SpaceX’s Third SES Mission Marks Record-Setting Launch Cadence for Historic Pad 39A


The first “re-used” Upgraded Falcon 9 first stage undergoes a successful Static Fire Test on Monday, 27 March. Launch of the SES-10 mission is targeted for Thursday evening. Photo Credit: SpaceX/Twitter

SpaceX seeks to set a raft of new records on Thursday, 30 March, as its launch cadence out of historic Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida ramps up for a third mission of 2017. Significantly, the pad—which saw service for more than four decades in support of the Apollo and Space Shuttle programs—will be re-used a mere 14 days after SpaceX successfully delivered the heavyweight EchoStar-23 communications satellite aloft on 16 March, establishing a new record for the shortest interval between flights out of 39A. And perhaps of greater significance from the perspective of reusability and driving down the cost of getting payload to orbit, Thursday’s launch marks the first re-use of an already-flown Upgraded Falcon 9 first stage. The 2.5-hour “window” extends from 6 p.m. EDT through 8:30 p.m. EDT.

Primary payload for the mission will be the SES-10 communications satellite, flying on behalf of Luxembourg-based operator SES. This marks the third SES bird to be launched by SpaceX, following SES-8—its first customer to Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO), back in December 2013—and more recently last March’s SES-9, with at least three more SES satellites to follow over the course of the next year. These include SES-11, whose transponders will be marketed as EchoStar-105 from the 105 degrees West orbital slot, plus SES-14 and SES-16. With SES-11 and SES-14 targeted to cover the Americas, including Mexico and the Caribbean, SES-16 (also known as “GovSat-1”) will be dedicated to military and national security applications for the Government of Luxembourg.

Weighing around 11,700 pounds (5,300 kg), SES-10 is built on Airbus Defence & Space’s three-axis-stabilized Eurostar-3000 “bus”, which carries frequency-agile remote-controlled Flexible Command Receivers to effect a more robust operations control link. Its twin solar arrays provide an electricity-generating capability of 13 kilowatts and the Eurostar-3000 was the first commercial satellite family to employ lithium-ion batteries in the place of older nickel-based ones for power during orbital eclipse. The bus also benefits from a bi-propellant chemical thruster system for initial orbit-raising and maneuvers and an electric plasma propulsion system for station-keeping. It is anticipated that the satellite will remain fully operational at a GTO altitude of 22,300 miles (35,800 km) for about 15 years.

Official SES-10 mission artwork. Image Credit: SpaceX

Contracts to build SES-10 were signed between SES and Airbus Defence & Space in February 2014. It was revealed at the same time that SpaceX would serve as the launch provider, with initial speculation that it would ride the Falcon Heavy, due to perceived payload-to-GTO limitations on the “standard” Falcon 9. However, it subsequently became clear that the satellite could fly within the envelope of a standard Falcon 9, although Thursday’s flight remains one of the heaviest payloads ever delivered to GTO by SpaceX.

From the outset, it was intended that the new satellite’s three high-powered beams and optical elevation angle would expand SES capabilities across Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean region, providing Direct-to-Home (DTH) television broadcasting and other telecommunications services. In particular, SES-10 will allow broadcasters to meet a growing demand for enhanced picture quality, with more than 80 Ultra-High Definition (UHD) channels anticipated in Latin America by 2025.

As well as reaching an estimated 21 million homes in Spanish-speaking Latin America—with a “footprint” extending from the Gulf of California in Mexico to Cape Horn at the southernmost tip of Tierra del Fuego—it is expected that SES-10’s 55 dedicated Ku-band transponders will support business enterprise, enhanced broadband connectivity and offshore oil and gas exploration. Moreover, the satellite will provide connectivity to support the Caribbean cruise tourism industry, which presently accounts for about 40 percent of total worldwide cruise shipping. It will also enable airlines in Latin America to achieve a jump from 44 in-flight “connected” aircraft in 2015 to more than 1,500 by 2020.

“SES-10 will provide our customers in Latin America with fresh, high-power satellite capacity for multiple applications at an established orbital slot,” said SES President and CEO Romain Bausch at the time of the February 2014 contract award.

Prior to last spring’s launch of SES-9, it was noted that the SES television channel count had grown by 11.3 percent by the end of 2015, with an expectation of further enhancing capacity by 21 percent across emerging markets by the fall of 2017. A key driver of this enhanced capacity—and a total of around 80 new transponders—were to be provided by SES-9 and 10. At present, SES operates a fleet of more than 50 geostationary satellites in over 30 orbital “slots”, providing 7,200 television and radio channels and satellite communications services to worldwide business entities and government agencies. These reportedly reach around 99 percent of the world’s population. SES’s primary focus is upon Europe and the contiguous United States, with additional coverage of Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region.

According to SES, Internet traffic is expected to reach 15 gigabits per capita, as well as 645.7 million Machine-to-Machine (M2M) connections, by 2020. The new satellite will aid telecommunications (telco) operators, service providers and businesses to handle an increasing need for data and bandwidth in remote, mountainous and other difficult-to-reach areas, including Amazonia, Tierra del Fuego and Patagonia. “Allowing coverage of multiple countries from a single hub for Very Small Aperature Terminal (VSAT), mobile backhaul and trunking applications, SES-10 will offer an opportunity for service providers and telco operators to quickly expand their reach across the continent,” it was explained.

The old CRS-8 first stage is static-fired at SpaceX’s Rocket Development Facility in McGregor, Texas, in January 2017. On Thursday, it will become the first re-used first stage to attempt a second launch into orbit. Photo Credit: SpaceX/Twitter

Last August, it was revealed that SES-10 would be SpaceX’s first customer to launch atop a “re-flown” Upgraded Falcon 9 booster. Since SpaceX was formed in May 2002, founder Elon Musk has made no secret of his intent to deliver humans into deep space, colonizing Mars and other destinations in the Solar System. As part of this architecture, SpaceX has focused on reusability technologies: most visibly the capability to return spent first stages of its Falcon 9 booster to soft landings on either the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS) in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans or on solid ground at Landing Zone (LZ)-1 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. Between December 2015 and February 2017, SpaceX successfully guided eight Falcon 9 first stages back to Earth and landed them in an intact configuration, for potential refurbishment and re-use.

The first stage to be used on Thursday to boost SES-10 to orbit will be the same vehicle which delivered the CRS-8 Dragon cargo ship to the International Space Station (ISS) in April 2016. “We believe reusable rockets will open up a new era of spaceflight and make access to space more efficient in terms of cost and manifest management,” said SES Chief Technology Officer Martin Halliwell, speaking last August. “The due diligence the SpaceX team has demonstrated throughout the design and testing of the SES-10 mission launch vehicle gives us full confidence that SpaceX is capable of launching our first SES satellite dedicated to Latin America into space.” SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell added: “Re-launching a rocket that has already delivered spacecraft to orbit is an important milestone on the path to complete and rapid reusability.”

Originally tracking a launch in the timeframe from mid-October through mid-November 2016, the SES-10 mission met with significant delay, in the wake of last September’s on-the-pad explosion of an Upgraded Falcon 9 booster. This failure resulted in the destruction of the vehicle itself and its primary payload, the Amos-6 communications satellite, and enforced a hiatus of several months, before SpaceX returned to flight in mid-January 2017.

Efforts to prepare for the historic SES-10 mission got underway at around the same time. On 16 January, Airbus Defence & Space delivered SES-10 from its clean room facility in Toulouse, France, to Cape Canaveral for pre-launch preparations. A week later, and several thousand miles away, at SpaceX’s Rocket Development Facility in McGregor, Texas, the refurbished CRS-8 first stage underwent a static-fire of its nine Merlin 1D+ engines on the test stand. It was subsequently transported to Florida.

Since this mission will head for geostationary altitude—some 22,300 miles (35,800 km) above Earth—substantially higher energy and velocity demands will be brought to bear on the Upgraded Falcon 9, in comparison to launches into low-Earth orbit. This precludes the possibility of bringing the SES-10 first stage back to a landing on solid ground, at Landing Zone (LZ)-1 at Cape Canaveral. Instead, the first stage will attempt a controlled touchdown on the East Coast-based ASDS, nicknamed “Of Course I Still Love You”. The ASDS was drawn out of Port of Jacksonville on Saturday afternoon, by means of the Elsbeth III tug, bound for a position about 420 miles (680 km) offshore in the Atlantic Ocean.

It will be the first such foray for “Of Course I Still Love You” in several months, since it supported the return of an Upgraded Falcon 9 first stage in August 2016, at the end of the JCSAT-16 mission. Following the multi-month hiatus in the wake of the Amos-6 failure, January’s launch of a batch of Iridium NEXT satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., saw its first stage alight on the West Coast-based ASDS in the Pacific Ocean, whilst February’s ISS-bound CRS-10 Dragon accomplished a smooth touchdown on solid ground at LZ-1 at the Cape. Most recently, the heavyweight EchoStar-23 launch two weeks ago required all of the energy performance of its Upgraded Falcon 9 to achieve orbit and was not recovered. If Thursday’s launch goes ahead as expected, this will be the sixth fully successful ASDS landing in SpaceX history.

The heavyweight SES-10 communications satellite, based upon Airbus Defence & Space’s highly reliable Eurostar-3000 “bus”, is prepared for flight. Photo Credit: SES

The 230-foot-tall (70-meter) Upgraded Falcon 9 booster was transferred from the Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) to Pad 39A and elevated to the vertical on Saturday, 25 March, by means of the Transporter-Erector (TE). SpaceX teams then pressed ahead with customary pre-launch procedures, with a brief Static Fire Test of the nine Merlin 1D+ engines of the first stage scheduled for Sunday afternoon. This was delayed by 24 hours and eventually took place without incident on Monday, 27 March. This correspondingly led to a 24-hour delay to the launch date from Wednesday to Thursday. Launch is presently targeted to occur during a 2.5-hour “window”, extending from 6 p.m. EDT through 8:30 p.m. EDT. New rules, implemented after the Amos-6 failure, require a customer’s payload to be installed atop the booster after the completion of the Static Fire Test. As a result, the first stage went horizontal after the Static Fire Test and was returned to the HIF for the installation of the SES-10 payload.

According to the 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force Base in its L-3 forecast, the weather outlook for Thursday calls for 70-percent-favorable conditions. “On Wednesday, a weak surface boundary will drape across the Mid-Atlantic states and trail back into a developing storm system over Texas,” it was noted. “On Thursday, the strengthening Texas storm system begins to track northeasterly into the Tennessee Valley.” Although neither the system or its frontal boundary are expected to directly impact the KSC area until late Friday and Saturday, the 45th highlighted a possible elevated risk from “upper-level cloudiness and added instability”. Primary issues on Thursday include a risk of violating the Cumulus Cloud Rule and Thick Cloud Rule. Should SpaceX miss the opportunity to launch on Thursday, Friday’s outlook deteriorates to 60-percent-favorable, as the surface boundary associated with the system pushes into the Florida Panhandle. “Surface winds along the Space Coast will turn more southerly,” it was stressed, “and speeds will increase into the 20-25 mph range”. In addition to a potential violation of the Cumulus Cloud and Thick Cloud Rules, there also exists the risk of infringing the Liftoff Winds Rule.

In keeping with procedures implemented since the Amos-6 failure, the Upgraded Falcon 9 has benefited from a somewhat longer fueling regime on its three previous missions. Loading of rocket-grade kerosene (known as “RP-1”) and “densified” cryogenic oxygen is expected to begin around an hour before T-0. This is quite different from previous practice with the booster, which saw fueling commence about 35 minutes before T-0. The longer fueling regime is expected to be a temporary measure, until a further enhanced Falcon 9 upgrade enters service, later in 2017.

Passing T-10 minutes, the terminal countdown autosequencer will be initiated and the nine Merlin 1D+ engines of the first stage—which are configured in a circle of eight, with the ninth at the center—are chilled down, ahead of ignition. The vehicle will transition to internal power and assume primary command of all critical functions, going into “Startup” a minute before launch. At T-3 seconds, the nine Merlins will roar to life, pumping out a combined thrust of 1.5 million pounds (680,000 kg). Following liftoff, the first stage will power uphill for the opening minutes, before the second stage and its restartable Merlin 1D+ Vacuum engine picks up the baton to deliver SES-10 to orbit. Landing of the first stage is anticipated on the ASDS within ten minutes of liftoff. If successful, it remains to be seen if this stage will be recycled to fly a third time. “As with every first-stage recovery, we will inspect the flight hardware after landing and assess,” SpaceX told AmericaSpace, earlier this week. “Remember, this has never been done before.”

As well as bringing Pad 39A back to operational service, almost six years after the end of the Space Shuttle program, SpaceX has already established an impressive cadence of back-to-back launches. Having despatched the ISS-bound CRS-10 Dragon mission on 19 February, a mere 25 days elapsed before EchoStar-23 departed the pad on 16 March. This was the shortest interval between a pair of launches since April 1985, when shuttles Discovery and Challenger rocketed into orbit within 17 days of each other. If SES-10 rises to orbit as planned on Thursday, it will secure a new empirical record of just 14 days between launches, as well as an all-time record of only 39 days between three launches.


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  1. Ben,
    Very good article as always. Have you heard what the “Reduced Cost” is for SES? Since the whole reusability thing is about reducing cost one would think that would be a well published number…But its still early this is the first one after all. I wonder how long before we get propulsed Dragon landings to the cape or at Sea without parachutes and into the water. Or when will the 2nd stages be reused as well? Maybe by leaving them in orbit and converting to another use or as LEO to GSO taxis..


    A momentous day in the history of spaceflight, and indeed, history of the human race.

    (oh, and for Gary, James, Paul et al. :choke on it)

    • And making their launch cadence target, and soft landing of fairing. Next flight is NROL, but Gary said DoD would never fly on Falcon after CRS-7, then he said it again after AMOS-6…And he said they would never land a stage in one piece. Then he said if they did it would be a useless pile. Dumb and dumber over there.

      • Yeah. Lest anyone wonder where Gary receives validation for his attitude:

        I do not “fear” the loss of life of someone dumb enough to ride on this monstrosity. My concern is that carnival freak shows like this make a sustained and permanent lunar return less likely because brainless media and SpaceX fanboy enthusiasm…”
        -Paul Spudis

        Next up to fail in the carnival freak show, that “monstrosity” Falcon Heavy.

        • You also note that comments are closed in Bens’ article on the actual flight. I think this site is finally starting to react to toxic comments in some areas. This flight actually failed because it didn’t have tons of Lunar iron for shielding. 🙂

          • Yeah, I noticed Mr. Church and his various sock puppets have been gone for a while.
            Of course, it’s because of us newspace cyberthugs stocking him, nothing more.

            “Lunar iron for shielding.”

            If can find time, I will try to post a more thorough explanation of iron for radiation shielding before the thread falls off the page.

            • I think you have debunked iron shielding quite well enough already for anyone with basic comprehension skills, and you are wasting time on those without.

    • “‘We believe reusable rockets will open up a new era of spaceflight and make access to space more efficient in terms of cost and manifest management,’ said SES Chief Technology Officer Martin Halliwell”

      Large partially reusable launchers, as was demonstrated by SpaceX’s Falcon launch, was pioneered by the Space Shuttle System.

      “Five complete Shuttle systems were built and used on a total of 135 missions from 1981 to 2011, launched from the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida. Operational missions launched numerous satellites, interplanetary probes, and the Hubble Space Telescope (HST); conducted science experiments in orbit; and participated in construction and servicing of the International Space Station. The Shuttle fleet’s total mission time was 1322 days, 19 hours, 21 minutes and 23 seconds.[11]”

      From: ‘Space Shuttle’ Wikipedia

      Partial reuse of large LEO and GEO launcher systems is where we are currently remain and have been for a long time.

      If we had made use in LEO, or higher orbits, of the External Tank of the Space Shuttle System, as some folks had advocated for, the tank would have become considered as payload and we would have technically had a fully reusable LEO launch system long ago.

      Making full use of what we put in LEO, including a second stage, will eventually be a cost reducing gain for the Home Planet.

      Bringing a second stage back to Earth might be useful, but perhaps the more optimal solution is to resupply it with propellant and send it on to GEO, the Moon, Mars, or Ceres.

      Still, all things considered, SpaceX’s landing and later reuse of the large first stage of the Falcon launcher is a useful technical achievement. However, the economic details of that achievement are not for us to know, even though the American taxpayers paid for the technology that was transferred and subsidies used for a large part of the development of the Falcon family of launchers.

      Government-private partnerships sometimes seems to mean leaving the taxpayers in the dark while they pay and pay and pay much of the costs for developing the intellectual property that is then owned by some Silicon Valley billionaires.

      Of course some of those Silicon Valley billionaires might have gotten rich devising software and technologies with nice big holes in them to make it easy for the CIA and NSA and criminals everywhere to spy on us.

      What Constitution? Why bother to consider the Constitution when there is billions to made using crony capitalism?

      “Crony capitalism is a term describing an economy in which success in business depends on close relationships between business people and government officials. It may be exhibited by favoritism in the distribution of legal permits, government grants, special tax breaks, or other forms of state interventionism.”

      From: ‘Crony capitalism’ Wikipedia

      Secret government deals are sweet moneymakers for the some of the Silicon Valley billionaires, but maybe not for the rest of us.

        • Nope. And I can prove it. You on the other hand are a coward that doesn’t know how to put a period at the end of a sentence.

          All the confused Musk Mars minions will welcome you into their ranks. Such is life on the Internet. But don’t worry, Mr. Musk is also afraid to go to Mars on his rockets because he doesn’t want to face the high risks of death on a Mars mission. In fact, he would rather stay on the Home Planet…

          What a funny pseudo Martian he is.

          “Let’s prepare and encourage new innovators to take us to Mars in the future without taxpayer-funded assistance. As we move forward, we should praise true capitalism, because it fosters innovation like this without using the force of government to pick space winners and losers (which it does badly and so reduces the pace and quality of innovation). To quote from John F. Kennedy, we should pursue trekking into the great unknown ‘with the full speed of freedom, in the exciting adventure of space.'”

          From: ‘My Love-Hate Relationship With Space X’s Elon Musk’ By Bre Payton 12/23/2015

          Yep We jones, if you weren’t an Internet coward, you might support Jeff Bezos. He’s a billionaire headed to the Moon and he doesn’t want to dig into the pockets of American taxpayers.

          • James,
            Blue Origin (Jeff Bezos)has written a 7 page proposal to Trump asking for help in funding moonbases.. Musk’s push to reduce launch costs is worth government subsidies because it is WORKING…Remember the shuttle was supposed to fly every week at least and …Then Lockheed had the X-33 and Venture Star that was going to launch everyday which cost NASA $1B in 1992 dollars and then all of the research exclusively belongs to Lockheed so NASA got ZERO out of it…

          • Musk is reducing launch cost per pound…Why has no one else done this? It would appear that Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Grumman, Northrup etc. etc. all the Legacy companies were interested in maintaining high cost launch systems… I just came across the Sea Dragon Rocket that was system design in 1962 that would put 550 MT in LEO for a low as $59 per kg. This was verified by TRW before funding for all research was cut. Crony Capitalism is what NASA has been involved with all along. Musk has been the only one to produce launch cost reductions. Why can’t you see that?

            • Why encourage the “government to pick space winners and losers”?

              Maybe fixing the highways is a more useful role for government. Highways and similar types of national infrastructure cross state lines and spread their real economic benefits everywhere.

              Is picking economic “winners and losers” a part of the Federal Government’s role as defined in the Constitution?

              Will poor old California, having the largest population and thus the greatest political power of all the states, manage by hook or by crook to gather the most government subsidized “space winners”?

              Are California’s Silicon Valley billionaires, the folks that routinely design in holes in software and hardware to promote the CIA, NSA, criminal gangs, and other folks’ common work of spying on everyone in the world, the trusted high tech rocket people we now want to reward with endless taxpayer money, intellectual property, and physical assets in order “to pick space winners and losers” for America’s spaceflights to the Moon and Ceres and Mars and other destinations across our Solar System?

              Are folks in other countries going to always be real politically eager to partner on space missions with some subsidized Silicon Valley billionaires that help criminals and other folks to commit lots of cyber crimes everywhere on the Home Planet?

              Is Silicon Valley going to become the government’s cozy place “to pick space winners and losers”?

              Are folks in Florida, Texas, and many other states going to accept Silicon Valley’s new elevated status?

              • Any time government down selects a contract for service/item they are picking a winner (that’s the point of winning the contract) and loser by definition. You are hopeless and no amount of quoting other people’s words are going to make you sound any better.

                Geography Lesson of the Week:

                SpaceX is in Hawthorne, which is not in Silicon Valley. Musk’s primary residence is in LA not the valley. You know what is in the valley, SSL (Space Systems Loral) do you have a problem with them? You want to know some other things made in California? Space Shuttles, SSMEs, Saturn S-IVB, Apollo CM, RS-68, F-1, J-2. What’s with the hard on for the valley anyway. You lose you phone in an Uber ride or something?

                Bezos lives in Seattle area (Where Amazon is HQ), which is nowhere near Silicon Valley. So what on Earth are you smoking?

                • I don’t smoke.

                  I like California and its people. I drove out there with my own car when I was 16 in 1968. And I worked to pay for that car and the trip. I have friends in California.

                  However, some of Silicon Valley’s folks making secret deals with the NSA and CIA to make junk software and technology with convenient spy holes in them annoys me and probably a few other people.

                  The gross incompetence and foolishness of some Silicon Valley billionaires, the CIA, and NSA have now left us in a situation where everyone on the Home Planet is much more at risk of getting hacked by criminals.

                  Jeff Bezos is self funding his dreams, which is nice. He wants a permanent human ISRU base on the Moon which is wise. He wants to build O’Neill cylinders which most likely could be used to give us access to all of our Solar System and I like that.

                  “The O’Neill cylinder (also called an O’Neill colony) is a space settlement design proposed by American physicist Gerard K. O’Neill in his 1976 book The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space.[1] O’Neill proposed the colonization of space for the 21st century, using materials extracted from the Moon and later from asteroids.”

                  From: ‘O’Neill cylinder’ Wikipedia

                  Yep, I remember reading that book, ‘The High Frontier: Human Colonies in Space’.

                  Years earlier, sometime around 1965, I also read the book, ‘Islands in Space: The Challenge of the Planetoids.’ By Dandridge M. Cole and Donald W. Cox.

                  Elon Musk on the other hand, is a begging and whining billionaire that always seems to need a taxpayer paid for subsidy of one sort or another every time he does anything, and he seemed to help his ‘political friend’, the last President, try to politically destroy the SLS, International Orion, and America’s and world’s plan for doing ISRU on the Moon. Yikes! Not nice.


                  “Consideration of missions to Mars should include the value of returning to the Moon as a means of dealing with many of the challenges Mars presents (Fig. 3). The Moon lies only three days away in regard to Mars mission development, simulation and training versus the many months required to reach Mars. Flying to the Moon and working there require similar deep space operational discipline that new generations of space managers, engineers and flight controllers will need to assimilate. Also, many of the same deep space technological capabilities will be needed.”

                  And, “The Moon remains geopolitically critical in its own right. The existence of space consumable resources and potential energy sources [4] of importance to Earth have not been lost on other international players. Accessing and developing these resources presents the possibility of cost reduction through private-government partnerships. Further, evaluation of the effects of 1/6 Earth’s gravity on physiological re-adaptation will answer the question, for better or worse, concerning the consequences of re-adaptation requirements in the 3/8 Earth’s gravity of Mars.”

                  From: ‘The Moon is on the Path to get to Mars and Beyond[1]
                  Testimony before the Subcommittee on Space of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology of the United States House of Representatives’
                  By the Honorable Harrison H. Schmitt, Ph.D., Apollo 17 Lunar Module Pilot
                  February 16, 2017

                  Now what exactly is it that you don’t understand about ‘The Moon is on the Path to get to Mars and Beyond’?

                  “Geography Lesson of the Week:”

                  I want the ‘Beyond’ a whole lot more than simply some pseudo ‘Mars Soon and Cheaply Too’ pixie dust sold by a guy who is afraid to go and live on the Red Planet.

                • “Water, oxygen, nitrogen, hydrogen, methane and other consumables provided by lunar resources can significantly reduce the required Earth launch mass of Mars-bound spacecraft.”

                  And,”Crew suitability and compatibility for long duration missions can be evaluated with an extended stay at the International Space Station (ISS), followed by an exploration mission on the Moon, and then by another extended stay at the ISS.”

                  From: ‘The Moon is on the Path to get to Mars and Beyond[1]
                  Testimony before the Subcommittee on Space of the Committee on Science, Space and Technology of the United States House of Representatives’
                  By the Honorable Harrison H. Schmitt, Ph.D., Apollo 17 Lunar Module Pilot
                  February 16, 2017

                  Yep, let’s keep and expand the “the International Space Station” and make full use of it for research and to carefully select and prepare crews for Lunar surface, Cislunar, and beyond Cislunar missions.

            • Tracy the Troll –

              Did you read:

              “Beal Aerospace Fires Largest Liquid Rocket Engine in 30 Years

              Press Release From: Beal Aerospace
              Posted: Saturday, March 4, 2000

              Texas Company Builds World’s Largest Liquid Engine Since Apollo Moon Program

              Beal Engine Test Beal Aerospace fired today the largest liquid rocket engine built since the historic Apollo program of the 1960s. The 810,000-pound vacuum thrust hydrogen peroxide/kerosene engine, designated the BA-810, is the Stage 2 engine for Beal’s forthcoming BA-2 heavy-lift launch vehicle, scheduled for inaugural launch in 2002. The engine made a 21-second firing at the company’s engine test facility in McGregor, Texas before a large crowd of company employees, industry and government VIPs, news media and other guests.

              Today’s test was the third firing of the engine. Beal engineers completed 30 seconds of testing on the engine in two previous tests in preparation for today’s firing. The engine consumes almost 3,000 pounds of propellants per second of operation and generates the equivalent of 6.7 million horsepower.

              A new thrust chamber was fitted for today’s tests. The chamber used in the previous two tests is undergoing analysis at Beal’s engineering and assembly facility in Frisco, Texas, near Dallas, and will return to the stand for future tests.

              ‘This is a remarkable achievement for our program,’ said company founder and CEO Andrew Beal. ‘Our program started small in 1997, with a vision to build a more reliable, more economic means to space for the international satellite community. After a steady stream of successes in our engine development and composite-tank programs, we’re beginning to generate a lot of attention. Building the largest liquid engine in 30 years is an extraordinary achievement � particularly for a private company.’ The engine marks several milestones in the aerospace community:

              It is the second largest liquid engine ever built, second only to the powerful F-1 engines used in the Apollo program. It is 10 times more powerful than the Redstone rocket that put the first American into space in 1961. It is the largest liquid engine built since the F-1 flew on the last Apollo mission in 1973.

              It is the largest thrust chamber ever made from carbon-fiber filament. The space-flight version of the chamber will be 26 feet in length and 20 feet in diameter at its exit nozzle.

              It is the largest hydrogen peroxide-propelled engine ever built. Hydrogen peroxide was first developed as a rocket propellant in the 1930s, then was replaced in later years for more potent alternatives like liquid oxygen. Advances in engine design and chemical engineering, pioneered at Beal Aerospace, have led to a rediscovery of hydrogen peroxide and its operational and environmental advantages. Hydrogen peroxide, for example, is stored and handled at ambient temperature, rather than cryogenic temperatures like other propellants.

              It is the largest engine ever built by a private program with no ties or funding by the government. Beal Aerospace is a fully private company dedicated to build more reliable and economic access to space for the international satellite community.

              Beal’s McGregor facility features two additional test stands: a vertical-fire test stand for smaller engines, and a 220-feet tall vertical-fire stand, currently under construction, for larger engines. The McGregor test facility also houses a five-ton-per-day hydrogen peroxide concentrator, designed and built by company engineers. Headquartered in Frisco, Texas, near Dallas, Beal Aerospace designs, is building and will launch heavy-lift vehicles for the international satellite community.

              The BA-2

              The BA-2 is a heavy-lift, three-stage launcher that stands 236 feet tall. The vehicle has the capacity to lift approximately 13,200 pounds to GTO and 37,400 pounds to LEO.

              It has a diameter of 20.4 feet and a payload fairing that is considered huge by industry standards. The large payload fairing even allows side-by-side placement of larger satellite payloads. The vehicle employs one centerline engine per stage.

              Stages 1 and 2 utilize liquid injection (LITVC) for steering and stage 3 has a gimbaled engine with the ability for multiple restart. Reusable technologies will be utilized for primary stage recoveries at sea.

              The BA-2 uses hydrogen peroxide and standard aviation fuel as propellants, providing tremendous environmental advantages. Propellant is fed to Beal Aerospace Technologies-built engines using helium pressure. This reliable pressure-fed technique negates the use of costly and complicated turbo pumps.

              Propellant tanks are composite filament-wound structures, making them very lightweight, durable and strong. Beal operates one of the world’s largest filament winding machines at its facility in Frisco, Texas.

              Performance Capability

              The BA-2 has a restarting third stage, which enables multiple satellite deployments, Hohmann transfer orbit injections, and GTO targeted Earth-escape missions. For GTO and Earth escape missions, a 200 km circular orbit is used as a parking/phasing orbit. Hohmann transfer missions use an elliptic parking orbit where the perigee is 200 km and the apogee is the final orbit altitude. Upon reaching apogee, a second burn is executed to circularize the orbit.”


              Beal Aerospace had one really big problem. It was a private company and as you noted, “Crony Capitalism is what NASA has been involved with all along”. NASA, the Air Force, NSA, CIA, DARPA, Congressional folks or whoever pulls the strings behind the government curtain apparently didn’t want a private company to “launch heavy-lift vehicles for the international satellite community”.

              Beal Aerospace didn’t ride the government program of large subsidies and secret deals “to pick space winners and losers”. Beal is gone.

              So far, Blue Origin hasn’t ridden the government program of large subsidies and secret deals “to pick space winners and losers”… Obviously, that might change.

              Foreign governments that directly or indirectly subsidize their launcher systems is supposed to be bad a thing, but when we directly or indirectly subsidize “to pick space winners and losers” it is obviously a good or wonderful practice. What a funny world.

              • James,
                I looked up the Beal Aerospace Company. Interesting in that they were following design ideas from the Sea Dragon concept for a cheap system and one that would have been reusable. Looks like they tried to put their launch facilities in launch pad on Sombrero Island in Anguilla, and to mass-produce launch vehicles in the Virgin Islands, but environmentalists were fiercely opposed to these development plans. Also they needed to get US State Department approval and they were in fact relying on the US government for some business…Not the majority but some..In the end they could not get their launch facilities approved by the State Department and they could not get any US government commitments.

  3. While i live close to the launch pad on merritt island it is just amazing to see the launch if i watch it on the computer i miss it going up with the 15 sec delay it is well on its way so i have to hurry out it is tough to hear and watch the launch on the computer with all the back round chatter while all those hard working people have done a fantastic job i dont need to hear it when the actual launch is taking place and again im not knocking the staff i would be with them in jubaliation too BUT it needs to be seperated so i can film the launch of a record event in the history of man so to musk and all the hard working people job well done not well done great job and keeping america proud THANK YOU

  4. Is this truly a reused booster? This is Great but…They had a year to go over this booster with a fine tooth comb. Does anyone know how much of the original parts had to be replaced? Musk has now publically called for a 24 hour turnaround. Is that possible with existing materials used. I mean to compare with airline reuse, aren’t we talking about 1000s of reuses? I would really like to know the condition of this booster after second launch and return. Will it fly again?

    • Jeff,
      Why wouldn’t SpaceX run this booster to failure? Or do they already know now from the other recovered boosters the limitation of materials reuse that they need to upgrade the system materials in order to achieve high reuse launches?

      • run this booster to failure?

        SpaceX has a substantial order backload to fly as soon as they can. The Eastern and Western Ranges are busy places, you must apply for a launch slot in the schedule many months in advance, not to mention it costs millions of dollars to use the Range services. It’s too soon to expect SpaceX to fly a dummy test booster over-and-over until it fails. However, when SpaceX gets its new, private launch complex on the Texas Gulf Coast up and running, then yes, we can visualize them flying test boosters to failure.

        An ideal payload for high-time boosters might be simple FUEL destined for an orbital fuel depot. If you blow-up a well-used “tanker” booster, well hell it’s only fuel.
        Now…cheap re-usable boosters with fuel depots in LEO, this the nightmare for the ice mine on the Moon crowed, as this is the Catch-22 / chicken & egg dilemma.

        • SE Jones,
          Thanks for the details on the Range Issues related to launch that I was unaware. I think I am depressed now because this progress will go at a turtles pace …And I want so much for it to be at a rabbits pace…Yes I know there is a lesson there..

  5. “The Moon can be reached on timescales of a few years and for affordable amounts of spending; Mars cannot. To reach distant islands in the ocean of space, we need to become spacefaring. That means turning the corner and transitioning from the current ‘launch-use-discard’ paradigm to a sustainable template of using space-based assets, reused and re-provisioned by sources in space.”

    From: ‘If You Build It, They Will Come’ By Paul D. Spudis March 15, 2017

    When will SpaceX resupply a Falcon upper stage with propellant in orbit?

    Maybe SpaceX or Blue Origin should build a Propulsive Fluid Accumulator Space Station in Earth orbit. SpaceX could also send another one into orbit around Mars.

    “A Propulsive Fluid Accumulator is an artificial Earth satellite which collects and stores oxygen and other atmospheric gases for in-situ refuelling of high-thrust rockets. This eliminates the need to lift oxidizer to orbit and therefore brings significant cost benefits. A major portion of the total world payload sent into low earth orbit each year is either liquid oxygen or water.”

    “Klinkman and Wilkes proposed, at the AIAA Space 2007 and Space 2009 conferences, that gases could be harvested at the very edge of the earth’s atmosphere by a high vacuum pump. An ion propulsion engine would consume a portion of the harvested gases and would restore the spacecraft’s orbital momentum. Klinkman’s proposal has a fairly low energy threshold for a small-scale harvesting operation, and air friction is far more forgiving at 200 km than at 100 km.[6]”

    From: ‘Propulsive fluid accumulator’ Wikipedia

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