Saturday/ success for SpaceX !

Another SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rocket launch was attempted on Saturday, with a payload of 10 satellites to put into low-Earth orbit for the Iridium satellite communications company.  I am sure the countdown was more nerve-wracking than usual for the engineers and executives, given the rocket explosion in Sept. of last year*.   Anyway, the launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California went very well, and as an added bonus, the spent rocket was successfully landed on a drone shop for re-use!  Check out the webcast here.

*The Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the launch pad while being fueled for a test fire. The cause? The liquid oxygen propellant froze into a solid while being fed into the tank, which also had liquid helium cylinders, kept at minus 269 °C.  (That is only 4 °C above the fantastically cold, coldest temperature that is physically possible; a temperature called absolute zero : minus 273.15 °C).

(From the launch’s webcast). Michael Hammersley, a materials engineer, explains what goes on in the Falcon 9 rocket. The rocket is 20 storeys tall. The tip is big enough to put a school bus in, and carries the payload of 10 satellites. The vapor and condensate on the side of the rocket is normal; it is water vapor from the atmosphere. The propellants (liquid oxygen LOX and liquid kerosene RP1) inside the rocket are chilled as cold as possible, to increase the density and therefore carry as much propellant as possible.

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