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SpaceX shares video of first double fairing catch

SpaceX’s two fast-maneuvering payload fairing recovery vessels were in the right place at the right time Monday to catch both halves of the nose shroud jettisoned by a Falcon 9 rocket climbing into orbit with South Korea’s Anasis 2 military communications satellite.

The California-based launch company released a pair of videos Tuesday on Twitter, showing views from each of the fairing recovery boats as the vessels steered under the shroud shells descending under parachutes around 40 minutes after the Falcon 9’s liftoff from Cape Canaveral.

The twin recovery ships, named “Ms. Tree” and “Ms. Chief,” were located around 480 miles (775 kilometers) east of Cape Canaveral in the Atlantic Ocean for Monday’s mission.

The Falcon 9 rocket took off from Cape Canaveral at 5:30 p.m. EDT (2130 GMT) Monday with Anasis 2, South Korea’s first dedicated military communications satellite. On the way into orbit, the launcher jettisoned its first stage booster, which descended back to Earth for a pinpoint landing on SpaceX’s drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

Moments later, the Falcon 9’s upper stage ignited and then released the two-piece clamshell-like nose cone that shielded the Anasis 2 satellite from aerodynamic forces and airflow during the first few minutes of the flight. By that time, the rocket was flying at an altitude of about 68 miles, or 110 kilometers, above the densest layers of the atmosphere.

The first stage maneuvered back to Earth using a series of propulsive burns of its main engines, allowing it to target touchdown on the SpaceX landing platform. The booster was making its second launch after its first use helped launch NASA astronauts aboard SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft May 30.

The re-flight of the first stage Monday — 51 days after its May 30 mission — marked the shortest turnaround between flights of a Falcon 9 booster.

The Falcon 9’s fairing shells come back to Earth in a more unguided fashion, using cold gas thrusters to orient themselves for deployment of a steerable parachute, or parafoil, to slow down before reaching the ocean.

The fairing recovery boats are each equipped with a giant net to catch the falling fairing halves. SpaceX has caught one fairing shell on prior missions — and plucked the other half from the ocean — but Monday’s achievement was the first time the company has netted both pieces of the fairing on the same launch.

Catching the fairing with the net helps reduce contamination from sea water, easing refurbishment of the nose cone for reuse on future flights.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket takes off from Cape Canaveral’s Complex 40 launch pad Monday with South Korea’s Anasis 2 satellite. The South Korean flag is seen emblazoned on the Falcon 9’s payload fairing. Credit: SpaceX

The company wants to more regularly reuse the fairing, eyeing it as the next step in reducing launch costs after proving the landing and reuse of Falcon booster stages. The fairing shells flown on Monday’s mission were brand new.

The Falcon 9’s fairing stands about 43 feet (13.1 meters) tall and measures about 17 feet (5.2 meters) in diameter.

SpaceX reused a fairing for the first time on a Falcon 9 launch last November carrying 60 of the company’s own Starlink broadband satellites into orbit. The company has since repeated the feat.

Other launch providers dispose of the fairing, but SpaceX began using a fast-moving boat to steer underneath a fairing following launches from California in early 2018. The efforts chalked up a series of near-misses, prompting engineers to evaluate reusing fairings that fell into the sea.

SpaceX has since added a second fairing recovery vessel to its fleet, and moved the fairing-catching boats to Florida, where the company has a higher launch rate.

The first fairing that SpaceX reused last November was retrieved from the ocean after a Falcon Heavy launch in April 2019.

Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO, told reporters in 2018 that each new fairing costs around $6 million.

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SpaceX delivers South Korea’s first military satellite into on-target orbit

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Monday. Credit: Ken Kremer/SpaceUpClose.com

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket deployed South Korea’s first dedicated military satellite into orbit Monday a half-hour after a fiery launch from Cape Canaveral, helping fulfill an agreement between Lockheed Martin and the South Korean government in exchange for Korea’s purchase of F-35 fighter jets six years ago.

South Korea’s Anasis 2 military communications satellite rocketed away from Cape Canaveral at 5:30 p.m. EDT (2130 GMT) Monday on top of a Falcon 9 launcher. Nine Merlin main engines on the Falcon 9 rocket propelled the 229-foot-tall (70-meter) launcher off the ground, and the Falcon 9 turned east over the Atlantic Ocean, exceeding the speed of sound within about one minute.

Powered by the same first stage booster that launched astronauts May 30 on SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, the Falcon 9 thundered into a sunny sky after a 30-minute delay Monday the company attributed to a passing rain shower.

The first stage shut down and separated from the Falcon 9’s second stage about two-and-a-half minutes after liftoff, beginning maneuvers to precisely touch down on SpaceX’s floating landing platform around 400 miles (645 kilometers) east of Cape Canaveral. The reusable first stage landed on target aboard the drone ship “Just Read The Instructions,” ready for return to Florida’s Space Coast for another flight.

The booster used on Monday’s launch set a record for the quickest turnaround time between flights of an orbital-class rocket stage at 51 days. The shortest span between launches of the same Falcon 9 booster was previously 62 days, which SpaceX achieved with a Feb. 17 mission.

NASA achieved a 54-day turnaround time between two launches of the space shuttle Atlantis in late 1985, a record never again matched during the 30-year-long shuttle program. The time elapsed between Atlantis’s landing and next launch was 50 days.

SpaceX may eclipse its rocket turnaround time record again in the coming weeks, with more missions on the company’s jam-packed launch schedule, all using reused rocket stages. The next brand new Falcon 9 booster is not expected to fly before late September.

Meanwhile, SpaceX’s second stage engine ignited two times to inject the Anasis 2 spacecraft into an elliptical transfer orbit stretching thousands of miles above above Earth. The satellite will use its on-board engine to circularize its orbit more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) over the equator, where it will provide services for the South Korean military.

John Insprucker, a SpaceX engineer and manager who co-hosted the company’s launch webcast Monday, declared it a “totally successful mission.”

The Anasis 2 spacecraft was manufactured by Airbus Defense and Space in Toulouse, France, and is based on Airbus’s Eurostar E3000 satellite design.

Anasis 2 “will provide secured communications over wide coverage,” Airbus said in a statement.

South Korea procured the satellite — formerly known as KMilSatCom 1 — through an “offset” arrangement to offset South Korea’s purchase of F-35 fighter jets from Lockheed Martin. In exchange for South Korea’s purchase of 40 F-35 fighter jets — a deal reportedly valued at more than $6 billion — Lockheed Martin agreed to provide the Anasis 2 satellite to the South Korean military, among other offsets.

Lockheed Martin ultimately subcontracted the satellite manufacturing deal to Airbus, and booked launch services for Anasis 2 with SpaceX.

“Lockheed Martin is honored to deliver on the promise and commitment made to the Republic of Korea government with the successful launch of the Anasis 2 satellite,” Lockheed Martin said in a statement. “This launch and the expected in-orbit handover later this year are the first milestones signifying the completion of an offset project related to the sale of F-35s to the ROKG (Republic of Korea Government) in 2014.”

Before Anasis 2, South Korea’s military has relied on international and civilian-owned satellites for communications. A dual-use satellite named Anasis 1 launched in 2006 to provide commercial and military telecom services.

Further details about the Anasis 2 satellite are shrouded in secrecy at the wishes of the the spacecraft’s owner — the South Korean government. SpaceX did not broadcast live video of the Anasis 2 satellite deploying from the Falcon 9 rocket, citing a request from its customer.

The Anasis 2 satellite is prepared for shipment to Cape Canaveral from Airbus’s facility in Toulouse, France. Credit: Airbus Defense and Space

Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO, tweeted later Monday that the company had successfully recovered both halves of the Falcon 9 rocket’s payload fairing using two boats stationed offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.

The twin fairing recovery vessels — named “Ms. Tree” and “Ms. Chief” — were dispatched to positions nearly 500 miles (800 kilometers) east of Cape Canaveral. Both ships are fitted with giant nets to try to catch the fairing halves, which descend under parachutes.

The Falcon 9 released the clamshell-like payload fairing around three-and-a-half minutes after liftoff Monday, once the rocket flew above the dense, lower layers of the atmosphere. The shroud protected the Anasis 2 satellite during the rocket’s initial climb away from Florida.

The successful fairing recovery marked the first time SpaceX achieved a double catch of both fairing halves on the same mission. On previous flights, SpaceX has either caught just one of the fairing shells, or retrieved them after splashing down in the ocean.

Monday’s mission was SpaceX’s 12th launch of the year, but it was the company’s first launch of 2020 dedicated to a customer other than NASA, the U.S. military, or SpaceX’s own Starlink Internet project.

Of SpaceX’s 11 previous missions this year, seven launched clusters of satellites for the company’s own Starlink broadband network. One of those missions carried a rideshare payload of three commercial SkySat Earth-observing satellites for Planet.

Three of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 missions so far in 2020 have been for NASA.

A Falcon 9 flight Jan. 19 launched a Crew Dragon capsule for a high-altitude test of the spaceship’s abort system. A Dragon cargo ship launched March 6 on a Falcon 9 rocket to resupply the International Space Station, and the first Crew Dragon flight with astronauts took off on a Falcon 9 rocket May 30.

SpaceX’s most recent launch before Monday delivered a GPS navigation satellite into orbit for the U.S. Space Force.

The market for large commercial geostationary satellites has experienced a downturn in the last few years, although there are signs that orders to build and launch geostationary communications spacecraft are on the uptick again.

SpaceX has another launch planned for an external foreign customer coming up later this month. Argentina’s SAOCOM 1B radar observation satellite is being prepared for launch at Cape Canaveral on a Falcon 9 rocket as soon as next week.

The launch of SAOCOM 1B was originally scheduled in March, but officials from CONAE — Argentina’s space agency — requested a delay in the launch due to travel and work restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic. Using new physical distancing and safety protocols, crews returned to Cape Canaveral from Argentina earlier this month to resume preparations on the SAOCOM 1B satellite.

SpaceX also has several more Falcon 9 launches with Starlink satellites from Florida’s Space Coast in August. In September, SpaceX is gearing up for a launch with the next Crew Dragon spacecraft to carry astronauts to the space station, and another Falcon 9 flight with a GPS navigation satellite for the U.S. military.

Other missions on SpaceX’s manifest later this year — besides regularly-scheduled flights to add satellites to the Starlink Internet network — include Falcon 9 launches with a Dragon cargo craft to deliver supplies to the space station, commercial communications satellites for Turksat and SiriusXM, a joint U.S.-European oceanography satellite, and a rideshare mission carrying dozens of small satellites into polar orbit.

There is also a launch of a SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket on the company’s schedule in late 2020. After taking off from the Kennedy Space Center, the heavy-lift rocket will deploy classified payloads into geostationary orbit for the U.S. Space Force.

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Falcon 9 launch timeline with Anasis 2

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is set for liftoff from Cape Canaveral on Tuesday, heading due east over the Atlantic Ocean to deliver the South Korean Anasis 2 military communications satellite into orbit around 32 minutes later.

The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) rocket is poised for launch from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida during a launch window Monday opening at 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) and closing at 8:55 p.m. EDT (0055 GMT).

Perched atop the rocket is the Anasis 2 communications satellite, a spacecraft manufactured by Airbus Defense and Space in Toulouse, France, and owned by the South Korean military.
After deployment from the upper stage of the Falcon 9 rocket in an elliptical transfer orbit, the Anasis 2 spacecraft will use its on-board hydrazine-fueled engine to boost itself into a circular geostationary orbit more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) over the equator.

Based on Airbus’s Eurostar E3000 satellite design, Anasis 2 “will provide secured communications over wide coverage,” Airbus said in a statement.

The Falcon 9 first stage booster set to loft the Anasis 2 payload has one previous flight to its credit. It launched May 30 with NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on the first test flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft with people on-board.

The timeline below outlines the launch sequence for the Falcon 9 flight with Anasis 2.

Data source: SpaceX

T-0:00:00: Liftoff

After the rocket’s nine Merlin engines pass an automated health check, hold-down clamps will release the Falcon 9 booster for liftoff from Complex 40.
After the rocket’s nine Merlin engines pass an automated health check, hold-down clamps will release the Falcon 9 booster for liftoff from pad 39A.

T+0:01:00: Mach 1

The Falcon 9 rocket reaches Mach 1, the speed of sound.
The Falcon 9 rocket reaches Mach 1, the speed of sound, as the nine Merlin 1D engines provide more than 1.7 million pounds of thrust.

T+0:01:12: Max Q

The Falcon 9 rocket reaches Max Q, the point of maximum aerodynamic pressure.
The Falcon 9 rocket reaches Max Q, the point of maximum aerodynamic pressure.

T+0:02:32: MECO

The Falcon 9’s nine Merlin 1D engines shut down.
The Falcon 9’s nine Merlin 1D engines shut down.

T+0:02:36: Stage 1 Separation

The Falcon 9’s first stage separates from the second stage moments after MECO.
The Falcon 9’s first stage separates from the second stage moments after MECO.

T+0:02:43: First Ignition of Second Stage

The second stage Merlin 1D vacuum engine ignites for an approximately 6-minute burn to put the rocket and SES 9 into a preliminary parking orbit.
The second stage Merlin 1D vacuum engine ignites for a five-and-a-half-minute burn to put the rocket and Anasis 2 spacecraft into a preliminary parking orbit.

T+0:03:34: Fairing Jettison

The 5.2-meter (17.1-foot) diameter payload fairing jettisons once the Falcon 9 rocket ascends through the dense lower atmosphere. The 43-foot-tall fairing is made of two clamshell-like halves composed of carbon fiber with an aluminum honeycomb core.
The 5.2-meter (17.1-foot) diameter payload fairing jettisons once the Falcon 9 rocket ascends through the dense lower atmosphere. The 43-foot-tall fairing is made of two clamshell-like halves composed of carbon fiber with an aluminum honeycomb core.

T+0:06:46: Stage 1 Entry Burn Complete

A subset of the first stage’s Merlin 1D engines complete an entry burn to slow down for landing. A final landing burn will occur just before touchdown.

T+0:08:06: SECO 1

The second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket shuts down after reaching a preliminary low-altitude orbit. The upper stage and SES 9 begin a coast phase scheduled to last more than 18 minutes before the second stage Merlin vacuum engine reignites.
The second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket shuts down after reaching a preliminary low-altitude orbit. The upper stage and Anasis 2 begin a coast phase scheduled to last more than 18 minutes before the second stage Merlin vacuum engine reignites.

T+0:08:31: Stage 1 Landing

The Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage booster touches down on SpaceX’s drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean.

T+0:26:32: Second Ignition of Second Stage

The Falcon 9's second stage Merlin engine restarts to propel the SES 9 communications satellite into a supersynchronous transfer orbit.
The Falcon 9’s second stage Merlin engine restarts to propel the Anasis 2 communications satellite into an elliptical transfer orbit.

T+0:27:28: SECO 2

The Merlin engine shuts down after a short burn to put the SES 10 satellite in the proper orbit for deployment.
The Merlin engine shuts down after a short burn to put the Anasis 2 satellite in the proper elliptical orbit for deployment.

T+0:32:29: Anasis 2 Separation

The SES 9 satellite separates from the Falcon 9 rocket in an orbit with a predicted high point of about 39,300 kilometers (24,400 miles), a low point of 290 kilometers (180 miles) and an inclination of 28 degrees. Due to the decision to burn the second stage nearly to depletion, there is some slight uncertainty on the orbital parameters based on the exact performance of the launcher.
The Anasis 2 satellite separates from the Falcon 9 rocket into an elliptical transfer orbit, on the way to a perch in geostationary orbit.

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Live coverage: South Korean military satellite to launch today from Florida

Live coverage of the countdown and launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida with the South Korean military’s Anasis 2 communications satellite. Text updates will appear automatically below. Follow us on Twitter.


SpaceX’s live video webcast begins around 15 minutes prior to launch, and will be available on this page.

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SpaceX going for rocket reuse record with South Korean satellite launch

File photo of a Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral’s Complex 40 launch pad. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX aims to re-launch the Falcon 9 booster Monday that catapulted astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken toward the International Space Station in May, this time carrying a South Korean military communications satellite while pursuing a record for the quickest turnaround time between flights of an orbital-class rocket stage.

In a tweet Saturday, the California-based launch company confirmed plans to launch the South Korean Anasis 2 military communications satellite Monday from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The mission was previously scheduled to launch Tuesday, July 14, but SpaceX delayed the launch to address a problem on the Falcon 9’s second stage.

The launch window Monday opens at 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) and runs until 8:55 p.m. EDT (0055 GMT). The official launch weather forecast calls for isolated rain showers at Cape Canaveral on Monday evening, but there’s a 70 percent chance of acceptable conditions for liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket during the nearly four-hour launch window.

If the Falcon 9 rocket can take off with the Anasis 2 satellite Monday, or some time later this month, SpaceX will break its own record for the shortest turnaround between flights of the same Falcon 9 booster. The shortest span between launches of the same Falcon 9 booster to date has been 62 days, which SpaceX achieved with a Feb. 17 mission.

NASA achieved a 54-day turnaround time between two launches of the space shuttle Atlantis in late 1985, a record never again matched during the 30-year-long shuttle program. The time elapsed between Atlantis’s landing and next launch was 50 days.

Once the Anasis 2 mission is off the ground, SpaceX may eclipse its rocket turnaround time record again in the coming weeks.

Utilizing pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and pad 39A at the nearby Kennedy Space Center, SpaceX has five missions on its launch schedule from Florida’s Space Coast in the next month or so, beginning with the launch of Anasis 2 Monday.

SpaceX’s next launch of satellites for its Starlink broadband network is expected to launch some time in late July, although a firm launch date has not been confirmed by SpaceX. That mission was supposed to launch in late June from pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center, but SpaceX has called off two launch attempts due to unspecified technical issues with the rocket.

Two commercial Earth-imaging microsatellites from BlackSky are hitching a ride to space on the Falcon 9 rocket with 57 of SpaceX’s own Starlink platforms. An official from Spaceflight, the rideshare launch broker that secured the ride for the BlackSky satellites on the Falcon 9, said Wednesday that the mission was then expected to take off toward the end of July.

SpaceX’s drone ship returns to Florida’s Space Coast on June 2 with the Falcon 9 booster used to launch the Crew Dragon spacecraft. Credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now

Argentina’s SAOCOM 1B radar observation satellite was previously scheduled for liftoff as soon as July 25 on a Falcon 9 rocket, and another batch of Starlink satellites — flying in tandem with three Earth-observing satellites from Planet — was expected to launch around the end of July.

Those launches are expected to be delayed as a result of the schedule slips encountered by the previous Anasis 2 and Starlink/BlackSky missions. Another Starlink launch on a Falcon 9 is also planned is also planned later in August from Cape Canaveral.

Schedules for subsequent Starlink missions have not been announced, but SpaceX is booked to launch the next Crew Dragon spacecraft with astronauts to the International Space Station and a GPS navigation satellite as soon as September.

SpaceX currently has five Falcon 9 boosters in its inventory, and the company has flown two brand new first stages in its 11 missions so far this year. At least two more new Falcon 9 first stages are scheduled to enter service in the coming months, with SpaceX’s next launch of astronauts and the next launch of a U.S. military GPS navigation satellite, both currently planned no earlier than September.

A Falcon Heavy launch planned in late 2020 with a clandestine U.S. military payload will fly with three Falcon rocket boosters, all brand new. SpaceX officials said in December that the company planned to build around 10 new Falcon first stages in 2020.

With its success in reusing Falcon 9 booster stages, the company has ramped up production of Falcon 9 second stages, which are new on each mission.

Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder and CEO, has previously said he wants to launch, recover and re-launch Falcon 9 booster twice within a 24-hour period. But Musk has not recently repeated those comments, instead focusing on SpaceX’s larger, next-generation Starship launch vehicle to make the next leap in reusable rocket technology.

The Falcon 9 booster assigned to the Anasis 2 mission is designated B1058. The launch Monday will mark SpaceX’s 12th mission of the year, and the second to use the B1058 vehicle.

During its launch with astronauts May 30, the 156-foot-tall first stage detached from the Falcon 9’s upper stage and the Crew Dragon spacecraft around two-and-a-half minutes after liftoff. While the Crew Dragon accelerated into orbit, the booster fired engines in a series of maneuvers to land vertically on SpaceX’s drone ship parked in the Atlantic Ocean less than 10 minutes into the mission.

The drone ship returned to Florida’s Space Coast with the booster on its deck June 2, and SpaceX took the rocket back to a refurbishment facility at Cape Canaveral for inspections and preparations for its next mission.

SpaceX plans to recover the booster again after Monday’s launch.

The company’s drone ship “Just Read The Instructions” is in position around 400 miles (645 kilometers) east of Cape Canaveral, and two vessels have been dispatched into the Atlantic Ocean to retrieve the Falcon 9’s two-piece payload fairing.

The Anasis 2 satellite is prepared for shipment to Cape Canaveral from Airbus’s facility in Toulouse, France. Credit: Airbus Defense and Space

The Anasis 2 spacecraft awaiting launch Monday was manufactured by Airbus Defense and Space in Toulouse, France, and transported to Cape Canaveral last month on an Antonov An-124 cargo plane. Based on Airbus’s Eurostar E3000 satellite design, Anasis 2 “will provide secured communications over wide coverage,” Airbus said in a statement.

The spacecraft will launch into an elliptical, egg-shaped transfer orbit stretching tens of thousands of miles above Earth. The satellite’s on-board propulsion system will circularize its orbit at an altitude of more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) over the equator to reach a geostationary position, where Anasis 2 will remain over a fixed geographic location, circling the planet at the same rate as Earth’s rotation.

South Korea purchased the satellite — formerly known as KMilSatCom 1 — through an arrangement to offset South Korea’s purchase of F-35A fighter jets from Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin ultimately subcontracted the satellite manufacturing deal to Airbus.

Before Anasis 2, South Korea’s military has relied on international and civilian-owned satellites for communications.

Further details about the Anasis 2 satellite are shrouded in secrecy at the wishes of the the spacecraft’s owner — the South Korean government.

Citing a request from its customer, SpaceX said Saturday that its launch webcast for the Anasis 2 launch will end after landing of the Falcon 9’s first stage booster, expected around eight-and-a-half minutes after liftoff. At that time, Anasis 2 and the Falcon 9’s upper stage should be in a low-altitude parking orbit, coasting until restart of the second stage’s Merlin engine at T+plus 26 minutes, 32 seconds.

After a 56-second second stage burn to send Anasis 2 into a higher orbit, the spacecraft will separate from the Falcon 9 rocket at T+plus 32 minutes, 29 seconds.

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