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.
TEXT SIZE - +
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

Thailand's Political Power Struggle Continues

Court gave Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra until May 2 to prepare her defense over abuse of power charges but uncertainty remains over election timing More

Malaysia Plane Search Tests Limits of Ocean Mapping Technology

Expert tells VOA existing equipment’s maximum operating depth is around 6 kilometers as operation continues on ocean bed for any trace of MH370 More

Open Source Seeds Hit the Market, Raise Awareness

First open source seeds include 29 new varieties of broccoli, celery, kale, quinoa and other vegetables and grains More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Messagei
X
Penelope Poulou
April 22, 2014 5:53 PM
Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pet Kangaroo Helps Spread Environmental Message

Children’s author Julia Heckathorn travels the world to learn about different ecosystems and endangered animals. She pours her knowledge into children’s books, hoping the next generation will right the environmental wrongs of our times. As in many children's books, the main character in Heckathorn's stories is an animal. Unlike those other characters, though, this one is real - a kangaroo, that lives in the author’s backyard. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Pro-Russian Separatists Plan 'Federalization Referendum' in Eastern Ukraine

Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine say they plan to move forward next month with a referendum vote for greater autonomy, despite the Geneva agreement reached with Russia, the U.S. and Ukraine to end the political conflict. VOA's Brian Padden reports from the city of Donetsk in Eastern Ukraine.
Video

Video Pope Francis Hopes Dual Canonizations Will Reconcile Church

On April 27, two popes - John the XXIII and John Paul II - will be made saints in a ceremony at St. Peter’s Square. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky says the dual canonization is part of the current pope’s program to reconcile liberals and conservatives in the Roman Catholic Church.
Video

Video In Capturing Nature's Majesty, Film Makes Case for Its Survival

French filmmaker Luc Jacquet won worldwide acclaim for his 2005 Academy Award-winning documentary "March of the Penguins". Now Jacquet is back with a new film that takes movie-goers deep into the heart of a tropical rainforest - not only to celebrate its grandeur, but to make the case for its survival. VOA's Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Boston Marathon Bittersweet for Many Runners

Monday's running of the Boston Marathon was bittersweet for many of the 36,000 participants as they finished the run that was interrupted by a double bombing last year. Many gathered along the route paid respect to the four people killed as a result of two bombings near the finish line. VOA's Carolyn Presutti returned to Boston this year to follow two runners, forever changed because of the crimes.
Video

Video International Students Learn Film Production in World's Movie Capital

Hollywood - which is part of Los Angeles - is the movie capital of the world, and many aspiring filmmakers go there in hopes of breaking into the movie business. Mike O'Sullivan reports that regional universities are also a magnet for students who hope to become producers or directors.
Video

Video Pacific Rim Trade Deal Proves Elusive

With the U.S.-led war in Iraq ended and American military involvement in Afghanistan winding down, President Barack Obama has sought to pivot the country's foreign policy focus towards Asia. One aspect of that pivot is the negotiation of a free-trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations. But as Obama leaves this week on a trip to four Asian countries he has found it very difficult to complete the trade pact. VOA's Ken Bredemeier has more from Washington.
Video

Video Autistic Adults Face Housing, Job Challenges

Many parents of children with disabilities fear for the future of their adult child. It can be difficult to find services to help adults with disabilities - physical, mental or emotional - find work or live on their own. The mother of an autistic boy set up a foundation to advocate for the estimated 1.2 million American adults with autism, a developmental disorder that causes communication difficulties and often social difficulties. VOA's Faiza Elmasry reports.
AppleAndroid