SpaceX tested the Formosat-5 Falcon 9, with plans for another landing on the stand-alone platform

Preparing for the second launch this year from Vandenberg, SpaceX conducted a static fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket. An extremely lightweight Taiwanese satellite Formosat-5 on Thursday, August 24, at 18:50 GMT from the SLC-4E launch pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, with the landing of the first stage on the offshore platform "Just read the instructions."

Static fire tests and rebuilt schedule of launches The Western Rocket Landfill

SpaceX held the penultimate critical step for Falcon 9 before its launch in five days, on Thursday.

"Static Fire test "for Falcon 9 means that the first and second stages count down the start, along with refueling with rocket fuel – kerosene and liquid oxygen, and usually ends with the launch of all nine Merlin-1D engines of the first stage on the starting table for ~ 3.5 seconds.

In particular, this first stage, Core 1038, was manufactured in Hoto Rn, California, was taken along the road under protection to the east, to McGregor, Texas, where it was installed on the S1 test bed and passed a series of checks, including starting the engines for a time equal to the full flight time.

The exact time of such events is never known in advance, however, NASASpaceflight.com aerial photographs, available for viewing after registration at the forum, confirm the presence of Core 1038 at S1 stand on June 20, 2017, about a month before the planned launch of Formosat 5.

After Successful successful fire tests in Texas, Core 1038 was wrapped up in transport protection and sent back to the west to the Vandenberg Air Force Base, where it passed the final prelaunch training and integration with the second stage, which also passed fire tests at McGregor.

So As SpaceX announced the postponement of the launch of Formosat-5 for a month – setting a new launch date for August 24, which would have been after the planned launch of NROL-42 on the Atlas V from the United Launch Alliance (ULA), the launch schedule for Vandenberg began to change

Next, in the The time to prepare for the launch of the TDRS-M communications satellite, NASA was faced with problems that led to a shift in the plans for 15 days. And although the satellite was successfully launched on Friday (August 18) in the morning from the cosmic Canaveral, Florida, the entire schedule of ULA launches was forced to shift to the right in view of this delay.

The TDRS-M launch shift forced the NROL- 42 for almost a month – from August 14 to September 11.

Because of this, Formosat-5 was the first in the lineup for launch, after the July pause in the work of the Western Rocket Test Site (which accompanies the Vandenberg Space Center) for its standard service And modernization of equipment. A similar pause also occurred in July on the Eastern Rocket Landfill (which works with the Kennedy Space Center).

Thus, SpaceX planned to conduct a static fire test of Falcon 9 on Saturday, August 19 with a time window from 12:00 to 16:00 PDT. Confirmation that the tests took place immediately when the test window was opened was a sign of no problems in preparation and countdown.

After the completion of the static fire tests, a quick review of the data was conducted to verify that everything is going according to plan, And that the starting team can continue to prepare for the planned launch on Thursday. SpaceX released a confirmation in its Twitter shortly after the test.

Next, a more detailed parsing of the data will follow, ending with a Readiness Check to the Start two days before the launch. During this check, all the elements of the launch campaign and static fire tests will be discussed again to officially authorize the launch of Falcon 9.

If everything goes well, SpaceX will launch Falcon 9 with Formosat-5 on Thursday, August 24, with the starting

After Formosat-5, the Western Polygon will switch to the launch of the ULA of the NROL-42 satellite on the Atlas V 541 rocket (a five-meter payload fairing, four solid fuel boosters and a Centaur upper stage with One engine) on September 11, before moving back to SpaceX and launching Iridium Next 21-30, September 1945 at 13:30 GMT.

After the Iridium Next 21-30, the animated manifesto of the launch of the Vandenberg Space Center for the remainder of 2017 now looks like this:

Date The rocket Useful Load The launching pad The launch time
October 12 Delta II 7920 JPSS 1 SLC-2W 09:48 GMT
October 17 Minotaur-C Skysat SLC-576E 21:37 GMT
the end of the knight Falcon 9 Iridium Next 31-40 SLC-4E in the plans
December Falcon 9 Iridium Next 41-50 SLC-4E in the plans
December 13 Delta IV M + (5.2) NROL-47 SLC-6 in the plans

Formosat-5 – VKMS or not VKMS?

The peculiarity of all the launches from Vandenberg to date was the inability to land with the VKMS (Return to the Start Place) The first stage of Falcon 9 due to the high payload weight (for example: Iridium Next launches), which caused the fuel residues in the Falcon 9 tanks to be insufficient for landing, and also because official permits were not received and the procedures for admission from The US Air Force (USAF), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT).

However, on October 7, 2016, all of the above institutions completed an assessment of various environmental impacts for the construction and use of the landing pad Near the SLC-4W to allow the landing of the VKMS of the first stages of the Falcon 9.

"After analyzing and analyzing the available data and information on existing conditions and potential impacts, including EA-2016, the FAA decided on the issuance of SpaceX licenses For reactive braking and landing of the Falcon missile 9 on the SLC-4W … will not have a significant impact on the quality of the human environment within the meaning of the Law on National Environmental Policy. "

This is stated in the report of the Federal Aviation Administration for Commercial Space Transport on the Approval of the Environmental Assessment And the Determination of Any Significant Impact from the Deceleration and Landing of the First Stage of the Falcon 9 on the SLC-4W Platform at the Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, and the Variants of Unexpected Circumstances for Landing in the Open Sea.

The same report also received a conclusion about the insignificant impact on land and sea life on landings with VKSN on Vandenberg.

After the official approval of the report in October 2016, SpaceX Began the construction of a landing pad on the SLC-4W – located just 430 meters (distance between the centers) from the launch facility SLC-4E.

And now, just over 10 months after the permission to build a landing pad on the SLC-4W And the ability to issue licenses for landing with the VKMS for SpaceX launches from West coast, here is at last the first mission with a fairly light payload for landing with the VKMS.

The Taiwanese satellite Formosat-5 weighs only 475 kg – leaving more than enough stock in the Falcon 9 tanks to fulfill the required ( The back-up, braking and landing stages of the engine operation to safely return to the SLC-4W.

However, the launch and landing licenses requested from SpaceX and provided by the FAA for Formosat-5 provide for the landing of the first stage on an offshore platform " Just read Which will be located about 344 km from Vandenberg.

The question arises as to why landing on the platform will occur instead of landing on land, since All ecological barriers have been eliminated, and Falcon 9 has the capacity to land with the IUCN.

One possible answer is that the landing pad and associated support facilities for landing the first stage were not completed to that Time, when SpaceX was supposed to submit The application for obtaining licenses for the launch and landing of the Formosat-5 mission, i.e. By June 28, 2017.

It is very possible that the landing pad and modernization of the structures should have been completed by the time the license for landing was requested, since otherwise the FAA would have difficulty approving it without being able to survey the operational status of all

It is quite possible that the landing pad and the objects connected with it are not completed even now.

Regardless of the current state of the SLC-4W landing site, the first stage of the Falcon 9 will land on an autonomous Moraine (19459004)

(Photos: Twitter SpaceX, Chris Gebhardt and Philip Sloss for NASASpaceflight.com, Google Maps and L2 McGregor via Gary Blair)

August 19, 2017 (c) Chris Gebhardt