SpaceX Falcon 9 Launches Jason-3 Satellite

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is seen as it launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 4 East with the Jason-3 spacecraft onboard, , Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Jason-3, an international mission led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will help continue U.S.-European satellite measurements of global ocean height changes. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is seen as it launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base Space Launch Complex 4 East with the Jason-3 spacecraft onboard, , Sunday, Jan. 17, 2016, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Jason-3, an international mission led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will help continue U.S.-European satellite measurements of global ocean height changes. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

SpaceX successfully launched the Jason-3 environmental satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base this morning. The second stage and the satellite are now in a coast phase in a nominal orbit.

SpaceX says the first stage landing on an off-shore barge failed. The stage landed hard and might have broken one of its landing legs.

UPDATE: The second burn of Falcon 9 stage went as expected. The satellite has been successfully deployed into the planned orbit.

UPDATE No. 2: Elon Musk says that one of the landing legs was not fully hinged into position and collapsed after landing.

  • Christopher James Huff

    I doubt the booster’s carrying enough mass in struts for that to be a major concern, while they want to limit development time and cost and potential issues such as cryogenic incompatibility (having the helium COPVs in the LOX tank is probably enough worry). They have bigger targets for mass optimization in the engines and thrust structure (that was one of the big points of the move to the “octaweb” arrangement) and in the maneuvers required for recovery.

    They’re not trying to shave mass off an overweight vehicle, so there’s no need to go around trimming toothbrush handles.

  • windbourne

    LOL.
    And the seas were just as heavy then as now.
    I believe that before he is able to stick one on a barge with heavy seas, he will have to do the vertical thrusters.
    And time will tell.

  • windbourne

    so, 1 for 1 on land and 0 for 3 on heavy seas barge.
    BUT, the barge motion does not matter on this.

  • duheagle

    I don’t disagree. The engineering decisions made by the Boeing Delta IV design team were perfectly defensible at the time (pre-ULA) they were made. I simply pointed out that: (1) Falcon 9 was designed to be crew-rated from the start, and (2) that the LockMart Atlas V design team, for whatever reason, chose to do likewise, at least with respect to the mandated load margin requirements. This has proven to be a prescient move.

    I believe the only significant gap now separating Atlas V from NASA crew-rated status is certification of whatever enhancements have been required to its on-board sensor suite to insure detection of imminent failures on ascent that should trigger the Launch Abort System for any crew vehicle payload. That isn’t exactly a trivial thing to accomplish, but it’s a lot easier than comprehensively beefing up the entire vehicle structure.

    The now-combined design crew at ULA are fortunate to be able to approach the design of Vulcan in pretty much the same clean-sheet-of-paper way SpaceX designed Falcon 9.

  • Malatrope

    Something for later. They eventually will be looking to shave weight wherever possible.

  • windbourne

    in fact, it was their using commodity bolts and parts that was associated with F1-1’s failure.
    I wonder why they would suddenly go cheap on these, when they are looking at re-use?
    That makes ZERO sense.

  • Malatrope

    I suppose the rumors could be misinformed. Without working for SpaceX, we are just going to have to accept that the general public will never be certain about all the nitty-gritty detail.

  • duheagle

    Agree with CJH. The three landing oopsies on Just Read the Directions all involved Falcon 9 v1.1’s. The stuck landing at Canaveral LZ-1 was accomplished by the new, much enhanced Full Thrust version. All launches for the foreseeable future will be of this newer F9 version. The next manifested mission is SES-9 which is more than half a metric ton heavier than anything any previous F9 has ever put in GTO. So far as I know, SpaceX intends to try to recover that 1st stage and will almost certainly make its attempt using the Of Course I Still Love You. If they manage to stick that landing, I think the question of tolerable sea states will likely be either fully or substantially retired. That’ll be on 6 February if the schedule holds.

  • duheagle

    The difference will be that the 1st stage coming back will be one of the new Full Thrust versions. The three that crashed so far were all of the prior v1.1 type.

  • duheagle

    Bingo.

  • Christopher James Huff

    It’s already spoken, this rocket landed on the barge despite the wind and waves and tipped over due to a faulty leg.

  • duheagle

    Good call, Mal. The Falcon 1, flight 1 failure was not due to using substandard fasteners, but using inappropriate ones. A number of nuts on the exterior of the engine assembly were originally aluminum. Aerospace-rated fasteners, but aluminum. Several launch delays and the proximity of the SpaceX launch pad at Omelek to the ocean allowed the salt air to corrode these nuts to a point where they failed shortly after liftoff, dooming the mission. All exposed fasteners have since been specified as stainless steel and there have been no further corrosion-related failures.

    I have seen it suggested more than once by various contributors to this and other space-related sites that SpaceX pretty much buys their nuts and bolts at Home Depot. Just more whole-cloth B.S. made up by the irrationally resentful space trolletariat. Pay such nonsense no mind.

  • duheagle

    My last project was a composite cryogenic tank for a NASA upper stage concept

    Neat! Can I pick your brain a bit? I know a bit about autoclaved carbon fiber and fiberglass composites as my daughter is a factory rat for a motorcycle accessories company. Given that fiberglass is already an amorphous supercooled fluid, I’m guessing it just gets more brittle at cryogenic temps so I can’t see it being very useful for cryo tankage. Carbon fiber is pretty strong at room temperature and I don’t know of any reason, related to its chemical structure, that it wouldn’t retain a lot of its mechanical strength and flexibility at cryo temps. For all I know, it may even get stronger as it is chilled. What can you tell me about this?

    I’m also guessing that the key problem with building durable composite cryo tankage is the formulation of the resin matrix. A lot of resins that work fine at room temp probably crack and turn to dust at cryo temps. I’m guessing it’s pretty important to choose some resin that has temperature-related expansion and contraction coefficients that are a match or near match for the carbon fibers that provide the reinforcement in the composite. What can you tell me (that won’t get you shot or sued by your employer/client) about the formulation of cryo-compatible resins?

  • Malatrope

    LOL! Yes, I can get well and truly pounded by my employer for detailing those things, but don’t feel too badly because my expertise was in non-destructive inspection and designing tooling for it. I know that a lot of research went into precisely those questions, but so far as I know we ordered pretty much garden variety pre-preg from various suppliers and cured it in our own autoclaves (the biggest in the world, fwiw). Of course there would have been a tight specification on the resin, but it wasn’t made in-house. The cryotank project was research, and not intended to fly so far as I know.

    Aerospace CFRP is astonishing stuff, and if I were a little richer in my retirement, I’d be playing around with it at home. As a company, the biggest problem we had was evolving beyond the designers who simply treated it as black aluminum, not seeing the huge advantages it has over metal.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Sorry, I didn’t make myself clear. When I said that barge motion was NOT a factor, what I meant was: barge motion was NOT a factor. In fact I think you nailed it with: “barge motion was not a factor…”. Despite our differences on the use of upper and lower case, I think we are probably in general agreement that barge motion was Not a factor.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Ran out of hydraulic fluid, a sticky valve, and a perfect landing but then a leg that didn’t lock into position. Which one of those was caused by barge motion exactly?.

  • Christopher James Huff

    Then re-read the sentence you inserted the “NOT” into. You inverted the meaning to say that there were no attempts that didn’t fail due to barge motion. windbourne seems to believe this, but all evidence contradicts it.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    ho ho ho. The grammar fairy shits on me yet again.

  • TomDPerkins

    What I mean is they were commodity bolts with aerospace certification, e.i., every bolt of that grade should be the same as every other bolt. Not that they were no-name, bargain bin bolts.

    Some supplier screwed up their heat treat.

  • Larry J

    I had the webcast and NASA TV on at the same time. The webcast was about 35 seconds behind the TV feed.

  • Larry J

    There’s also the possibility of ice buildup from the long cold soak in fog.

  • I agree, it could be anything. They’ll figure it out and fix it, without the help of NASA thankfully, since they aren’t involved with this.

  • redneck

    Thanks for that. I was wondering how much delay there was and why, not that I have any room for complaint*. I tend to wait until a few seconds before zero to step out the door. This time (21 Dec) I was watching live in the distance and on my phone. First time I actually noticed a difference.

    *Not having skin in the game, any info they care to share is a freebie whenever they feel like sharing it

  • Malatrope

    We used to have that kind of problem with China-sourced fasteners.

  • Rocketplumber

    We’re a bit busy to work on Nonburnite right now, but I supervised much of the early development. Our fluorocarbon resin has 20% elongation to fail at 77K and simply does *not* microcrack. NASA White Sands did oxygen compatibility testing on samples we sent them and had zero ignitions at the highest settings the impact tester could reach. We just need some budget and time to raise the TRL.

  • Larry J

    SpaceX has a good track record of identifying and fixing problems. Other than a problem with helium leaks, they seldom have the same problem twice. They appear to have fixed the helium leaks, too. They’ll fix this one, too.

  • duheagle

    Very interesting. I found a Wikipedia page about Nonburnite that says it has a very low coefficient of thermal expansion. From what you say, it also has a fairly significant modulus of elasticity if it can stretch 20% without cracking.

    By the way, what units is that 77K to fail number measured in? I’m an old-fashioned lbf or psi guy. A lot of these named-after-famous-dead-white-European-male metric units I have no feel for.

    Also, when I think of fluorocarbons the first thing that comes to mind is Teflon which is famous for not sticking to anything. I gather your Nonburnite resin lacks this property, at least with respect to adhesion to the carbon fibers in a composite matrix. Correct? Hard for me to imagine how it could be otherwise, but I’m no chemist.

  • duheagle

    If the stuff can be as stretchy as Rocketplumber says
    i can appreciate how limiting that “black aluminum” thing could be. There would seem to be a lot of applications for a material with the ability to be both high-strength and somewhat “baloony” at cryo temperatures. One potential application that comes to mind would be as a lighter-weight alternative to metal bellows in places where two things that move around relative to each other need to be connected by a cryo-tolerant “hose.”

  • Rocketplumber

    77 Kelvin (-321F) is the boiling point of liquid nitrogen at sea level. At that temperature, the resin won’t crack until it’s been stretched 20%, and it does stretch some because almost anything with a carbon chain in it shrinks quite a bit when cooled that much. Epoxy cracks when cooled to cryo temps and cannot seal. The glass or carbon fibers have very low coefficient of thermal expansion and are so much stronger than the matrix that the composite CTE follows the fibers regardless of the resin.

    By means of black arts and strong incantations we do get good adhesion between the fluoropolymer matrix and the fiber, and the composite remains helium-tight, smooth, and nonflammable even after hundreds of temperature and pressure cycles.

    Both glass and carbon fibers are tough and durable at cryo temps, the problem has always been with the matrix to bind the fibers. We made it work, now need to raise the TRL.

  • Rocketplumber

    Nonburnite is very dimensionally stable, strong, and stiff, and only the matrix is capable of large elongation to failure. It necessarily *must* have low enough modulus of elasticity to stretch while cold and trying to shrink, but prevented from doing so by its bond to the low-CTE fibers. The composite’s CTE is low, but the matrix gets harmless thermal strain when cooled. Carbon fibers, as always, elongate only 2% at their yield strength, and set the bulk properties.