Falcon 9 Launches Payloads into Orbit From Vandenberg

SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon 9 version 1.1 rocket into space from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California this morning. The upgraded rocket took off on time at 9 a.m. PDT, sending the Canadian CASSIOPE spacecraft and five nano-sats into orbit.

The SpaceX webcast of the launch ended with the Falcon 9 second stage in orbit and the payloads still attached. There is no word as yet as to whether the spacecraft have separated successfully. We will update this as we get more information.

UPDATE NO. 1: CASSIOPE separation confirmed and spacecraft is healthy!

UPDATE NO. 2: All five secondary payloads have separated successfully.

Engines on the first stage re-fired in an attempt to bring the lower part of the rocket in for a controlled descent to the ocean. Three of the engines were set to fire at high altitude, and then one engine would fire just prior to reaching the Pacific Ocean. There is no word on how this experiment went. The goal is to eventually fly the Falcon 9 first stage back to a landing at the launch site.

UPDATE NO. 3:  Musk says the first burn of three engines worked well and the first stage re-entered safely. However, the second single-engine burn did not work as planned. The stage began to roll and the engine shut down. SpaceX has fished out debris from the first stage from the ocean.

In addition, there was an anomaly in the restart of the second stage that Musk said would be addressed before the next launch of the upgraded Falcon 9 launcher.

Musk said the next attempt to recovery the Falcon 9 first stage will be on the fourth flight of the upgraded rocket.  This would be third commercial Dragon cargo flight to ISS, which is scheduled for next year. That stage might have landing legs.

Musk says that if things go super well, SpaceX would be able to fly a reused Falcon 9 first stage by the end of 2014. He describes this as the company’s “aspiration”

  • Hug Doug

    i missed the livestream! oh well… thanks for the liftoff video 🙂

  • dr

    This is probably one of the most important days so far, in the history of Newspace. With a successful F9 V1.1 demo and the capture of Cygnus on ISS, a lot of significant milestones have been achieved.
    Well done to all involved.

  • therealdmt

    Super [New Space] Sunday!

  • mfck

    Things got better today on the space front, huh?..

    Congratulations to SpaceX and Orbital Sciences!
    Human race is (or should be) grateful to these people.

  • delphinus100

    So, does anyone know what became of the first stage at-sea ‘landing’ attempt?

  • dr

    There are some unofficial reports on NASASpaceflight.com that the following have happened:
    Engines relighted as planned.
    First stage reoriented.
    GPS lock and downlink telemetry maintained.

  • Robert Horning

    Elon Musk decided to fly his personal jet to watch the 1st stage descent from the air instead of being in “mission control” on this flight:


    There is a trawler, called the American Islander, which is going to attempt to fish the 1st stage out of the water and bring it back to El Segundo. I’m sure that SpaceX will have some amazing pics and possibly even some really good video footage when it all comes back.

  • dr

    Chris Bergin has tweeted about an hour ago:
    “Falcon 9 v1.1 First Stage “homecoming” was on track last report. Two planes, inc. Elon’s private jet are chasing.

  • mfck

    There are rumors of a press conference by SpaceX scheduled for 3:30PM EDT

  • dr

    There is a Spacex media telecon that has just started.
    Jeff Foust is tweeting updates from it:
    “Elon Musk: it was a great day. All satellites placed in their orbits. Demoed all tech.”
    “Musk: attempted relight of upper stage, encountered anomaly. Understand what it is and will fix before next flight”
    “Musk: Lower stage 3-engine relight went well, reentered. Single-engine relight went well, but exceeded roll control of ACS.”
    “Musk: rolling “centrifuged” propellant, shut down engine early. Did recover “portions” of 1st stage after splashdown.”
    “Musk: despite that, we have all the pieces in place to accomplish recovery of stages in the future, “full and rapid reusability” of stage.”
    “Musk: all 1st and 2nd stage engines performed “slightly better than expected”.”

  • Hug Doug

    here’s a video from a minute before launch to about nine minutes in the flight: http://youtu.be/uFefasS6bhc lots of “awaiting vehicle downlink” and it doesn’t show the stage separation, but you do get to see the fairing separation event.

  • dr

    There is a Spacex media telecon that is ongoing.
    Jeff Foust is tweeting updates from it:
    “Musk: won’t hold up CRS-3 launch to install legs on F9. Schedule driven by upgrades to Dragon. Probably Feb ’14 launch.”
    “Musk: working with Air Force and FAA on identifying landing sites for F9 1st stage, looking at eastern tip of Cape Canaveral.”
    “Musk: did recover video of the first stage reentry, hope to post it online later this week.”
    “Musk: still working on 3rd launch site, “quite likely” to be Texas but not resolved yet.”
    “Musk: Also pursuing LC-39A at KSC for NASA (cargo and crew). Current Cape launch site would be used for other customers.”
    “Musk: hoping to do a test firing of Falcon Heavy at Texas test site by 2nd quarter of 2014.”

  • dr

    There was a Spacex media telecon earlier today.
    A couple of other people tweeted from it, some items which Jeff Foust didn’t mention:
    Doug Messier:
    “Musk: finishing up test stand for Falcon Heavy in McGregor, TX. Should be a bit quieter due to config of test stand.”
    Ben Cooper:
    “Elon: Pad abort test from Cape will come as soon as second quarter 2014.”

  • Robert Horning

    There was also a Proton launch at the Baikonur Cosmodrome this evening (which was also successful) for a GEO communications satellite.

    Definitely a day to really geek out with all kinds of fun stuff happening in space, and showing just how big commercial payloads really are right now.

  • Congrats SpaceX.

    Bob Clark

  • Congrats to SpaceX.

    Bob Clark

  • Hug Doug

    New video, posted a couple of hours ago on spacexchannel on youtube: http://youtu.be/N0mLlO9enfY

    far less “Awaiting Vehicle Downlink,” but some still obscures the 1st stage separation. much better view of 2nd stage ignition and fairing separation.

  • Tonya

    Elon’s “private jet”. Yeah right, someone should tell him we all know about his special red and gold suit, he can drop the pretense.

  • Thomas Gabriel Fischer

    Is it true the Falcon 9 second stage exploded after the in-space restart attempt, as evidenced by the orbiting debris field?

  • Douglas Messier

    SpaceX says it didn’t explode.

  • Hug Doug

    awwww… SpaceX made it a private video. sorry everyone!

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Did anyone else notice that the first stage only burned for about 165 seconds instead of 180 as expected. I wonder if this is an upper limit set by recovery, or just some extra margin they had on this particular mission because of the small and light payload.

  • Hug Doug

    SpaceX’s explanation of events is copied below:

    “Following separation of the satellites to their correct orbit, the Falcon 9 second stage underwent a controlled venting of propellants (fuel and pressure were released from the tank) and the stage was successfully safed. During this process, it is possible insulation came off the fuel dome on the second stage and is the source of what some observers incorrectly interpreted as a rupture in the second stage. This material would be in several pieces and be reflective in the Space Track radar. It is also possible the debris came from thestudent satellite separation mechanisms onboard.

    “SpaceX will continue to review to help identify the source of the extra debris, but our data confirms there was no rupture of any kind on the second stage.”