SpaceX Designs, Manufactures & Launches Advanced Rockets & Spacecraft

SpaceX Continues to Make History with CRS-8, April 2016
Re-Supplying the Space Station on a Commercial Resupply Services mission 8, Deliver BEAM Experimental ISS Habitat from Bigelow Aerospace, Recover Falcon 9 First Stage Rocket after Landing on the Of Course I Still Love You Droneship

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will launch the Dragon spacecraft to low Earth orbit to deliver critical cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) for NASA. SpaceX is targeting an afternoon launch of its eighth Commercial Resupply Services mission (CRS-8) from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The instantaneous launch window opens on April 8th at 8:43 pm UTC, and a backup launch window opens at 8:20 pm UTC on April 9th. Dragon will be deployed about 10 minutes after liftoff and attach to the ISS about two days after launch. Following stage separation, the first stage of the Falcon 9 will attempt an experimental landing on the Of Course I Still Love You droneship in the Atlantic Ocean.


After flawless launch SpaceX Dragon CRS-8 spacecraft was successfully grappled by the International Space Station’s robotic Canadarm2 on April 10, 2016 by British ESA astronaut Tim Peake, who landed on Earth June 18 after 186 days at ISS.

A proud and happy Elon Musk discusses the successful mission and vertical landing at the SpaceX Dragon CRS-8 post launch news conference from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. A day earlier, Elon announced that Tesla received over 300,000 Model 3 pre-orders within its first week. Probably the best week of his career!

What is SpaceX: Founded in 2002, SpaceX designs, manufactures, and launches the world’s most advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company was founded to revolutionize space transportation, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets.

Today, SpaceX is advancing the boundaries of space technology through its Falcon launch vehicles and Dragon spacecraft. SpaceX is a private company owned by management and employees, with minority investments from Founders Fund, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Valor Equity Partners, Google and Fidelity. The company has more than 4,000 employees in California, Texas, Washington, D.C., Washington State and Florida.

SpaceX has gained worldwide attention for a series of historic milestones. It is the only private company ever to return a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit, which it first accomplished in December 2010. The company made history again in May 2012 when its Dragon spacecraft attached to the International Space Station, exchanged cargo payloads, and returned safely to Earth—a technically challenging feat previously accomplished only by governments. Since then Dragon has delivered cargo to and from the space station multiple times, providing regular cargo resupply missions for NASA.

This is SpaceX

Colonizing Mars: Future Belongs to SpaceX & Elon Musk

Elon Musk, CEO of SpaceX, is the world’s leading space entrepreneur. Hear how Musk plans to send millions of people to colonize Mars, as Michelle Fields talks to the tech innovator about the future of space exploration, scientific innovation and doing business in California during a recession.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket Launch and ORBCOMM-2 Satellite System Patch.ORBCOMM-2: With this mission, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will deliver 11 satellites to low-Earth orbit for ORBCOMM, a leading global provider of Machine-to-Machine communication and Internet of Things solutions. The ORBCOMM launch is targeted for an evening launch from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. If all goes as planned, the 11 satellites will be deployed approximately 20 minutes after liftoff, completing a 17-satellite, low Earth orbit constellation for ORBCOMM. This mission also marks SpaceX’s return-to-flight as well as its first attempt to land a first stage on land. The landing of the first stage is a secondary test objective.

SpaceX Commercial Resupply Services Mission-6 Launch

Streamed live on Apr 14, 2015: After six successful missions to the International Space Station, including five official resupply missions for NASA, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft are set to liftoff from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, for their sixth official Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission to the orbiting lab. Liftoff is targeted for Monday April 13, 2015, at 4:33 pm EDT.

If all goes as planned, Dragon will arrive at the station approximately two days after liftoff. Dragon is expected to return to Earth approximately five weeks later for a parachute-assisted splashdown off the coast of southern California. Dragon is the only operational spacecraft capable of returning a significant amount of supplies back to Earth, including experiments. The live launch webcast will begin here at approximately 4:15p m EDT.

SpaceX CRS-6 Launch

A Hallmark of Elon Musk’s Vision at SpaceX
Reusability: The Key to Making Human Life Multi-Planetary

“If one can figure out how to effectively reuse rockets just like airplanes, the cost of access to space will be reduced by as much as a factor of a hundred.  A fully reusable vehicle has never been done before. That really is the fundamental breakthrough needed to revolutionize access to space,” Elon Musk

While most rockets are designed to burn up on reentry, SpaceX rockets are designed not only to withstand reentry, but also to return to the launch pad or ocean landing site for a vertical landing. Through reusability testing during flight and on the ground in McGregor, Texas, SpaceX has made great strides toward this goal.

In order to re-fly a Falcon 9 first stage, it must first return safely to Earth after delivering the second stage and payload to orbit. Current efforts are focused on reentering the first stage through Earth’s atmosphere and conducting precision landings – initially on an autonomous spaceport drone ship at sea, and eventually on land.

In 2014, SpaceX twice reentered a Falcon 9 first stage from space and landed it in the Atlantic Ocean. Using lessons learned from those attempts, in January 2015 SpaceX attempted a precision landing on the drone ship, nicknamed “Just Read the Instructions”.  The rocket made it to the drone ship, but landed hard. SpaceX attempted a second precision landing the following month, this time over water, and the rocket impressively came within 10 meters of its target. Unfortunately, extreme weather prevented recovery.

Falcon 9’s first stage landed on the drone ship for the first time, within 10 meters of its target, in April 2015. This time, however, high lateral velocity at landing prevented recovery.

The video below shows first stage landing following the Falcon 9 April 2015 launch. 

CRS-6 Unsuccessful First Stage Landing with Synchronized
Cameras and Close-Ups of Crash and Burn

After Incident Report & Lessons Learned: Synchronized Cameras at 0:59 – 200% speed at 1:12 – 25% speed at 1:23 – Launch Recap at 2:31. This video shows synchronized video footage from both off-site cameras and on-barge cameras of the CRS-6 1st Stage landing on Droneship (ASDS) “Just Read The Instructions” in April 2015. SpaceX released two separate videos of this event, and in this video I show them both playing simultaneously.

The cause of this crash was tweeted by Elon Musk as being static friction in the propellant throttle valve. This caused a delay between the guidance system telling the rocket to “steer this way” and the actual response of the thrust to correct the rocket’s trajectory, resulting in a looping oscillation in the attitude of the rocket.

Brought down to the landing surface that means it was not in full balance when it landed due to the motor well-behind the control brains desired position.

SpaceX is admittedly still testing this technology. They used this flight as an attempt to return first stage of the Falcon 9 to a 90-by-50-meter (300 ft × 160 ft) floating platform called the autonomous spaceport drone ship (or ASDS). The unmanned rocket landed on the floating platform, however it came down with too much lateral velocity, tipped over, and was destroyed due to aforementioned reasons

This was SpaceX’s second attempt to land the booster on a floating platform after an earlier test in January 2015 was not successful either. The booster was fitted with a variety of technologies to facilitate the flight test, including grid fins and landing legs to facilitate the post-mission test. If successful, this would have been the first time in history that a rocket booster was returned to a vertical landing.

Falcon 9 Reusable (Falcon 9R) Test Program

Testing of the SpaxeX Falcon 9 development test vehicle – an advanced prototype for the reusable Falcon 9 rocket to launch the Dragon capsule and satellites into orbit. In 2014, SpaceX conducted testing of the F9R development test vehicle – an advanced prototype for the reusable Falcon 9. The F9R test vehicle is essentially a Falcon 9 first stage with landing legs designed to test the precision landing techniques needed to return a rocket to Earth intact.

Video of F9R completed successively higher tests in McGregor, Texas, topping out with a 1000m test using steerable grid fins. These tests provided invaluable information for future flight testing.

F9R 1000m Fin Flight | Onboard Cam and Wide Shot

Grasshopper Reusability Test Program

Space Grasshopper Reusable Rocket Test Program. Prior to the F9R program, SpaceX’s reusability testing began with the Grasshopper program. SpaceX’s Grasshopper was a 10-story Vertical Takeoff Vertical Landing (VTVL) vehicle consisting of a Falcon 9 first stage, a single Merlin 1D engine, four steel landing legs with hydraulic dampers, and a steel support structure. In 2013, Grasshopper completed a series of eight flight tests with successful landings, the highest reaching 744 meters high.

Grasshopper 744m Test | Single Camera (Hexacopter)

First Private Spacecraft to Space Station

SpaceX Dragon Space Laboratory Dragon is a free-flying spacecraft designed to deliver both cargo and people to orbiting destinations. Dragon made history in 2012 when it became the first commercial spacecraft in history to deliver cargo to the International Space Station and safely return cargo to Earth, a feat previously achieved only by governments. It is the only spacecraft currently flying that is capable of returning significant amounts of cargo to Earth.

SpaceX Dragon grappled by Canadarm at International Space Station.

SpaceX Dragon at ISS

Currently Dragon carries cargo to space, but it was designed from the beginning to carry humans. Under an agreement with NASA, SpaceX is now developing the refinements that will enable Dragon to fly crew. Dragon’s first manned test flight is expected to take place in 2-3 years.

SpaceX Launch Systems

mini-falcon2SpaceX Falcon Pad Abort Launch.Falcon 9 is a two-stage rocket designed and manufactured by SpaceX for the reliable and safe transport of satellites and the Dragon spacecraft into orbit. As the first rocket completely developed in the 21st century, Falcon 9 was designed from the ground up for maximum reliability. Falcon 9’s simple two-stage configuration minimizes the number of separation events — and with nine first-stage engines, it can safely complete its mission even in the event of an engine shutdown.

Falcon 9 made history in 2012 when it delivered Dragon into the correct orbit for rendezvous with the International Space Station, making SpaceX the first commercial company ever to visit the station. Since then SpaceX has made a total of three flights to the space station, both delivering and returning cargo for NASA. Falcon 9, along with the Dragon spacecraft, was designed from the outset to deliver humans into space and under an agreement with NASA, SpaceX is actively working toward that goal.

Falcon 9 Rocket

A GoPro HD Video camera inside a fairing from a recent Falcon 9 flight captured some spectacular views as it fell back to Earth. Footage is played in real time

Falcon 9 Reusable First Stage Firing: In June of 2013, SpaceX test fired the first stage of F9-R–advanced prototype for the world’s first reusable rocket. The test took place at SpaceX’s rocket development facility in McGregor, TX, lasting 112 seconds. Unlike airplanes, a rocket’s thrust increases with altitude; F9-R generates just over a million pounds of thrust at sea level but gets up to 1.5 million pounds of thrust in the vacuum of space.

Falcon 9-Reusable (F9-R) 1st Stage Firing

mini-falcon-heavy2SpaceX Falcon Heavy Space Launch Rocket.When Falcon Heavy lifts off next year, it will be the most powerful operational rocket in the world by a factor of two. With the ability to lift into orbit over 53 metric tons (117,000 lb)a mass equivalent to a 737 jetliner loaded with passengers, crew, luggage and fuelFalcon Heavy can lift more than twice the payload of the next closest operational vehicle, the Delta IV Heavy, at one-third the cost. Falcon Heavy draws upon the proven heritage and reliability of Falcon 9. Its first stage is composed of three Falcon 9 nine-engine cores whose 27 Merlin engines together generate more than 4.5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff, equal to nearly eighteen 747 aircraft. Only the Saturn V moon rocket, last flown in 1973, delivered more payload to orbit. Falcon Heavy was designed from the outset to carry humans into space and restores the possibility of flying missions with crew to the Moon or Mars.

Falcon Heavy Rocket