News / Science & Technology

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Blasts Off

A Falcon 9 rocket carrying a small science satellite for Canada is seen as it is launched, Sept. 29, 2013.
A Falcon 9 rocket carrying a small science satellite for Canada is seen as it is launched, Sept. 29, 2013.
Reuters
An unmanned Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from California on Sunday to test upgrades before commercial satellite launch services begin later this year.
 
The 22-story rocket, built and flown by Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, soared off a newly refurbished, leased launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Station.
 
The Falcon 9 blazed through clear blue skies out over the Pacific Ocean, its water vapor trail visible even as the rocket left the atmosphere.
 
“It went better than expected. It was incredibly smooth,” SpaceX founder and Chief Executive Elon Musk told Reuters after the launch.
 
Nestled inside the rocket's new 17-foot (5-meter) diameter nose cone was a small Canadian science satellite called Cassiope. Cassiope had initially been scheduled to fly on SpaceX's now-discontinued Falcon 1 launcher in 2008.
 
“It's certainly a huge relief to have successfully delivered Cassiope to orbit. It's been weighing on me quite heavily,” Musk said.
 
Cassiope, which is designed to monitor the space environment around Earth and serve as a communications satellite, and five secondary payloads were delivered into their intended orbits, Musk told reporters on a conference call.
 
As an experiment, both of the rocket's two stages were restarted during flight.
 
Musk is particularly interested in developing the technology to fly the Falcon's first stage back to the launch site or have it gently splash down in the water so its motors can be recovered, refurbished and flown again. Currently, after delivering their payloads into orbit, the boosters tumble back toward Earth and essentially explode mid-air before crashing into the sea.
 
“The most revolutionary thing about the new Falcon 9 is the potential ability to recover the boost phase, which is almost three-quarters of the cost of the rocket,” Musk said.
 
Neither engine restart test went perfectly, but engineers were able to get enough data to plan on a demonstration flight next year.
 
“The most important thing is we now believe we have all the pieces of the puzzle,” Musk said.
 
The upgraded Falcon 9 v1.1 has engines that are 60 percent more powerful than previous versions, longer fuel tanks, new avionics and software and other features intended to boost lift capacity and simplify operations for commercial service.
 
Privately-owned SpaceX has contracts for more than 50 launches of its new Falcon 9 and planned Falcon Heavy rockets.
 
Ten of those missions are to fly cargo to the International Space Station for NASA. The other customers are non-U.S. government agencies and commercial satellite operators.
 
SpaceX also has two contracts for small U.S. Air Force satellites but is looking to break the monopoly that United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, has on flying big military satellites as well.
 
SpaceX has already flown three Dragon capsules to the station and made two other successful test flights with older versions of the Falcon.
 
Falcon 9's next mission is to put a communications satellite into orbit for SES World Skies. The launch is targeted for next month and will take place at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
 
“We accomplished a lot today,” Musk said. “We have a little bit of work to do obviously, but all-in-all I think it's been a great day.”

You May Like

Video Iran Nuclear Deal Becomes US Campaign Issue

Voters in three crucial battleground states - Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania - overwhelmingly oppose nuclear deal with Iran More

With IS in Coalition Cross-Hairs, al-Qaida's Syria Affiliate Reemerges

Jabhat al-Nusra has rebounded, increasingly casting itself as a critical player in battle for Syria’s future More

Lessons Learned From Katrina, 10 Years Later

FEMA chief Craig Fugate says key changes include better preparation, improved coordination among state, federal assistance agencies More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs