opportunity to advance the practice at least as little more. Benefiting at last from a fully successful recovery on land, the company may have gleaned enough information to tweak its decidedly more challenging sea landing ambitions, thereby opening the door to eventual recovery of nearly every first stage irrespective of specific launch conditions. To that end, while the original East Coast drone ship has since been retired, a new vessel based on a Marmac 304 is expected to take its place at Cape Canaveral.

As for the launch itself, preparations at a rain soaked SLC-4 are proceeding on pace, with encapsulation of the 1,124 lb. satellite and a Flight Readiness Review due to take place today, and a test fire scheduled for Sunday.  Liftoff is currently set for 10:42:18 AM PST on Sunday, January 17th.


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2 Comments on "Next Week’s SpaceX Launch Aims for a Pacific Landing"

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  1. Jim Knauf says:

    Getting there on reusability!

    “The Second-Most Anticipated Countdown of 2016” by @jmkphotog on @LinkedIn

  2. Keith Pickering says:

    Just FYI, Wikipedia indicates that the ASDS that transited the Panama Canal this summer was a third, yet unnamed vessel, and that “Of Course I Still Love You” remains based at Jacksonville for Atlantic operations. Meanwhile, “Just Read the Instructions” has been retired.

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