Elon Musk’s rocket re-enters atmosphere three times

These kinds of deployments may pave the way for future space travel, allowing people and companies to easily leave and return to Earth.

By YAFIT OVADIA
December 6, 2018 15:47
4 minute read.
The Falcon 9 CRS-6 Dragon takes off from Vandenberg Air Force Base off the coast of California on Mo

The Falcon 9 CRS-6 Dragon takes off from Vandenberg Air Force Base off the coast of California on Monday.. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

 
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Elon Musk’s SpaceX deployed a rocket, which has managed to re-enter the atmosphere three times, launching 65 satellites into orbit.

SpaceX’s launch is groundbreaking since it marks the first time that a rocket, which has been deployed into space, retained the ability to re-enter the atmosphere for a third time. These kinds of deployments may pave the way for future space travel, allowing people and companies the ease with which to leave and return to Earth.

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SpaceIL is one of these companies set to launch a satellite to the moon on a future Falcon 9 rocket.

The brand new Block 5 version of the Falcon 9 rocket that was deployed into space, began to re-enter the Earth’s air space around two-and-a-half minutes after its take off. First, the rocket disengaged from its launcher about 85 kilometers (53 miles) above the atmosphere, landing in the Pacific Ocean a bit under five-and-a-half minutes later. This was the third time that a SpaceX rocket has both taken off and landed vertically, and the 32nd landing of any Falcon 9 rocket.

On Monday, SpaceX launched the Falcon 9 rocket off the California coast for the third time from Vandenberg Air Force Base. The Falcon 9 held a payload which encapsulated 65 separate satellites that belonged to companies or research centers, who are hoping to capitalize on and test space travel. These companies are from over 17 different countries, 34 groups, and the European Space Agency, according to the NASA Space flight website. The Falcon 9 rocket has successfully completed missions 61 times, although in 2012, one rocket had first stage engine failure. In 2015, a rocket disintegrated during ascent after an oxygen tank broke, and another was destroyed in a pre-launch failure in 2016.

Saving money in one of the most expensive enterprises in the world is also a bonus – this way many companies can essentially “carpool” on the same space mission – opening the doors for reusable space travel. These “rideshare” satellites – smaller satellites attached to a larger payload – are in demand among hi-tech companies, who are looking to expand their business ventures into outer space at a lesser cost due to smaller fuel consumption.

In 2017, SpaceIL’s first designs to send an Israeli satellite to the moon were made known. The Israeli company was elated when SpaceX signed a contract in 2015 to launch its spacecraft.

According to former SpaceIL CEO Eran Privman, the agreement is about more than just transportation.

“The fact that a serious company signs a contract with a group like us means that we know what we’re talking about. That we’ve passed all their tests and that our craft stands up to all their requirements.”


SpaceIL was originally founded by three engineers near Tel Aviv in 2010, and entered as the only Israeli start-up in the Google Lunar Xprize, an international competition which promised to send the first civilian mission to the moon. Yariv Bash, one of the founders added: “Space is the ultimate thing. It’s something that is so hard to do, even today. In 2016, rockets still blow up; it’s still rocket science. This is one of the ultimate technological-engineering challenges.”

SpaceIL was the first competitor to launch its landing craft, named “Sparrow,” that is able to hop over the surface of the moon instead of depending on a separate lunar rover in order to traverse the distance. Other teams later adopted SpaceIL’s innovative technology. Although SpaceIL receives government stipends, adding to almost 10% of the company’s budget, the majority relies on private donations.

For the future mission to the moon, the company has raised the required $70 million.

This space mission in which the SpaceIL satellite was launched was originally coined the Sun-Synch Express (SSO-A), and its focus is on deploying satellites whose orbits are in sync with the sun. This type of near-low polar orbit is unique, since it enables satellites to pass over parts of the Earth’s surface at local solar time, allowing scientists to conduct real-time observations and research of the objects as they circle the Earth. Additionally, this type of orbit is helpful to researchers, since it propels satellites to pass over the equator at separate longitudes, and passes over both poles. This is due to the orbital path’s steep incline of 90 degrees that is adjacent to the Earth’s equator.

As for the rocket’s design, according to the website, arstechnica.com, the front stage (area) of the rocket is black and has been scorched from its numerous entries and exits from the atmosphere, which can reach a staggering 1,500 degrees Celsius (2,700 degrees Fahrenheit) in the thermosphere – the hottest layer. The black interstage (middle area) holds the mechanism which releases the two stages (interstage and front stage) separately and contains a thick thermal coating. The third stage, the upper stage, is white and stands in stark contrast to the previous two black sections. It comprises the payload.

Deploying all the satellites simultaneously can prove to be a difficult feat. Although spanning across a wide variety of sizes, the satellites were attached to the payload stack, which was covered by the rocket’s nose cone during the launch. After the Falcon 9 launched, the cone fell away and the satellites were easily sent into orbit. These types of missions have been undertaken by India in 2017 and Russia in 2014, although this is the first time such a mission has been undertaken by a US company.

According to Fox 5 San Diego, the launch was visible in southern California skies at around 10:30 a.m. PCT.

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