Tomorrow morning’s launch has all the SpaceX goodness we’ve come to expect. A Falcon 9 rocket will carry another set of ten Iridium NEXT satellites into low Earth orbit. While successful satellite deployment pays the bills, most SpaceX fans will be eagerly awaiting what happens back on Earth.
UPDATE: The launch went off without a hitch, and SpaceX managed to bring the first stage rocket back to the drone ship despite rough weather out at sea. Unfortunately, the bad weather and choppy seas scrapped a potential fairing recovery.
Despite challenging weather conditions, Falcon 9 first stage booster landed on Just Read the Instructions.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) July 25, 2018
Here’s the video.
Original article continues.
The drone ship Just Read The Instructions will be off the coast of California waiting for the first stage to gently touch down. It’ll be joined by a second ship, Mr. Steven. This second ship is tasked with recovering the fairing (that’s the nose cone that covers the payload as the rocket heads to space). So far, Mr. Steven hasn’t been successful, but SpaceX hopes a new upgrade to the ship will fix that.
Before, SpaceX attempted to recover a fairing using a net suspended above the ship. SpaceX still believes in the net and has opted to make it bigger.
Mr. Steven—now with more net. SpaceX’s fairing recovery vessel has been fitted with a 4x larger net ahead of its next recovery attempt targeted for later this month. https://t.co/cjXvzg1H70 pic.twitter.com/AdAwPP30OU
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) July 13, 2018
Now the ship won’t be trying to catch a big chunk of metal plummeting at high speeds. Parafoils will deploy to slow the fairing as Mr. Steven moves in to catch it. During the last Iridium launch in May, SpaceX was just 50 meters away from catching one half of the fairing.
Falcon 9 fairing halves deployed their parafoils and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean last week after the launch of Iridium-6/GRACE-FO. Closest half was ~50m from SpaceX’s recovery ship, Mr. Steven. https://t.co/JS7d5zTdIg pic.twitter.com/LjiTwnB4wd
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 31, 2018
A recent drone video captured by YouTuber Drone Dronester shows the fairing catching ship in action.
Catching both fairing pieces will be another big step towards SpaceX’s ultimate vision of reusability. Each half costs about $6 million.
Tomorrow’s launch marks the 14th mission of the year for SpaceX. And the busy year will only continue. SpaceX heads back east after tomorrow’s mission for two more launches on August 2 and August 18.
As for the Iridium NEXT satellite constellation? After tomorrow’s set of 10 gets in orbit, Iridium will be down to one more set to complete its 75 satellite constellation.
The launch is set for 4:39 am PDT / 7:39 am PDT and will be live-streamed over at SpaceX’s website. If you’re tuning in for the rocket landing, that’ll happen about 7 minutes after launch. The Iridium NEXT satellites will begin deploying around the 56-minute mark post-launch and wrap up about 15 minutes later.