Headlines > News > LIVE COVERAGE: Falcon DemoSat Launch (updated March 21th, 02:26 GMT)

LIVE COVERAGE: Falcon DemoSat Launch (updated March 21th, 02:26 GMT)

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Tue Mar 20, 2007 5:37 pm
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Analysis of SpaceX’ Falcon Launch

March 21th

For the latest press release + video, visit:

02:26 GMT (9:26 p.m. EST): More information will be available tonight, promises Elon Musk. He is very content with the flight today and is confident about the upcoming operational Falcon launches later this year.

02:00 GMT (9:00 p.m. EST): Elon Musk

“I would characterize this as a very good day for SpaceX. We successfully reached space, and really retired almost all the risk associated with the rocket.”
“The things we were most concerned about were the first stage ignition and lift off, the trajectory of the first stage, because that is the most significant portion of the atmosphere where you can have high winds, and potentially have a structural problem.”

“Both the stage separation and the fairing sep went flawlessly. Second stage ignition also went flawless.”

01:50 GMT (8:50 p.m. EST): SpaceX founder Elon Musk will be addressing the media shortly.

01:30 GMT (8:30 p.m. EST): “I just wanted everybody to know that we in the Washington, D.C., office are celebrating with champagne. We don’t have any information yet from the launch control center, but the Falcon clearly got to space with a successful liftoff, stage separation, second stage ignition and fairing separation,” says Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX vice president of business development.

01:21 GMT (8:21 p.m. EST): Second stage seperation seemed to have hit the engine bell of the Kestrel engine. Perhaps a reason for the problem with the second stage ascent.

01:15 GMT (8:15 p.m. EST): Telemetry has been lost. Webcast is disabled.

01:14 GMT (8:14 p.m. EST): The payload fairing is jettisoned. The Falcon 1 is now at kilometers altitude and doesn’t need that protective cover any longer.

01:13 GMT (8:13 p.m. EST): We had shutdown of the Merlin 1A engine and successful seperation of the first stage, that will glide down into the pacific under parachutes. The second stage Kestrel engine successfully fired and is pushing the Falcon 1 further starwards.

01:12 GMT (8:12 p.m. EST): Two minutes in the flight navigation is switched to internal. Everything is nominal.

01:11 GMT (8:11 p.m. EST): The Falcon reached Max-Q, the maximum dynamic pressure, after 74 seconds. All looks fine that far. The Falcon is now at 13 kilometers altitude.

01:10 GMT (8:10 p.m. EST): The Merlin engine is started and we have liftoff of the Falcon 1 rocket with the DemoSat payload.

01:09 GMT (8:09 p.m. EST): T-1 and counting. All systems are in flight condition for liftoff at 01:10 GMT.

01:05 GMT (8:05 p.m. EST): T-5 and counting. All systems are go for launch. The weather is still acceptable.

01:02 GMT (8:02 p.m. EST): T-8 and counting. Strongback is fully retracted.

01:00 GMT (8:00 p.m. EST): T-10 and counting. The Terminal Count Sequence has again started.

00:57 GMT (7:57 p.m. EST): T-13 All systems are ready for launch.

00:54 GMT (7:54 p.m. EST): Countdown is resumed at T-16 minutes.

00:51 GMT (7:51 p.m. EST): Picking up clocks in under 3 minutes.

00:50 GMT (7:50 p.m. EST): Recycling of the rocket is still underway. This is a tricky process to bring a launch-ready rocket back to pre-launch conditions. First stage fuel load is completed.

00:37 GMT (7:37 p.m. EST): Fuel offload is finished and the retanking is started. Countdown is being recycled to T-16 minutes at 00:54 GMT for a liftoff at 01:10 GMT.

00:31 GMT (7:31 p.m. EST): Webcast tuned off. (back online)

00:30 GMT (7:30 p.m. EST): A fuel draining and retanking process is currently underway. In the mean time the precursors of the rain front are arriving at the launch site.

00:26 GMT (7:26 p.m. EST): “The low chamber pressure is believed to have been caused by the RP-1 kerosene’s temperature” Shotwell says.

00:20 GMT (7:20 p.m. EST): The next available launch period ahead is 00:28 to 01:14 GMT (7:28 to 8:14 EST).

00:16 GMT (7:16 p.m. EST): The countdown is getting recycled back to T-11 minutes. It seems we’ll have an other launch attempt today.

00:14 GMT (7:14 p.m. EST): It seems that the Merlin chamber pressure was too low at engine start so the computer stopped the engine.

00:11 GMT (7:11 p.m. EST): Tanks are depressurized and vehicle is saved. The reason for the abort at engine start is yet unknown.

00:06 GMT (7:06 p.m. EST): Terminal Count Abort at T-0. Stronback is reraised and vehicle is currently saved.

00:05 GMT (7:05 p.m. EST): Abort at T-0

00:04 GMT (7:04 p.m. EST): T-1 and counting. We’re in the last minute before launch. Everything looks fine so far.

00:00 GMT (7:00 p.m. EST): T-5 and counting. Strongback is fully retracted and everything is go for launch.

March 20th

23:57 GMT (6:57 p.m. EST): Strongback is being retracted.

23:55 GMT (6:55 p.m. EST): T-10 and counting. The Terminal Count Sequence is started. All systems and controls are now being switched from external to internal.

23:50 GMT (6:50 p.m. EST): T-15 and counting. All systems are go for launch. Weather is still good.

23:46 GMT (6:46 p.m. EST): Safety zone clear. There where some television uplink problems

23:38 GMT (6:38 p.m. EST): A check of the weather indicates the promised rain approaching but clear conditions are projected for launch time.

23:35 GMT (6:35 p.m. EST): T-30 and counting, All systems are currently on green and go for launch. The pad crew has left the restricted area and all is going smooth for a launch a 0:05 GMT (7:05 p.m. EST).

23:33 GMT (6:33 p.m. EST): The tanks are filled and the topping off process has started. That equalizes the boil-off of the cryogenic liquid oxygen (LOX).

23:15 GMT (6:15 p.m. EST): T-50 Range checks are successfully completed and the fueling is in progress. Weather conditions are remaining good for a launch today.

23:10 GMT (6:10 p.m. EST): Fueling of the oxidizer tanks of the first and second stage is currently underway. (Webcast is active)

22:26 GMT (5:26 p.m. EST): The launch time is now 00:05 GMT, (7:05 pm EST).

22:24 GMT (5:24 p.m. EST): “We are in a hold right now. We’ve got a potential RF (radio frequency) compatibility issue with the payload, which we’re working through. I anticipate we will come out of the hold in about 10 or 15 minutes and get back on track,” says Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX vice president of business development. Weather conditions are acceptable at the launch site today

22:20 GMT (5:20 p.m. EST): SpaceX tells reporters that the launch is on schedule for 23:30 GMT

21:30 GMT (4:30 p.m. EST): 90 minutes until the second launch attempt for the Falcon 1 rocket. Wind freshed up a bit to about 30 km/h, but that is still far enough in the safe region. The limit for the launch site is about 45 km/h.

17:00 GMT (12:00 a.m. EST): As the new day at Omelek starts, we provide you with the current weather forecast. Wind is about 25 km/h from North-East and the prediction for today calls for cloudy conditions with a chance of occasional rain showers of 40%. A better outlook will be possible after sunrise in nearly two hours at 6:53 a.m (local time).

16:45 GMT (11:45 a.m. EST): SpaceX confirms launch is scheduled for 4 pm (Pacific) (23:00 GMT, 6:00 p.m. EST) today, March 20, 2007. T-60 will be at 22:00 GMT (5:00 p.m. EST) . The webcast can be seen at http://www.spacex.com/webcast.php and will start at T-60 minutes.

Elon Musk explaining yesterdays problem:

The abort that occurred a few minutes before T-0 was triggered by our ground control software. It commanded a switchover of range telemetry from landline to radio, which took place correctly, however, because of the hardware involved, this transition takes a few hundred milliseconds. Before it had time to complete, our system verification software examined state and aborted.

Our simulations done beforehand all passed, because the simulator did not account for a hardware driven delay in the transition. We considered putting the vehicle into a safe state yesterday and updating the ground control software to make the very minor fix needed, but the safer course of action was to stand down.

Yesterday afternoon and evening (Kwaj time), our launch team updated the software to address the timing issue and verified that there were no similar problems elsewhere. We ran the software through several simulated countdowns and then once again with the rocket and range in the loop.

All systems are now go for launch with T-0 at 4pm California time today (Tues).”


After yesterday’s scrub, today’s launch window again will open at 23:00 GMT (6:00 p.m. EST) and remain open for 4 hours.

For yesterday live event launch log visit:

Mission Statement

Demo-2 is the second flight of the Falcon 1 launch vehicle developed by Space Exploration Technologies in El Segundo, and is scheduled for launch first quarter FY07. The customer for this mission is Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) under the DARPA/USAF Falcon program. The Falcon program has a focus on low-cost, responsive spacelift capability.

On this mission, dubbed the Demo-2 mission, the vehicle will carry ~50 kg of experiments and associated hardware from the launch site at Omelek into a 685 km circular orbit with 9° inclination. The payload consists of the Autonomous Flight Safety System (AFSS) and the Low Cost Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS) Transmitter (LCT2), developed by National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the mechanical adapter hardware required to interface the payload with the launch vehicle. The AFSS and LCT2 payloads are not deployed, but there will be a separation demonstration of an inert payload immediately after second stage 1st burn main engine shutdown.

The primary DARPA objective for this mission is to gather flight data on the Falcon 1 launch vehicle and supporting systems. A secondary objective is to separate a payload into LEO, to place the second stage into the planned final orbit, and demonstratiing AFSS using the LCT2 for telemetering data back to Kwajalein and to Wallops Flight Facility. The AFSS and LCT2 represent early steps in providing low-cost space-based range services for communications, tracking, and on-board autonomous flight termination. The AFSS is operating in a shadow mode for this mission.

Mission Parameters
Perigee (km) (Initial): 330
Apogee (km): 685
Inclination (deg): 9
Launch Azimuth (deg): 90.147
Period (min): 94.8
Stage 1 Burn Duration (sec): 168.34
Stage 2 Burn Duration (sec): 415.20
Time of SECO 1 (sec): 588.53
Dogleg: No
Visibility at SECO 1: Yes
Payload Mass (lbm): 90
Deployed Mass (lbm): 4.55
Liftoff Weight (lbm): 60695.8
Stage 1 Burnout Thrust (lbf): 77061.4
Stage 2 Burnout Thrust (lbf): 6550

Mission Burn Sequence and Timing

Stage 1 Ignition and Liftoff T (Time from liftoff) = 0 H (Altitude) = 0 V (Speed earth inertial) = 0.46 km/s
Stage 1 Burnout Stage Separation T = 160 s H = 75 km V = 2.6 km/s
Stage 2 Ignition T = 165 s H = 82 km V = 2.60 km/s
Fairing Separation T = 185 s H = 108 km V = 2.61 km/s
Stage 2 Burnout T = 565 s H = 330 km V = 7.3 km/s
Payload Deployment T = 575 s H = 330 km V = 7.3 km/s

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