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Dec 03 2015

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SpaceX to ditch water landings

USAF Confirms SpaceX Awaiting FAA Approval for Booster Landing at Cape for Return to Flight. SpaceX will launch 11 Orbcomm satellites into orbit on 15 or 16 December and are pressing ahead with plans to land the first stage booster at Cape Canaveral, pending FAA approval.

Attempting to land on the ASDS is still an option if the FAA does not give clearance for a land relanding. This will also be the first launch of the Falcon 9 v1.2:

It is understood that the v1.1 utilized the Merlin 1D engines at 80 percent of rated capacity, with 20 percent held in reserve, in order to afford maximum flexibility to the payload to achieve its correct orbital position. In contrast, the v1.2/FT architecture centers around the enhanced “Merlin 1D+” engine, which is reportedly capable of 1.53 million pounds (694,000 kg) of thrust at T-0, effectively operating at “full” (100 percent) capability. This will increase to about 1.7 million pounds (771,100 kg) as the vehicle travels higher into the rarefied upper atmosphere. Similarly, the Merlin 1D Vacuum engine of the second stage will see a corresponding increase in propulsive yield from 180,000 pounds (81,600 kg) in the v1.1 to 210,000 pounds (95,250 kg) in the v1.2/FT. According to a source close to SpaceX, “FT” is the internal code name for calculating the Merlin 1D’s output at 100 percent, adding that “this improves the Falcon 9’s performance by 20 percent, although this “improvement” was not really new: it was always there, but never utilized.” At the time of last summer’s failure, it is understood that SpaceX intended to stage its first v1.2/FT launch in July 2015, delivering SES-9 to GTO.

However, the 20-percent performance hike achieved by throttling the engines from their 80-percent to 100-percent power levels has been expanded yet further to reach an overall 33-percent “performance gain” over the v1.1. This gain has been met in part through structural enhancements to the vehicle’s airframe, including a 10-percent increase in propellant tank volumes, a lengthened second stage with extended Merlin 1D+ Vacuum engine, upgraded landing legs and grid fins, an improved “Octaweb” support structure for the first-stage engine suite, a strengthened “interstage” between the two stages and a central “pusher” to ensure a smooth stage-separation process. All told, this increases the height of the v1.2/FT vehicle to 229.6 feet (70 meters), about 5.6 feet (1.6 meters) taller than the v1.1.

Since we missed the Blue Origin landing, I’ll likely live-blog the Orbcomm launch from pre-launch through the recovery event.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.newspaceraces.com/2015/12/03/spacex-to-ditch-water-landings/

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