NASASpaceFlight.com Forum

SpaceX Vehicles and Missions => SpaceX Missions Section => Topic started by: yokem55 on 05/19/2016 01:51 AM

Title: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: yokem55 on 05/19/2016 01:51 AM
DISCUSSION Thread for the launch of NROL-76 mission.

NSF Threads for NROL-76 : Discussion (https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=40328.0) / Updates (https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=42639.0) / L2 March/April 2017 (http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=42387.0) / ASDS (https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?board=66.0) / Party (http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=42585.0)
NSF Articles for NROL-76 :
   SpaceX Static Fire spy sat rocket and prepare to test Falcon Heavy core (https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2017/04/spacex-static-fire-tests-spy-sat-rocket-falcon-heavy-core/)
   SpaceX Falcon 9 launches first NRO mission with NROL-76 (https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2017/04/spacex-falcon-9-first-nro-mission-nrol-76/)
   SpaceX improving launch cadence, testing new goals (https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2017/05/spacex-launch-cadence-new-goals/)
Successful launch on May 1, 2017 at 7:15am EDT (1115 UTC).  First stage, core 1032, landed at LZ-1.


http://spacenews.com/nro-discloses-previously-unannounced-launch-contract-for-spacex/
Quote
“SpaceX is under contract to launch NROL-76 in March 2017 from Cape Canaveral [Air Force Station],” Loretta DeSio, an NRO spokesman said in a May 18 email. “The NRO is anticipating the possibility of SpaceX supporting additional missions based on future competitions.”

A SpaceX spokesman referred questions to the NRO. Almost all missions for the NRO are classified, which means the government announces few details.

The launch contract may be as much as three years old. In a 2013 House Armed Services strategic forces subcommittee hearing, Sapp told lawmakers that while she expected SpaceX to bid for launches in future competitions, “we are actually on contract with SpaceX for a smaller mission.”


Other SpaceX resources on NASASpaceflight:
   SpaceX News Articles (Recent) (http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/tag/spacex/)  /   SpaceX News Articles from 2006 (Including numerous exclusive Elon interviews) (http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=21862.0)
   SpaceX Dragon Articles (http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/tag/dragon/)  /  SpaceX Missions Section (with Launch Manifest and info on past and future missions) (https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?board=55.0)
   L2 SpaceX Section (https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?board=60.0)

Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: cmj9808 on 05/19/2016 05:13 AM
So how about the mysterious US government co-passenger to be launched together with SSL-built PSN-6 in early 2017?
It will be a small experimental satellite or something like NROL-66, using spare space in payload fairing nose cone as was described somewhere.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 05/19/2016 05:58 AM
So how about the mysterious US government co-passenger to be launched together with SSL-built PSN-6 in early 2017?
It will be a small experimental satellite or something like NROL-66, using spare space in payload fairing nose cone as was described somewhere.

Please see the KH-11 thread for the article I recently posted in there about the NRO's increasing use of cubesats.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: cmj9808 on 05/19/2016 06:19 AM
So how about the mysterious US government co-passenger to be launched together with SSL-built PSN-6 in early 2017?
It will be a small experimental satellite or something like NROL-66, using spare space in payload fairing nose cone as was described somewhere.

Please see the KH-11 thread for the article I recently posted in there about the NRO's increasing use of cubesats.
I doubt it's some kind of cubesat. NRO, whose Colony program can be traced back to 2009, is definitely not a newbie in the cubesat arena, and none of their cubesats was given a NROL designation.   
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: woods170 on 05/19/2016 07:06 AM
NROL-76 is likely not a cubesat mission. It's one of NRO's main birds IMO. Also very telling was Betty Sapp's little slip-of-the-tongue: "We've bought launches from SpaceX.". Launches, as in plural. IMO it's almost a given that STP-2 is not NROL-76. IMO it's a separate mission given the fact that the NRO spokesperson said that NROL-76 will launch from CCAFS. SLC-40 is at CCAFS. LC-39A isn't. So, if the spokesperson is correct, NROL-76 will launch on Falcon 9, given that SLC-40 is not suited for FH. FH is (for now) on LC-39A only.
It is also a fact that SLC-40 currently has no provisions for vertical integration of the payload. Nor do I see one installed in time for a March 2017 timeframe. So, I'm betting NROL-76 does not require VI. IMO it will be horizontally integrated instead.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Kryten on 05/19/2016 08:45 AM
Note that the direct quote in the article is not that they're launching from CCAFS, it's that they're launching from 'Cape Canaveral [Air Force Station]'. CCAFS appears to be conjecture on SpaceNew's part.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 05/19/2016 11:41 AM
So how about the mysterious US government co-passenger to be launched together with SSL-built PSN-6 in early 2017?
It will be a small experimental satellite or something like NROL-66, using spare space in payload fairing nose cone as was described somewhere.

Please see the KH-11 thread for the article I recently posted in there about the NRO's increasing use of cubesats.
I doubt it's some kind of cubesat. NRO, whose Colony program can be traced back to 2009, is definitely not a newbie in the cubesat arena, and none of their cubesats was given a NROL designation.

I meant as a secondary payload.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: woods170 on 05/19/2016 12:59 PM
Note that the direct quote in the article is not that they're launching from CCAFS, it's that they're launching from 'Cape Canaveral [Air Force Station]'. CCAFS appears to be conjecture on SpaceNew's part.
Kennedy Space Center, home of LC-39A, is not located at Cape Canaveral. It's located on Merritt Island. CCAFS, home of SLC-40, is located at Cape Canaveral. Although the two areas are located next to each other, they are in fact two different areas with two different names. Had the intention been to launch from LC-39A, the spokesperson, IMO, would have said that the launch would take place from KSC. But the spokesperson said Cape Canaveral. So, for now, I'll take that information and run with it in my understanding of NROL-76 launching from SLC-40.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: rpapo on 05/19/2016 01:01 PM
I'll take that information and run with it in my understanding of NROL-76 launching from SLC-40.
Which for now implies a normal Falcon 9 launch, not Heavy.  Especially when that NROL office spokesperson referred to a "small" payload.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Ben the Space Brit on 05/19/2016 01:19 PM
I meant as a secondary payload.

I'm no expert but surely NRO wouldn't let a secondary payload from another organisation on one of their launches.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: abaddon on 05/19/2016 01:56 PM
Does the USAF procure the LV for the NRO or do they do it themselves?  Does the NRO follow USAF guidelines regarding LV certification?  Or their own?  Just curious about how this relates to SpaceX certification by the USAF (or not) and what that might mean about the payload class.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Newton_V on 05/19/2016 02:36 PM
I meant as a secondary payload.

I'm no expert but surely NRO wouldn't let a secondary payload from another organisation on one of their launches.

Why not?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jim on 05/19/2016 02:49 PM
Note that the direct quote in the article is not that they're launching from CCAFS, it's that they're launching from 'Cape Canaveral [Air Force Station]'. CCAFS appears to be conjecture on SpaceNew's part.
Kennedy Space Center, home of LC-39A, is not located at Cape Canaveral. It's located on Merritt Island. CCAFS, home of SLC-40, is located at Cape Canaveral. Although the two areas are located next to each other, they are in fact two different areas with two different names. Had the intention been to launch from LC-39A, the spokesperson, IMO, would have said that the launch would take place from KSC. But the spokesperson said Cape Canaveral. So, for now, I'll take that information and run with it in my understanding of NROL-76 launching from SLC-40.

Cape Canaveral and Cape Canaveral AFS are not synonymous.  Also, the term Cape Canaveral Spaceport has been used to include both KSC and CCAFS.    So, we really don't know what they mean.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jim on 05/19/2016 02:53 PM
Does the USAF procure the LV for the NRO or do they do it themselves?

yes and yes

Does the NRO follow USAF guidelines regarding LV certification?  Or their own? 


There hasn't been a need for military LV certification until Spacex came along.
NRO has bought Atlas III, Minotaurs, etc
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Ben the Space Brit on 05/19/2016 03:26 PM
I meant as a secondary payload.

I'm no expert but surely NRO wouldn't let a secondary payload from another organisation on one of their launches.

Why not?

Controlling access to the LV for security purposes. They don't want technicians from other organisations other than a few microscopically-vetted SpaceX people anywhere near spacecraft processing and mating.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: abaddon on 05/19/2016 03:51 PM
There hasn't been a need for military LV certification until Spacex came along.NRO has bought Atlas III, Minotaurs, etc
So you are saying we don't really have much insight into what kind of procurement guidelines might have been at play here, and can't really infer anything about the payload... which does seem par for the course for NRO birds.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Skyrocket on 05/19/2016 05:24 PM
I meant as a secondary payload.

I'm no expert but surely NRO wouldn't let a secondary payload from another organisation on one of their launches.

This has happened already: The NROL-36, NROL-39 and NROL-55 missions (all on Atlas V rockets) carried each a bunch of cubesats from different organisations as secondary payloads.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: ZachS09 on 05/19/2016 05:31 PM
I meant as a secondary payload.

I'm no expert but surely NRO wouldn't let a secondary payload from another organisation on one of their launches.

This has happened already: The NROL-36, NROL-39 and NROL-55 missions (all on Atlas V rockets) carried each a bunch of cubesats from different organisations as secondary payloads.

Although AFSPC-5 is not related to NRO, it too carried "a bunch of cubesats from different organisations as secondary payloads."
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Newton_V on 05/19/2016 05:45 PM
I meant as a secondary payload.

I'm no expert but surely NRO wouldn't let a secondary payload from another organisation on one of their launches.

This has happened already: The NROL-36, NROL-39 and NROL-55 missions (all on Atlas V rockets) carried each a bunch of cubesats from different organisations as secondary payloads.

A little clarification on that:  Cubesats are loaded in their dispensers well before any SV is mated to a launch vehicle.  But still, no reason you can't have cleared people to work any tasks where visual access might be possible.  Lots of different organizations learn to play well together.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Sam Ho on 05/19/2016 08:35 PM
I meant as a secondary payload.

I'm no expert but surely NRO wouldn't let a secondary payload from another organisation on one of their launches.

This has happened already: The NROL-36, NROL-39 and NROL-55 missions (all on Atlas V rockets) carried each a bunch of cubesats from different organisations as secondary payloads.

A little clarification on that:  Cubesats are loaded in their dispensers well before any SV is mated to a launch vehicle.  But still, no reason you can't have cleared people to work any tasks where visual access might be possible.  Lots of different organizations learn to play well together.
Yes.  In fact, NRO funded the development of the Centaur Aft Bulkhead Carrier for secondary payloads.  ABC payloads get integrated 4-6 months before launch.  As noted in the 2012 keynote, "NRO primary SV programs extremely risk adverse."

Here are some presentations from the Cubesat Developers Workshop.
http://mstl.atl.calpoly.edu/~bklofas/Presentations/DevelopersWorkshop2013/Callen_OUTSat_Lessons_Learned.pdf
http://mstl.atl.calpoly.edu/~bklofas/Presentations/DevelopersWorkshop2012/Mathewson_Keynote.pdf
http://mstl.atl.calpoly.edu/~bklofas/Presentations/DevelopersWorkshop2012/Keynote_Willcox_ABC_OUTSat.pdf
http://mstl.atl.calpoly.edu/~bklofas/Presentations/DevelopersWorkshop2011/24_Willcox_ABC.pdf
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: oldAtlas_Eguy on 05/20/2016 05:18 PM
There hasn't been a need for military LV certification until Spacex came along.NRO has bought Atlas III, Minotaurs, etc
So you are saying we don't really have much insight into what kind of procurement guidelines might have been at play here, and can't really infer anything about the payload... which does seem par for the course for NRO birds.
Historically there are no procurement guidelines when the National Security card is used. They don't have to procure LVs through the AF they just do it for convenience.

Since the F9 was not yet certified they could not do normal AF procurement through a competition so they would have to do it direct.

A historical precedent I know about is the Atlas H. The black small SSO sat program (NRO) paid for its development (direct contracts) modified the pad and everything else without using any AF funds. They did this in 18 months from start to launch The contracts were sole source and not even by a normal proposal method but as a contract mod to existing contract for services they had with the target companies. The mod was many times the size of the original contract. Mods can be done in as little as 30 days. This one took 90 days to put on contract.

If NRO wants to do something and fast they can. They can through the FAR out the window.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: macpacheco on 05/20/2016 08:59 PM
Humm why people assume this has to be a Falcon Heavy mission ?
Don't those birds go into LEO / Polar orbits ?
Aren't those in the sub 9 ton class ?
Those are all educated guesses based on a quick Google search.

It seems there are four major classes of US Govt birds:
  The big GEO COMM birds which clearly fall into Falcon Heavy type payloads
  Intel birds which would make far more sense in LEO/Polar orbits, those seem fairly easy Falcon 9 launches
  GPS, which are low enough in mass that an upgrade Falcon 9 might be able to put them all the way into a MEO orbit, but with DoD margin requirements might end up with SpaceX tasked with delivering them into a "MEO transfer orbit"
  Fairly heavy Polar orbit birds too, those would probably be Falcon Heavy type launches too

Why the assumption NROL-76 requires a Falcon Heavy launch ?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: gongora on 05/20/2016 09:16 PM
Humm why people assume this has to be a Falcon Heavy mission ?
Don't those birds go into LEO / Polar orbits ?
Aren't those in the sub 9 ton class ?
Those are all educated guesses based on a quick Google search.

It seems there are four major classes of US Govt birds:
  The big GEO COMM birds which clearly fall into Falcon Heavy type payloads
  Intel birds which would make far more sense in LEO/Polar orbits, those seem fairly easy Falcon 9 launches
  GPS, which are low enough in mass that an upgrade Falcon 9 might be able to put them all the way into a MEO orbit, but with DoD margin requirements might end up with SpaceX tasked with delivering them into a "MEO transfer orbit"
  Fairly heavy Polar orbit birds too, those would probably be Falcon Heavy type launches too

Why the assumption NROL-76 requires a Falcon Heavy launch ?

I'm not sure people assumed it requires a Falcon Heavy launch, it's just that whenever a really vague mission is announced some people want it to be a FH launch  :D  Plus there was the coincidence of having an Air Force FH launch already announced that same month, which has space for some small payloads.  Personally I'm assuming some not too terribly expensive (for a satellite) prototype or pathfinder type payload launching on F9.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: rcoppola on 05/20/2016 09:55 PM
It would be ironic if after all the discussion about Vertical Integration, it turns out the NRO is testing additional architectures that won't require it. Perhaps it's more clear why SpaceX is seemingly unconcerned about VI. Or at least additional info as to why they are in no rush to build that capability. They're maybe more launches both now and in the future that won't need it than we realized. And I'd bet the NRO is keeping a close eye (no pun intended) on those F9 cores that continue to pile up.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: the_other_Doug on 05/21/2016 12:46 AM
Um... polar orbit would have to launch out of Vandenberg, right?  Last I heard, Vandenberg isn't configured to support FH launches.  For the time being, AIUI, the only launch complex that will support FH launches will be LC-39A at KSC, right?

So, if this is to be a polar orbit NROL mission, I'd have to guess it will be on an F9 out of Vandenberg.  Any non-polar orbit mission, I can maybe see an FH.  Maybe.  But I'd be surprised, I guess, if DoD decided to give a launch contract to SpaceX for a booster that has not yet flown.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Newton_V on 05/21/2016 12:52 AM
It's not an FH.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: macpacheco on 05/21/2016 02:44 AM
That's right we can rule Polar orbit out.
So it's probably a LEO bird. Probably a lighter load than the last CRS launch.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: sewebster on 05/21/2016 02:55 AM
My understanding is that some reconnaissance satellites are quite massive... ~ 20000 kg? Still within F9 LEO performance on their website, possibly expendable.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: macpacheco on 05/21/2016 03:27 AM
My understanding is that some reconnaissance satellites are quite massive... ~ 20000 kg? Still within F9 LEO performance on their website, possibly expendable.
And just because one of those massed 20 tons 15-20 years ago, isn't there some Moore's law shrinking some of those components down ?
Even they aren't shrinking in weight, anyhow, the NSA apparently has different size birds. The big ones are probably their pride n' joy, SpaceX will have to prove themselves before they get launch contracts for the big (and very expensive) ones.
I see a progression of bigger and bigger breadcrumbs SpaceX is earning.
First some low risk mission like the STP-2. Then GPS III launches. Then lower cost DoD birds (I guess NROL-76 is one of them). Probably one or two more steps until SpaceX is qualified to launch anything DoD has. Big GEO comm birds last.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Comga on 05/21/2016 03:33 AM
Um... polar orbit would have to launch out of Vandenberg, right?  Last I heard, Vandenberg isn't configured to support FH launches.  For the time being, AIUI, the only launch complex that will support FH launches will be LC-39A at KSC, right?

(snip)

[Jim]Yes, wrong, and no[/Jim] ;)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: sewebster on 05/21/2016 03:36 AM
Even they aren't shrinking in weight, anyhow, the NSA apparently has different size birds. The big ones are probably their pride n' joy, SpaceX will have to prove themselves before they get launch contracts for the big (and very expensive) ones.

Yeah, I'm sure they have a variety, and it seems the trend is towards more/cheaper/smaller. I think the point I was trying to make was just that some of them are/were large... so it wasn't a given that it was trivial for F9 to launch.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: kevin-rf on 05/21/2016 12:27 PM
My understanding is that some reconnaissance satellites are quite massive... ~ 20000 kg? Still within F9 LEO performance on their website, possibly expendable.
And just because one of those massed 20 tons 15-20 years ago, isn't there some Moore's law shrinking some of those components down ?
Food for thought, the now canceled FIA-O satellites where supposed to be launched on an Atlas, unlike the previous KH-11 which require a Delta Heavy. Now lockheed has the contract to replace the KH-11 with something. Only time tell what it will launch on. WAG, but based on the FIA-O experience, it may not need a heavy.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jim on 05/21/2016 02:00 PM
1.  And just because one of those massed 20 tons 15-20 years ago, isn't there some Moore's law shrinking some of those components down ?
2.  Even they aren't shrinking in weight, anyhow, the NSA apparently has different size birds. The big ones are probably their pride n' joy, SpaceX will have to prove themselves before they get launch contracts for the big (and very expensive) ones.
I see a progression of bigger and bigger breadcrumbs SpaceX is earning.
3.  First some low risk mission like the STP-2. Then GPS III launches. Then lower cost DoD birds (I guess NROL-76 is one of them). Probably one or two more steps until SpaceX is qualified to launch anything DoD has. Big GEO comm birds last.

1.  Doesn't apply to optics and propellant

2.  NSA doesn't have birds

3.  Not until larger fairings and vertical integration.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: dante2308 on 05/21/2016 02:04 PM
My understanding is that some reconnaissance satellites are quite massive... ~ 20000 kg? Still within F9 LEO performance on their website, possibly expendable.

This was procured long before SpaceX could promise 20,000 kg to LEO on the F9.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jcc on 05/21/2016 02:37 PM
1.  And just because one of those massed 20 tons 15-20 years ago, isn't there some Moore's law shrinking some of those components down ?
2.  Even they aren't shrinking in weight, anyhow, the NSA apparently has different size birds. The big ones are probably their pride n' joy, SpaceX will have to prove themselves before they get launch contracts for the big (and very expensive) ones.
I see a progression of bigger and bigger breadcrumbs SpaceX is earning.
3.  First some low risk mission like the STP-2. Then GPS III launches. Then lower cost DoD birds (I guess NROL-76 is one of them). Probably one or two more steps until SpaceX is qualified to launch anything DoD has. Big GEO comm birds last.

1.  Doesn't apply to optics and propellant

2.  NSA doesn't have birds

3.  Not until larger fairings and vertical integration.

Regarding 1., improved sensors can make use of smaller optics, and adaptive optics. Also SEP greatly reduces propellant weight. Granted, they may still design for the maximum size/weight anyway, just because they can.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: llanitedave on 05/21/2016 03:04 PM
1.  And just because one of those massed 20 tons 15-20 years ago, isn't there some Moore's law shrinking some of those components down ?
2.  Even they aren't shrinking in weight, anyhow, the NSA apparently has different size birds. The big ones are probably their pride n' joy, SpaceX will have to prove themselves before they get launch contracts for the big (and very expensive) ones.
I see a progression of bigger and bigger breadcrumbs SpaceX is earning.
3.  First some low risk mission like the STP-2. Then GPS III launches. Then lower cost DoD birds (I guess NROL-76 is one of them). Probably one or two more steps until SpaceX is qualified to launch anything DoD has. Big GEO comm birds last.

1.  Doesn't apply to optics and propellant

2.  NSA doesn't have birds

3.  Not until larger fairings and vertical integration.

Regarding 1., improved sensors can make use of smaller optics, and adaptive optics. Also SEP greatly reduces propellant weight. Granted, they may still design for the maximum size/weight anyway, just because they can.


Adaptive optics are useful on ground-based optical systems when the source of air turbulence is fairly close at hand.  They're not so useful on space-based systems, where the turbulence is near the source of the image.


Also, the laws of physics set a hard limit on the resolution of an optical system according to its size.  Improved sensors can more efficiently gather light, but they can't overcome fundamental limits on resolution.  Only larger objectives can do that.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jim on 05/21/2016 03:11 PM

Regarding 1., improved sensors can make use of smaller optics, and adaptive optics.

2. Also SEP greatly reduces propellant weight. Granted, they may still design for the maximum size/weight anyway, just because they can.

1.  Any improvements would be to used make better than the existing status

2.  Too slow to make "quick" changes
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Galactic Penguin SST on 05/21/2016 03:18 PM
Anyone trying to guess what that thingy is? Given the capabilities of the F9 and the launch date, I'm betting on it being a SDS data relay bird - the last one was launched 2 years ago and the series seems to have a new bird going up every 2-3 years or so.

It could also be a NOSS duo (which can be launched from both coasts) - but there's already a candidate launch mission in the same period (NROL-79 from VAFB - the one the SpaceX tried to bid and missed out).
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: the_other_Doug on 05/21/2016 06:41 PM
Um... polar orbit would have to launch out of Vandenberg, right?  Last I heard, Vandenberg isn't configured to support FH launches.  For the time being, AIUI, the only launch complex that will support FH launches will be LC-39A at KSC, right?

(snip)

[Jim]Yes, wrong, and no[/Jim] ;)

So, they'll be able to launch FH out of Vandenberg?  Great!  I had only heard, to my memory, that their Vandenberg pad is in the process of being upgraded to support the latest version of F9.  I had not heard that their facilities and pad there had been upgraded to support FH.  Kewl!

It's still the case that, in Florida, LC-39A will be the only pad that will support FH, though, right?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Skyrocket on 05/21/2016 07:37 PM
Anyone trying to guess what that thingy is? Given the capabilities of the F9 and the launch date, I'm betting on it being a SDS data relay bird - the last one was launched 2 years ago and the series seems to have a new bird going up every 2-3 years or so.

It could also be a NOSS duo (which can be launched from both coasts) - but there's already a candidate launch mission in the same period (NROL-79 from VAFB - the one the SpaceX tried to bid and missed out).

SDS (QUASAR), both in GEO of HEO version, is IMHO a prime suspect. But NROL 61 to be launched this year is also a SDS suspect.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Alter Sachse on 11/04/2016 09:03 AM
Or could it be a satellite to test new technology ?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Alpha817 on 12/25/2016 12:37 PM
Although it's scheduled to launch on the same month as PSN-6, it's unlikely to be a big satellite as PSN - 6 it's own weigh 5000 kg so IF NROL 76 to be launched together, it would weighing a mere 1 ton. Though it's unlikely NRO launch their satellite with a commercial satellite  (except cubesats).

*edit: i mean the maximum payload for Falcon 9 with a landing is about 6 tons. So if a satellite weigh 5 tons, it would give 1 ton margin, either way it would be expandable version of Falcon 9. Thanks
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 02/11/2017 02:10 PM
So this was announced last May and there doesn't appear to have been any news since. Presumably if it were to be launched in the next couple of months we would have heard more about it by now?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Ronsmytheiii on 03/17/2017 06:18 PM
Booster arriving?

https://twitter.com/AndrewMegler
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Chris Bergin on 03/17/2017 07:41 PM
L2 had April 16 NET several days ago for this one, but it's a long way off - not least with SpaceX to launch SES-10 first and we'll just have to keep an eye on it.

We think the F9 S1 arriving today is for this mission. See above post.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Galactic Penguin SST on 03/17/2017 11:30 PM
Any signs of an NRO mission patch for this one?  ;)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Raul on 03/18/2017 01:18 PM
As I posted here (http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=40231.msg1650561#msg1650561) two weeks ago, I think this flight could be "SpaceX Mission 1363" according to new nomenclature in FCC application (https://apps.fcc.gov/oetcf/els/reports/STA_Print.cfm?mode=current&application_seq=76144&RequestTimeout=1000).

Other FCC application (https://apps.fcc.gov/oetcf/els/reports/STA_Print.cfm?mode=current&application_seq=76396&RequestTimeout=1000) with same requested period of operation says it includes LZ-1 booster landing - so probably LEO satellite. And NROL-76 is only one mission in closest SpX manifest (except CRS-11), which could be non GTO mission from 39a.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Ben the Space Brit on 03/19/2017 08:02 AM
Y'know, I can't help but wonder how well the very different culture of SpaceX and the NRO 'spooks' will mesh. I have no doubt that SpaceX's people will be very professional but I can imagine that the NRO might be a bit wary of working with SpaceX's more transparent and public-facing culture when it comes to publicising their work.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 03/19/2017 08:38 AM
Y'know, I can't help but wonder how well the very different culture of SpaceX and the NRO 'spooks' will mesh. I have no doubt that SpaceX's people will be very professional but I can imagine that the NRO might be a bit wary of working with SpaceX's more transparent and public-facing culture when it comes to publicising their work.

Well they are going to have to learn to adapt with organisations like the NRO if they want to make any inroads into government contracts long term.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 03/19/2017 09:25 AM
I don't see much of an issue here. SpaceX don't discuss payloads and payload missions, they leave that to their customers (or just quote what I'm sure is customer approved material in launch briefing packs etc).

Launch dates are not secret and I don't see any publicity around the launch process being an issue. If SpaceX were required to keep things like precise spacecraft separation timing secret or not show camera shots of fairing separation etc then I'm sure they would.

I remember people complaining in the past when SpaceX ended their webcasts at SECO!
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: AncientU on 03/19/2017 09:27 AM
Y'know, I can't help but wonder how well the very different culture of SpaceX and the NRO 'spooks' will mesh. I have no doubt that SpaceX's people will be very professional but I can imagine that the NRO might be a bit wary of working with SpaceX's more transparent and public-facing culture when it comes to publicising their work.

Well they are going to have to learn to adapt with organisations like the NRO if they want to make any inroads into government contracts long term.

Since they have a backlog of a couple dozen government launches (extending through 2024), I think there's a reasonable chance they will be able to make some 'inroads'
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 03/19/2017 09:29 AM
Y'know, I can't help but wonder how well the very different culture of SpaceX and the NRO 'spooks' will mesh. I have no doubt that SpaceX's people will be very professional but I can imagine that the NRO might be a bit wary of working with SpaceX's more transparent and public-facing culture when it comes to publicising their work.

Well they are going to have to learn to adapt with organisations like the NRO if they want to make any inroads into government contracts long term.

Since they have a backlog of a couple dozen government launches (extending through 2024), I think there's a reasonable chance they will be able to make some 'inroads'

Government in this case equaling the intelligence  agencies of course.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: AncientU on 03/19/2017 09:54 AM
Y'know, I can't help but wonder how well the very different culture of SpaceX and the NRO 'spooks' will mesh. I have no doubt that SpaceX's people will be very professional but I can imagine that the NRO might be a bit wary of working with SpaceX's more transparent and public-facing culture when it comes to publicising their work.

Well they are going to have to learn to adapt with organisations like the NRO if they want to make any inroads into government contracts long term.

Since they have a backlog of a couple dozen government launches (extending through 2024), I think there's a reasonable chance they will be able to make some 'inroads'

Government in this case equaling the intelligence  agencies of course.

The intelligence agencies will also likely adapt to the new realities of the launch market... and the a-sat threat.  Their current battleship galactica approach to NRO platforms needs to drastically change if they want their assets to remain viable long term.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 03/19/2017 10:00 AM
Y'know, I can't help but wonder how well the very different culture of SpaceX and the NRO 'spooks' will mesh. I have no doubt that SpaceX's people will be very professional but I can imagine that the NRO might be a bit wary of working with SpaceX's more transparent and public-facing culture when it comes to publicising their work.

Well they are going to have to learn to adapt with organisations like the NRO if they want to make any inroads into government contracts long term.

Since they have a backlog of a couple dozen government launches (extending through 2024), I think there's a reasonable chance they will be able to make some 'inroads'

Government in this case equaling the intelligence  agencies of course.

The intelligence agencies will also likely adapt to the new realities of the launch market... and the a-sat threat.  Their current battleship galactica approach to NRO platforms needs to drastically change if they want their assets to remain viable long term.

Yes because of course we can know what's the best approach in future for agencies and missions that are completely classified. Also for example payloads like the KH-11 are always going to be large because for the foreseeable future we can't circumvent the laws of physics that demands a certain size of lens for a certain level of resolution.

Strangely enough I imagine the NRO puts national security above market concerns in the things it has to consider.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: AncientU on 03/19/2017 10:14 AM
It is not market concerns, it is market opportunities.  There has been plenty discussion about dis-aggregating assets among the military planners.  Many functions like certain types of optical intelligence gathering may continue to rely on large optics, but there  are many (most) other gathering techniques that could be improved and hardened by flying a constellation of smaller sats.  When that happens, the exact release timing or orbit of a given sat will become irrelevant.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: gongora on 03/19/2017 02:55 PM
What does any of this have to do with NROL-76?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: pb2000 on 03/19/2017 04:15 PM
What does any of this have to do with NROL-76?

Ostensibly it's speculation about what the payload could be and how the NRO and SpaceX are going to mesh, but it seems to be devolving into arguments with Jim.

In any event, we don't even know if this is an optical intelligence bird. It could very well be a series of smaller (iridium sized) satellites for LEO signal intelligence. We'll just have to wait and see.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: deruch on 03/22/2017 01:41 AM
As I posted here (http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=40231.msg1650561#msg1650561) two weeks ago, I think this flight could be "SpaceX Mission 1363" according to new nomenclature in FCC application (https://apps.fcc.gov/oetcf/els/reports/STA_Print.cfm?mode=current&application_seq=76144&RequestTimeout=1000).

Other FCC application (https://apps.fcc.gov/oetcf/els/reports/STA_Print.cfm?mode=current&application_seq=76396&RequestTimeout=1000) with same requested period of operation says it includes LZ-1 booster landing - so probably LEO satellite. And NROL-76 is only one mission in closest SpX manifest (except CRS-11), which could be non GTO mission from 39a.
IIRC, the NRO launch isn't a commercial launch.  Ergo, no FCC applications and no FAA launch license for this mission.  Frequencies for NSS missions, and launch authority, are ceded from other US Govt agencies. 
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jim on 03/22/2017 11:44 AM
IIRC, the NRO launch isn't a commercial launch.

It wasn't purchased through the Air Force
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Skyrocket on 03/22/2017 11:56 AM
IIRC, the NRO launch isn't a commercial launch.

It wasn't purchased through the Air Force

The two NEMESIS SIGINT (http://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/nemesis-1.htm) satellites (PAN & CLIO) were also launched through commercial purchased Atlas launches. Perhaps this one here is similar. But on the other hand PAN and CLIO did not have (known) NROL designators.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Galactic Penguin SST on 03/22/2017 12:10 PM
IIRC, the NRO launch isn't a commercial launch.

It wasn't purchased through the Air Force
Is that the same for NROL-66 and 111?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Skyrocket on 03/22/2017 12:26 PM
IIRC, the NRO launch isn't a commercial launch.

It wasn't purchased through the Air Force
Is that the same for NROL-66 and 111?

NROL-111 was purchased via USAF (http://www.losangeles.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1025162/air-force-awards-nrol-111-mission-contract)

For NROL-66 i need to look up the sources, but i am pretty sure, that it was purchased via USAF.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: deruch on 03/22/2017 08:50 PM
IIRC, the NRO launch isn't a commercial launch.

It wasn't purchased through the Air Force
Does NRO always use Air Force procurement for their (NSS) launches?  I thought that while they usually do, they can pretty much do whatever they want (i.e. buy the launch on their own).
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Skyrocket on 03/22/2017 10:28 PM
IIRC, the NRO launch isn't a commercial launch.

It wasn't purchased through the Air Force
Does NRO always use Air Force procurement for their (NSS) launches?  I thought that while they usually do, they can pretty much do whatever they want (i.e. buy the launch on their own).

No - at least the NEMESIS SIGINT sats were not launched via Air Force procurements. At the time, it was not known, which agency was behind these launches, but leaked documents had meanwhile shown the identity of these payloads (at least for PAN, CLIO is a conjecture based on the manufacturer and orbital behavior) and the user.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Chris Bergin on 03/27/2017 05:13 PM
We'll start an update thread this week, but per SpaceX Opens Media Accreditation for NROL-76 Mission e-mail, they are only going with "The launch is targeted for no earlier than April." right now.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: jacqmans on 03/27/2017 05:35 PM

SpaceX Opens Media Accreditation for NROL-76 Mission
 
Media Contact: John Taylor
media@spacex.com
310.363.6703
 
HAWTHORNE, Calif. - March 27, 2017. Media accreditation is now open for SpaceX's NROL-76 mission from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The launch is targeted for no earlier than April.
 
Members of the media who are U.S. citizens or Permanent Resident Aliens (green card holders) and are interested in covering the launch must fill out this media accreditation form by 5:00 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, March 28.
 
Requesting accreditation is not required of media who hold current annual press credentials issued by Kennedy Space Center, but it is appreciated for planning purposes.
                                                                                                                                         
For launches from LC-39A, Kennedy Space Center decides which media are credentialed to cover launches, not SpaceX. Please keep in mind, simply making the request in a timely fashion does not guarantee the request will be granted. Please be sure to provide all the information included on the SpaceX form.
 
More details on pre-launch media activities will be made available at a later date closer to launch.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: ChrisGebhardt on 03/28/2017 04:18 PM
SpaceX confirms this will be an LZ-1 landing.

Webcast will cut off launch coverage as usual for NRO missions (like we see with ULA), but will continue for booster landing coverage.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Flying Beaver on 03/28/2017 04:21 PM
SpaceX confirms this will be an LZ-1 landing.

Ooooooo...

LEO imaging sat perhaps (<8000 or so kg?). Really cool to get another LZ-1 landing so soon. Might look into going to this one...
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Galactic Penguin SST on 03/28/2017 05:24 PM
Any signs of an NRO mission patch for this one?  ;)

Asking for this again since I still can't find a related patch for this one, not even on eBay.  :-X
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: tleski on 03/28/2017 07:40 PM
Patches were always made available only after successful completion of the mission. For example, no patches for CRS-7 or Amos-6 are available. I would expect the patch design to be published in their press kit if they have any for this launch unless it leaks before that.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: manoweb on 03/28/2017 07:45 PM
LEO imaging sat perhaps (<8000 or so kg?).

Are non-polar orbit imaging satellites very common?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jim on 03/28/2017 07:58 PM
Any signs of an NRO mission patch for this one?  ;)

Asking for this again since I still can't find a related patch for this one, not even on eBay.  :-X

too early
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jim on 03/28/2017 07:59 PM

LEO imaging sat perhaps (<8000 or so kg?).

No, not from the east coast
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jim on 03/28/2017 07:59 PM
Patches were always made available only after successful completion of the mission. For example, no patches for CRS-7 or Amos-6 are available. I would expect the patch design to be published in their press kit if they have any for this launch unless it leaks before that.

NRO has its own patches
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Newton_V on 03/28/2017 08:08 PM
Asking for this again since I still can't find a related patch for this one, not even on eBay.  :-X

I'm surprised they're not out.  The L-42 and L-47 patches have been out for awhile.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 03/28/2017 08:14 PM

LEO imaging sat perhaps (<8000 or so kg?).

No, not from the east coast

Suspect this could be a special one off payload. Perhaps a technology demonstrator hence why Space X were able to bid on it.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jim on 03/28/2017 08:20 PM

LEO imaging sat perhaps (<8000 or so kg?).

No, not from the east coast

Suspect this could be a special one off payload. Perhaps a technology demonstrator hence why Space X were able to bid on it.

That doesn't affect to the mission requirements.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Newton_V on 03/28/2017 08:20 PM
hence why Space X were able to bid on it.

It was sole sourced.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 03/28/2017 08:45 PM
hence why Space X were able to bid on it.

It was sole sourced.

Doesn't change the idea that it's a tech demonstrator.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Newton_V on 03/28/2017 08:55 PM
hence why Space X were able to bid on it.

It was sole sourced.

Doesn't change the idea that it's a tech demonstrator.

I was commenting on the bid part.  That's why I removed everything but the bid part.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: tleski on 03/29/2017 01:48 AM
Patches were always made available only after successful completion of the mission. For example, no patches for CRS-7 or Amos-6 are available. I would expect the patch design to be published in their press kit if they have any for this launch unless it leaks before that.

NRO has its own patches
But I am assuming SpaceX will have their own patch too. Correct?
And they don't release them until the successful launch is completed (and after splashdown in the case of Dragon missions).
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: rockets4life97 on 03/29/2017 02:05 AM
SpaceX's patches usually come with the press kit. I expect there is no press kit with NRO launches...
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: deruch on 03/29/2017 03:38 AM
IIRC, the NRO launch isn't a commercial launch.

It wasn't purchased through the Air Force
Jim- I assume this means that they won't be ceded launch authority or radio spectrum through the Air Force, but does the NRO have its own "indigenous" authority/spectrum to cover launches not procured through the AF?  or were you commenting that SpaceX need "commercial coverage" after all? 
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Graham on 03/29/2017 03:36 PM
Could it be an Intruder?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Skyrocket on 03/29/2017 07:57 PM
Could it be an Intruder?

Possible, but IMHO unlikely, as the most recent Intruder launch was just a few weeks ago.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: William Graham on 03/30/2017 06:36 PM
Could it be an Intruder?

Intruder tends to be a West Coast payload, but it can fly from either coast. There have been three past launches from CCAFS.
 * USA-60 (first launch of the second generation)  - Titan IV(405)A from LC-41
 * USA-181/NROL-23 (third launch of the third generation) - Atlas IIIB from SLC-36B
 * USA-194/NROL-30 (fourth launch of the third generation) - Atlas V 401 from SLC-41

I think all of these used CCAFS because there was no available West Coast pad. NROL-30 was launched before the Atlas V pad at Vandenberg was ready for use - I believe the same may have been true with regards the Titan pad for USA-60. Atlas III never had a pad at Vandenberg.

NROL-23 is an interesting case. I've never been entirely sure why that launch used an Atlas III. Until recently I had assumed the contract was awarded after Lockheed Martin discontinued the Atlas II, however ILS announced the NRO contract in 1998 and were still signing Atlas II contracts in 2002. It looks like it was actually awarded through a competitive commercial procurement, with Atlas up against a Delta III (http://www.ilslaunch.com/node/699). So there's past form for using NOSS as a commercial test case.

I agree with Gunter's analysis that it is unlikely, though. From past launches it looks like they have four prime pairs of satellites each with a lifespan of about 10 years. Replacements seem to launch in cycles of four at two year intervals, followed by a four year gap between cycles. Unless something has changed or a satellite is failing, I would not expect to see another Intruder launch until the 2020-2021 timeframe.


I haven't done the maths, but I'm wondering if Falcon would, hypothetically, be able to return to the launch site following a GTO launch with a sufficiently light payload - such as a 2,000 kg 702SP.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: envy887 on 03/30/2017 07:16 PM
I haven't done the maths, but I'm wondering if Falcon would, hypothetically, be able to return to the launch site following a GTO launch with a sufficiently light payload - such as a 2,000 kg 702SP.

Most likely, yes, RTLS is possible. The F9 upper stage can accelerate a 2,000 kg payload through about 1,300 m/s more dv than it can with a 5,300 kg payload like SES-10 which is just on the edge of ASDS recovery. Even a payload as large as 3500 kg could potentially RTLS.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Ben the Space Brit on 03/31/2017 09:04 AM
So, a 17-day gap from SES-10 to NROL-76. Should be interesting to see if SpaceX can keep up the pad cycling cadence!
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: rockets4life97 on 03/31/2017 01:26 PM
Easter morning launch?!  8)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Norm38 on 03/31/2017 01:55 PM
SpaceX confirms this will be an LZ-1 landing.

Webcast will cut off launch coverage as usual for NRO missions (like we see with ULA), but will continue for booster landing coverage.

Why do they cut off coverage? Anyone who wanted to track the second stage can, it's a rocket, it's extremely visible.  What information does the 2nd stage camera provide that they don't want out?  I can see not showing satelite deployment, not showing the bird itself, but not cutting coverage.
Does that mean they won't even call out SECO?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: ZachS09 on 03/31/2017 02:08 PM
They always cut off NRO launch coverage after fairing separation because, in my humble opinion, they don't want anyone seeing what type of payload it is.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 03/31/2017 02:40 PM
They always cut off NRO launch coverage after fairing separation because, in my humble opinion, they don't want anyone seeing what type of payload it is.

Well of course that's always been the way of it with NRO launches.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Newton_V on 03/31/2017 02:53 PM
NROL-23 is an interesting case. I've never been entirely sure why that launch used an Atlas III.

It needed the performance.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: MKremer on 04/01/2017 04:12 AM
They always cut off NRO launch coverage after fairing separation because, in my humble opinion, they don't want anyone seeing what type of payload it is.

Well of course that's always been the way of it with NRO launches.
No, it was much, much worse prior to YouTube and other sorts of live launch coverage streams. We're very very spoiled nowdays in regards to launch coverage and payload info.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: wannamoonbase on 04/01/2017 04:24 AM
They always cut off NRO launch coverage after fairing separation because, in my humble opinion, they don't want anyone seeing what type of payload it is.

Well of course that's always been the way of it with NRO launches.
No, it was much, much worse prior to YouTube and other sorts of live launch coverage streams. We're very very spoiled nowdays in regards to launch coverage and payload info.

No kidding, coverage is great these days.  The final days of the shuttle really improved the level and detail of coverage too.

SpaceX is very good at teasing.  It'd be amazing to see what they have that we don't see.  Surely they have great footage from on board the fairing from last night.  Seeing that would be something else.

Regarding NROL-76 I wonder if the customer even allows video for SpaceX's internal use.  Or perhaps they allow it but have to delete it if there are no anomiallys.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: MKremer on 04/01/2017 05:33 AM
SpaceX is very good at teasing.  It'd be amazing to see what they have that we don't see.  Surely they have great footage from on board the fairing from last night.  Seeing that would be something else.

Regarding NROL-76 I wonder if the customer even allows video for SpaceX's internal use.  Or perhaps they allow it but have to delete it if there are no anomiallys.
There is an older SpaceX fairing video on YouTube:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4_sLTe6-7SE

I would think that NRO requires SpaceX to terminate all video at a specific point, and also has the right to double/triple-check that their requirements were met, on national security grounds.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Ronsmytheiii on 04/01/2017 08:57 AM
Regarding NROL-76 I wonder if the customer even allows video for SpaceX's internal use.  Or perhaps they allow it but have to delete it if there are no anomiallys.

There is zero chance NRO will let Spacex put a camera under the fairing.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: dglow on 04/01/2017 09:02 AM
Regarding NROL-76 I wonder if the customer even allows video for SpaceX's internal use.  Or perhaps they allow it but have to delete it if there are no anomiallys.

There is zero chance NRO will let Spacex put a camera under the fairing.

No, just zero chance NRO will let them broadcast the stream.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Zardar on 04/01/2017 11:51 AM
Easter morning launch?!  8)

No surprise there, from reviewing SpaceX schedules, they have a very high preference for scheduling each launch campaign so that the static fire and/or launch attempt aligns with a Sunday.

As to why this is, I am not sure. Free overtime, cheaper range costs, less impact of road/airspace closures perhaps?

Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Newton_V on 04/01/2017 01:46 PM
About the cameras..

Only aft-facing allowed.
Only real-time video up to PLF jettison.
All cameras off before SV separation (and stay off, even for subsequent burns).
Any recorded video needs to be approved/reviewed by the customer before release.

Obviously, any customer can change these rules if they want, but they understand the LV video is useful to the contractors.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Ronsmytheiii on 04/01/2017 08:25 PM
Regarding NROL-76 I wonder if the customer even allows video for SpaceX's internal use.  Or perhaps they allow it but have to delete it if there are no anomiallys.

There is zero chance NRO will let Spacex put a camera under the fairing.

No, just zero chance NRO will let them broadcast the stream.

Wrong, anyone who touches that hypothetical camera would have to be cleared. Won't happen.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: IanThePineapple on 04/01/2017 08:41 PM
One thing I wonder is how will MCC-X communicate that the payload is separated? Will they turn to an internal voice loop? Also, I wonder if they will broadcast MCC audio to the employees outside post stream end...
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: LouScheffer on 04/01/2017 09:37 PM
Regarding NROL-76 I wonder if the customer even allows video for SpaceX's internal use.  Or perhaps they allow it but have to delete it if there are no anomiallys.

There is zero chance NRO will let Spacex put a camera under the fairing.
I'd think NRO would want video in case of any anomaly.  How about an NRO supplied camera, encrypted with an NRO-only key?  The no-one else can see the video, but in case of an anomaly, they would share the relevant portions of the decrypted video with the investigation board.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: pb2000 on 04/01/2017 10:08 PM
Nowadays, everybody and their dog seems to be able to figure out the orbit and general function of nearly everything the NRO sends up, so parts of this cloak and dagger game seem a bit silly.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: DaveS on 04/01/2017 10:36 PM
Regarding NROL-76 I wonder if the customer even allows video for SpaceX's internal use.  Or perhaps they allow it but have to delete it if there are no anomiallys.

There is zero chance NRO will let Spacex put a camera under the fairing.
I'd think NRO would want video in case of any anomaly.  How about an NRO supplied camera, encrypted with an NRO-only key?  The no-one else can see the video, but in case of an anomaly, they would share the relevant portions of the decrypted video with the investigation board.
No need. Previous anomalies on NRO launches be it Atlas or Delta have been solved without the need of video.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: yokem55 on 04/02/2017 04:15 PM
Nowadays, everybody and their dog seems to be able to figure out the orbit and general function of nearly everything the NRO sends up, so parts of this cloak and dagger game seem a bit silly.
There are a lot of educated guesses. Orbits are pretty certain things, but they take a while to identify with specificity. As for payload identities, that's more educated guessing. And the fewer pieces of hard data, the less that can be inferred about other good guesses. No need to serve up all the details on a platter.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jim on 04/04/2017 03:34 PM
One thing I wonder is how will MCC-X communicate that the payload is separated? Will they turn to an internal voice loop? Also, I wonder if they will broadcast MCC audio to the employees outside post stream end...

MCC-X is not used for launch.  It has no operational role in standard launches.  It is only for telemetry monitoring.  The LCC at the Cape is in charge.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jim on 04/04/2017 03:34 PM
I'd think NRO would want video in case of any anomaly.  How about an NRO supplied camera, encrypted with an NRO-only key?  The no-one else can see the video, but in case of an anomaly, they would share the relevant portions of the decrypted video with the investigation board.

No, they don't have them for other launch vehicles.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jim on 04/04/2017 03:35 PM
Nowadays, everybody and their dog seems to be able to figure out the orbit and general function of nearly everything the NRO sends up, so parts of this cloak and dagger game seem a bit silly.

Not really
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: abaddon on 04/04/2017 03:56 PM
@yokem55 already answered that more verbosely up above.

Any news on how well the pad came through the previous launch?  12 days out, so we should start hearing something soon I would imagine.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Chris Bergin on 04/04/2017 04:32 PM
I've been asked for people to put a sock in it. Don't have time to read, but I guess we're going back and forth over a camera ;D So yeah, anyway - I've got to rush to Jim's to show him how to respond to three people without three posts in a row ;)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Herb Schaltegger on 04/04/2017 07:30 PM
@yokem55 already answered that more verbosely up above.

Any news on how well the pad came through the previous launch?  12 days out, so we should start hearing something soon I would imagine.

There's L2 info on this. Nutshell is no problem.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Chris Bergin on 04/05/2017 12:23 PM
Yep. 39A is doing very well.

Now, where's that sexy NROL patch? We should be seeing one of those cool patches ULA get for their NROL missions for this SpaceX mission....soon, I hope.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Ben the Space Brit on 04/05/2017 12:35 PM
MiB from the NRO: "I'm sorry, the mission patch for this launch is... classified."
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Chris Bergin on 04/07/2017 01:49 PM
Per the update thread, NET updated.

PS You have to love Abby's work:

https://twitter.com/abbygarrettX/status/849762650712092677
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Ben the Space Brit on 04/07/2017 03:03 PM
Most likely cause of the delay (IMO): Whatever problem there was with the OA-CRS-7 launch vehicle has been cleared and NASA have arranged for it to be moved to the front of the launch queue. NRO had no problem with the launch of NROL-76 being moved to the next available window for its objective orbit.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: abaddon on 04/07/2017 03:15 PM
OA-CRS-7 is NET April 18th.  I doubt they've delayed all the way to the 30th because of it, although I suppose it is possible if there is some range downtime in there (have not heard of such though).

Payload delays in the space business are a regular occurrence, especially outside the comsat business, so this is hardly shocking.  It is one of the many challenges SpaceX faces in being able to start catching up on their backlog.  They really need LC40 back in business (and staffing sufficient to be able to launch independently from both pads) ASAP.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: M.E.T. on 04/07/2017 07:34 PM
So NROL effectively cost SpaceX $62m of lost revenue for the 2017 calendar year. That's based on the two week launch cadence that SpaceX now seems capable of, barring external delays.

So by moving their entire launch schedule out by two weeks, that is effectively one launch they cost SpaceX this year. This vulnerability is something that has to change if SpaceX is to achieve the economies of scale fundamental to its long term business model.

$62m. And it seems all they can do is grin and bear it.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: mme on 04/07/2017 07:39 PM
So NROL effectively cost SpaceX $62m of lost revenue for the 2017 calendar year. That's based on the two week launch cadence that SpaceX now seems capable of, barring external delays.

So by moving their entire launch schedule out by two weeks, that is effectively one launch they cost SpaceX this year. This vulnerability is something that has to change if SpaceX is to achieve the economies of scale fundamental to its long term business model.

$62m. And it seems all they can do is grin and bear it.
Delays are part of doing business as many of SpaceX's customers will tell you.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: M.E.T. on 04/07/2017 07:40 PM
So NROL effectively cost SpaceX $62m of lost revenue for the 2017 calendar year. That's based on the two week launch cadence that SpaceX now seems capable of, barring external delays.

So by moving their entire launch schedule out by two weeks, that is effectively one launch they cost SpaceX this year. This vulnerability is something that has to change if SpaceX is to achieve the economies of scale fundamental to its long term business model.

$62m. And it seems all they can do is grin and bear it.
Delays are part of doing business as many of SpaceX's customers will tell you.

But regular delays of this magnitude cannot be part of the business that SpaceX is trying to build. Rapid launch cadence is a fundamental part of their business model.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: gongora on 04/07/2017 07:47 PM
So NROL effectively cost SpaceX $62m of lost revenue for the 2017 calendar year. That's based on the two week launch cadence that SpaceX now seems capable of, barring external delays.

So by moving their entire launch schedule out by two weeks, that is effectively one launch they cost SpaceX this year. This vulnerability is something that has to change if SpaceX is to achieve the economies of scale fundamental to its long term business model.

$62m. And it seems all they can do is grin and bear it.
Delays are part of doing business as many of SpaceX's customers will tell you.

But regular delays of this magnitude cannot be part of the business that SpaceX is trying to build. Rapid launch cadence is a fundamental part of their business model.

SpaceX cost themselves months of delay when one of their rockets blew up and damaged the other launch pad.  If the other pad was up this wouldn't be an issue.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: M.E.T. on 04/07/2017 07:53 PM
So NROL effectively cost SpaceX $62m of lost revenue for the 2017 calendar year. That's based on the two week launch cadence that SpaceX now seems capable of, barring external delays.

So by moving their entire launch schedule out by two weeks, that is effectively one launch they cost SpaceX this year. This vulnerability is something that has to change if SpaceX is to achieve the economies of scale fundamental to its long term business model.

$62m. And it seems all they can do is grin and bear it.
Delays are part of doing business as many of SpaceX's customers will tell you.

But regular delays of this magnitude cannot be part of the business that SpaceX is trying to build. Rapid launch cadence is a fundamental part of their business model.

SpaceX cost themselves months of delay when one of their rockets blew up and damaged the other launch pad.  If the other pad was up this wouldn't be an issue.

Part of the solution that has to be found, yes. Maybe supporting an argument for redundant launch pads, despite additional running costs. In any case, the point was that a two week delay is now quantifiable in monetary terms, since SpaceX has successfully demonstrated a two week turnaround time in line with their stated short term cadence goal. It is essentially one lost launch for the year.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: gongora on 04/07/2017 07:56 PM
Part of the solution that has to be found, yes. Maybe supporting an argument for redundant launch pads, despite additional running costs. In any case, the point was that a two week delay is now quantifiable in monetary terms, since SpaceX has successfully demonstrated a two week turnaround time in line with their stated short term cadence goal. It is essentially one lost launch for the year.

Their stated goal for the year is 20-24 launches.  That includes several launches from Vandenberg, and maybe a couple from 39-A after SLC-40 is back online.  This will delay some other launches by a couple weeks, but may not affect their overall number of launches for the year.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: mme on 04/07/2017 08:15 PM
...
Part of the solution that has to be found, yes. Maybe supporting an argument for redundant launch pads, despite additional running costs. In any case, the point was that a two week delay is now quantifiable in monetary terms, since SpaceX has successfully demonstrated a two week turnaround time in line with their stated short term cadence goal. It is essentially one lost launch for the year.
SpaceX customer's have been waiting years for their launches. Yes, delays will mess with SpaceX's cadence.  Maybe at some point there will be mutually binding penalties for delays.

But if such penalties had been in existence and draconian then SpaceX would have been out of business years ago. We don't even know NROL is the issue.  But either way, SpaceX has a debt to pay back to it's customers who have been incredibly patient and supportive.  The launch industry is not (yet) a high speed production line especially when SpaceX has been involved.  Getting there will be a process.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: M.E.T. on 04/07/2017 08:19 PM
...
Part of the solution that has to be found, yes. Maybe supporting an argument for redundant launch pads, despite additional running costs. In any case, the point was that a two week delay is now quantifiable in monetary terms, since SpaceX has successfully demonstrated a two week turnaround time in line with their stated short term cadence goal. It is essentially one lost launch for the year.
SpaceX customer's have been waiting years for their launches. Yes, delays will mess with SpaceX's cadence.  Maybe at some point there will by mutually binding penalties for delays.

But if such penalties had been in existence and draconian then SpaceX would have been out of business years ago. We don't even know the NROL is the issue.  But either way, SpaceX has a debt to pay back to it's customers who have been incredibly patient and supportive.  The launch industry is not (yet) a high speed production line especially when SpaceX has been involved.  Getting there will be a process.

I agree about the process that will take time. I disagree about the debt to their customers.

Are we aware of a large number of customers who were deliberately delaying the launches of their costly satellites on alternatively available launch vehicles simply out of loyalty to SpaceX? Or did most of them have little choice in the matter?

It seems the global launch market is pretty mcuh fully booked for years in advance.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: macpacheco on 04/07/2017 08:20 PM
So NROL effectively cost SpaceX $62m of lost revenue for the 2017 calendar year. That's based on the two week launch cadence that SpaceX now seems capable of, barring external delays.

So by moving their entire launch schedule out by two weeks, that is effectively one launch they cost SpaceX this year. This vulnerability is something that has to change if SpaceX is to achieve the economies of scale fundamental to its long term business model.

$62m. And it seems all they can do is grin and bear it.
Once LC40 and LC39A are both operating regularly, a launch like this would be done from LC39A, leaving LC40 to handle the regular commercial launches.
Assuming one launch a month from LC39A and 2 a month from LC40, there's room for 36 launches/year.
Further assuming 10% of those "slots" will be lost due to delays still leaves ~32 launches/year.
Add another 8/yr and we have 40 launches/year.
How many missions are in SpaceX's manifest right now ?
I doubt the entire SpaceX manifest contains 60 missions.

And lets not ignore the potential for dual/triple payload launches with Falcon Heavy.
SpaceX will soon have the capacity to launch over half of the worldwide launch capacity.
It will be unrealistic to hope they will capture all of that market.

I bet you this year SpaceX will normalize its backlog and be limited by payloads being ready instead.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: RDMM2081 on 04/07/2017 08:23 PM
NROL-76 delay:
Yep, we've been waiting for the new date to become documented and now it is via L2 KSC/Cape scheduling.

NET April 30, same window.

Static Fire on April 26.

No reasons given, so likely the payload (which isn't talkative as we're talking about a NROL bird).

Aside from the quiet nature of this flight being NROL, is there any real reason to assume this delay is payload related and not being driven by the range rescheduling.  Please forgive the ignorant question if there are details (L2 or otherwise) I missed.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: M.E.T. on 04/07/2017 08:24 PM
So NROL effectively cost SpaceX $62m of lost revenue for the 2017 calendar year. That's based on the two week launch cadence that SpaceX now seems capable of, barring external delays.

So by moving their entire launch schedule out by two weeks, that is effectively one launch they cost SpaceX this year. This vulnerability is something that has to change if SpaceX is to achieve the economies of scale fundamental to its long term business model.

$62m. And it seems all they can do is grin and bear it.
Once LC40 and LC39A are both operating regularly, a launch like this would be done from LC39A, leaving LC40 to handle the regular commercial launches.
Assuming one launch a month from LC39A and 2 a month from LC40, there's room for 36 launches/year.
Further assuming 10% of those "slots" will be lost due to delays still leaves ~32 launches/year.
Add another 8/yr and we have 40 launches/year.
How many missions are in SpaceX's manifest right now ?
I doubt the entire SpaceX manifest contains 60 missions.

And lets not ignore the potential for dual/triple payload launches with Falcon Heavy.
SpaceX will soon have the capacity to launch over half of the worldwide launch capacity.
It will be unrealistic to hope they will capture all of that market.

Yes, a different discussion, probably for a different thread, but the idea is of course that their reduced prices will open up a much larger market. It has to, else the lower prices will simply lead to lower profits  for everyone in the business, even for SpaceX. It's no use launching 40 missions a year for $20m each, if you could have launched 20 missions for $60m each before you caused the equilibrium price of a launch to drop thanks to your reusability breakthroughs.

As a launch provider you are actually worse off then, than if you hadn't attempted any reusability at all. So for the lower launch prices to benefit them substantially in the long term, the launch market HAS to grow to hundreds of launches a year.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: gongora on 04/07/2017 08:45 PM
I bet you this year SpaceX will normalize its backlog and be limited by payloads being ready instead.

I'll take that bet.  If they make 20-24 launches then SpaceX should finish the year 4-6 months behind.  Some payloads originally slated for late 2016 aren't going to launch until the third quarter this year.  Hopefully they'll catch up next year.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: gongora on 04/07/2017 08:52 PM
Aside from the quiet nature of this flight being NROL, is there any real reason to assume this delay is payload related and not being driven by the range rescheduling.  Please forgive the ignorant question if there are details (L2 or otherwise) I missed.

I haven't seen any definitive reason, either public or L2.  It could be either of those.
(In the future, questions like this are more appropriate in the discussion thread for the mission.)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: shooter6947 on 04/07/2017 09:07 PM
Aside from the quiet nature of this flight being NROL, is there any real reason to assume this delay is payload related and not being driven by the range rescheduling.

Or the result of SpaceX wanting an extra couple week to get a handle on the (minor) performance undershoot in the next mission, or some other technical issue on the SpaceX end.  It doesn't at first blush appear to me to be likely to be a range conflict issue:  why delay 2 weeks in that case instead of just one week?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: cscott on 04/07/2017 09:35 PM
Aside from the quiet nature of this flight being NROL, is there any real reason to assume this delay is payload related and not being driven by the range rescheduling.

Or the result of SpaceX wanting an extra couple week to get a handle on the (minor) performance undershoot in the next mission, or some other technical issue on the SpaceX end.  It doesn't at first blush appear to me to be likely to be a range conflict issue:  why delay 2 weeks in that case instead of just one week?
The difference is that we have heard *nothing* about range or payload issues, while we *have* heard SpaceX explicitly state there was no performance issue or pad issue.  So it's not quite fair to treat those possibilities as equally likely.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: JBF on 04/08/2017 03:04 AM
Remember this is the first NRO mission, no doubt there is a learning curve on both sides.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: ZachS09 on 04/08/2017 04:24 AM
Maybe for this specific mission, SpaceX must have been told by the NRO not to publicly state the reason of the delay. It's the National Reconnaissance Office, after all. They don't open up to their ideas and keep secrets most of the time.

SpaceX tends to openly explain stuff, but for NROL-76, they can't do that even if the mission is successfully in orbit.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Flying Beaver on 04/08/2017 04:59 AM
Maybe for this specific mission, SpaceX must have been told by the NRO not to publicly state the reason of the delay. It's the National Reconnaissance Office, after all. They don't open up to their ideas and keep secrets most of the time.

SpaceX tends to openly explain stuff, but for NROL-76, they can't do that even if the mission is successfully in orbit.

SpaceX is not a fan of publicizing delays for any mission.

Usually the first public mention of a mission is just a tweet of something like "SF for Mission X complete, launching in 3 days".
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Comga on 04/08/2017 05:36 AM
Maybe for this specific mission, SpaceX must have been told by the NRO not to publicly state the reason of the delay. It's the National Reconnaissance Office, after all. They don't open up to their ideas and keep secrets most of the time.

SpaceX tends to openly explain stuff, but for NROL-76, they can't do that even if the mission is successfully in orbit.

SpaceX is not a fan of publicizing delays for any mission.

Usually the first public mention of a mission is just a tweet of something like "SF for Mission X complete, launching in 3 days".
That is so far from true as to be silly. Most missions have been in discussion for years, starting with a press release announcing the signing of the launch contract. SpaceX publishes delays all the time.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Flying Beaver on 04/08/2017 05:46 AM
Maybe for this specific mission, SpaceX must have been told by the NRO not to publicly state the reason of the delay. It's the National Reconnaissance Office, after all. They don't open up to their ideas and keep secrets most of the time.

SpaceX tends to openly explain stuff, but for NROL-76, they can't do that even if the mission is successfully in orbit.

SpaceX is not a fan of publicizing delays for any mission.

Usually the first public mention of a mission is just a tweet of something like "SF for Mission X complete, launching in 3 days".
That is so far from true as to be silly. Most missions have been in discussion for years, starting with a press release announcing the signing of the launch contract. SpaceX publishes delays all the time.

How so? Yes there is the press for signing of the contract, but other than the manifest on there site, the mission order is not 'publicly' disclosed. It's all down to sites like this and reporters getting that info, but it never comes direct from SpaceX's PR (twitter, blog, etc). Overall they are much passively quieter then most other LSPs.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: mulp on 04/08/2017 05:48 AM
So NROL effectively cost SpaceX $62m of lost revenue for the 2017 calendar year. That's based on the two week launch cadence that SpaceX now seems capable of, barring external delays.

So by moving their entire launch schedule out by two weeks, that is effectively one launch they cost SpaceX this year. This vulnerability is something that has to change if SpaceX is to achieve the economies of scale fundamental to its long term business model.

$62m. And it seems all they can do is grin and bear it.
Delays are part of doing business as many of SpaceX's customers will tell you.

But regular delays of this magnitude cannot be part of the business that SpaceX is trying to build. Rapid launch cadence is a fundamental part of their business model.

SpaceX cost themselves months of delay when one of their rockets blew up and damaged the other launch pad.  If the other pad was up this wouldn't be an issue.

Part of the solution that has to be found, yes. Maybe supporting an argument for redundant launch pads, despite additional running costs. In any case, the point was that a two week delay is now quantifiable in monetary terms, since SpaceX has successfully demonstrated a two week turnaround time in line with their stated short term cadence goal. It is essentially one lost launch for the year.
Like a launch facility in Texas?

If the soil had been better, it would be getting ready to start launching.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: kch on 04/08/2017 08:47 AM

If the soil had been better, it would be getting ready to start launching.

"Aye ... and if my grandmother had wheels, she'd be a wagon!"  ;)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: saliva_sweet on 04/08/2017 09:26 AM
we *have* heard SpaceX explicitly state there was no performance issue

Are you basing this statement on this L2 post: https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=42370.msg1661753#msg1661753

or something else I've missed?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Brian45 on 04/08/2017 12:37 PM
Could someone explain why, if in fact the delay is due to the payload, SpaceX cannot swop out one payload for another and use the launch window for another customer?

Was there not enough time to reconfigure the F9? Is it a question of hardware? Orbital mechanics?

I'm sure SpaceX has considered this, but I cannot find any explanation/discussion on this website.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: hopalong on 04/08/2017 12:52 PM
Could someone explain why, if in fact the delay is due to the payload, SpaceX cannot swop out one payload for another and use the launch window for another customer?

Was there not enough time to reconfigure the F9? Is it a question of hardware? Orbital mechanics?

I'm sure SpaceX has considered this, but I cannot find any explanation/discussion on this website.

Your average payload, e.g. A comms bird, needs weeks of checking out once it has been shipped to the launch site, then needs fuelling and then encapsulating before being installed on top of the LV. It is not easy just to move it up a couple of weeks at short notice.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Herb Schaltegger on 04/08/2017 12:55 PM
Could someone explain why, if in fact the delay is due to the payload, SpaceX cannot swop out one payload for another and use the launch window for another customer?

Was there not enough time to reconfigure the F9? Is it a question of hardware? Orbital mechanics?

I'm sure SpaceX has considered this, but I cannot find any explanation/discussion on this website.

Some or all of the above.

One thing you have to understand is that spacecraft assembly and launch are all heavily pipelined - one step depends on the previous one, each more or less after the others, step by step. So if the current payload isn't ready on time, the "on deck" payload is probably a couple weeks to a couple months away from being ready. Further, for comsat launches, the manufacturer or operator probably have people that have to plan ahead of time for travel to the launch site or to do 24 hr/day satellite operations once the launch is completed and the spacecraft released. Further, the subsequent payloads all have their own requirements and processing flow, and are even further away from being ready. SpX-11, for instance, will have mission-specific hardware and late-load payload (e.g., mice, plants, items for cold or refrigerated storage, specific replacement parts or supplies being assembled ...) CRS missions are also subject to ISS visiting vehicles requirements, and the processing flows for other supply missions (ATV in the past, HTV, Cygnus, Progress ...) NASA and Russia don't want or need multiple spacecraft all arriving on the same day or within a week ... they need stuff spread out over time.

So the fact that NROL-76 can't launch doesn't mean everything else can just up and slots into place.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: RedLineTrain on 04/08/2017 01:28 PM
As far as I know, SpaceX is core-constrained and there are plenty of payloads on both ranges.  I imagine they can compensate somewhat on KSC delays with Vandenberg launches.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Brian45 on 04/08/2017 01:43 PM
thx for the info, makes a lot of sense.

In keeping with Elon's analogy of airplane travel, eventually a "standby" option for alternative, compatible payloads could be the solution for this particular piece of the puzzle.

A launch window is a terrible thing to waste!
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 04/08/2017 05:07 PM
thx for the info, makes a lot of sense.

In keeping with Elon's analogy of airplane travel, eventually a "standby" option for alternative, compatible payloads could be the solution for this particular piece of the puzzle.

A launch window is a terrible thing to waste!

Keep in mind also that NRO payloads may have specialist requirements.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: baldusi on 04/09/2017 11:54 PM
I speculate that the NRO might have closed down certain facilities due to the clearance requirements, and thus you can't put a new payload ahead due to room unavailability.
Plus, I'm pretty sure they had all their mission assurance work done ob current core and GSE and thus can't swap cores.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: edkyle99 on 04/10/2017 12:51 AM
So NROL effectively cost SpaceX $62m of lost revenue for the 2017 calendar year. That's based on the two week launch cadence that SpaceX now seems capable of, barring external delays.
SpaceX won't build enough rockets this year for a typical delay like this to matter the way you suggest.  The company has already begun what will be a huge push to fly Falcon Heavy.  That will take up weeks of schedule for no revenue payload launched.  In effect, SpaceX itself will be responsible for multiple $62 millions of "lost  revenue" as you see it.

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: rpapo on 04/10/2017 10:20 AM
Lost revenue: This reminds me of the game that happened every single day at an automotive assembly plant I was doing some work at in the 1980s.  Every day things would happen to pause the assembly line a minute or two, sometimes more.  It was a fact of life.  Nonetheless, heaven help the guy who was "to blame" that day.  After all, when the assembly line was producing one complete car every seventy seconds or so, every minute the line was working was theoretically worth about $10,000 in revenue.  Forget the fact that the line was down for several hours every night for maintenance.  If some line worker had to hit the emergency stop button during the day, he had to answer to a vengeful god (the factory manager).

Moral of story: Yes, things happen.  Yes, they theoretically cost a lot of money.  But no, they aren't the end of the world.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: envy887 on 04/10/2017 12:45 PM
So NROL effectively cost SpaceX $62m of lost revenue for the 2017 calendar year. That's based on the two week launch cadence that SpaceX now seems capable of, barring external delays.
SpaceX won't build enough rockets this year for a typical delay like this to matter the way you suggest.  The company has already begun what will be a huge push to fly Falcon Heavy.  That will take up weeks of schedule for no revenue payload launched.  In effect, SpaceX itself will be responsible for multiple $62 millions of "lost  revenue" as you see it.

 - Ed Kyle

Shutting down 39-A is an investment in a future capability (getting Heavy flying) which will pay back many times over. I'm not sure what the payback in waiting for the NRO is - aside from keeping the NRO happy.  Which maybe isn't a bad idea.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jim on 04/10/2017 01:29 PM
As far as I know, SpaceX is core-constrained and there are plenty of payloads on both ranges.  I imagine they can compensate somewhat on KSC delays with Vandenberg launches.

No such thing as "plenty of payloads on both ranges"
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: RedLineTrain on 04/10/2017 01:45 PM
No such thing as "plenty of payloads on both ranges"

More explicitly, if SpaceX slips NROL-76, that might free up a core for Iridium two weeks earlier.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: M.E.T. on 04/10/2017 01:59 PM
So NROL effectively cost SpaceX $62m of lost revenue for the 2017 calendar year. That's based on the two week launch cadence that SpaceX now seems capable of, barring external delays.
SpaceX won't build enough rockets this year for a typical delay like this to matter the way you suggest.  The company has already begun what will be a huge push to fly Falcon Heavy.  That will take up weeks of schedule for no revenue payload launched.  In effect, SpaceX itself will be responsible for multiple $62 millions of "lost  revenue" as you see it.

 - Ed Kyle

From previous estimates and from Elon's recent comments, SpaceX is aiming for around 24 launches this year. That is based on a certain expected schedule that can be maintained. A schedule that already builds in the "downtime" on one of their ranges for Falcon Heavy preparation.

So, any unplanned 2 week delays such as this one would necessitate that the schedule gets moved to the right by one launch. Unless the flight can be recovered by speeding up the cadence to faster than a two week turn around time later in the year.

However, in that case, the question is begged: Why could that speed up not have been achieved in any case, in order to push them to 25 launches for the year, thus still resulting in a $62m loss of revenue that "could have been" in the absence of the current delay.

Indeed, the assembly line example used by someone up thread refers. I work in an industry where we sell hours to clients. So as a project manager I am geared to thinking about every lost productive hour in a week, month or year as an hour that can never be regained. And ultimately, in Elon's model of a Space Transportation business which is based on volume and economies of scale, the same will apply.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: abaddon on 04/10/2017 02:03 PM
There's a lot of manifest-y stuff here, stuff about other payloads, stuff about NROL-76 slip hypothetically costing SpaceX money, that is really not actually about NROL-76.  I'd suggest these discussions are better suited for another thread or threads.  Can we try and keep it on topic about the NROL-76 launch please?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jim on 04/10/2017 02:08 PM
No such thing as "plenty of payloads on both ranges"

More explicitly, if SpaceX slips NROL-76, that might free up a core for Iridium two weeks earlier.

NRO will have a specific core
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: RedLineTrain on 04/10/2017 02:11 PM
NRO will have a specific core

Yes, but the others that NRO is pushing back do not.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: stcks on 04/10/2017 03:00 PM
NRO will have a specific core

Yes, but the others that NRO is pushing back do not.

Inmarsat would as well since it (should be) going expendable
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Mike_1179 on 04/10/2017 07:30 PM
Before the delay, static fire was scheduled for 12 April. Is SpaceX going to keep to this date (or something similar) even if the launch will not be until weeks later?

That would assume (a) the delay is not related to the vehicle and (b) it would not have taken a herculean effort / overtime to make the 12th and without that schedule requirement the folks who do the work won't be made to work as many hours
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: ChrisGebhardt on 04/10/2017 07:40 PM
Before the delay, static fire was scheduled for 12 April. Is SpaceX going to keep to this date (or something similar) even if the launch will not be until weeks later?

That would assume (a) the delay is not related to the vehicle and (b) it would not have taken a herculean effort / overtime to make the 12th and without that schedule requirement the folks who do the work won't be made to work as many hours

No.  Static fire has moved as well to its standard slot 4 days before launch.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Lar on 04/10/2017 08:57 PM
There's a lot of manifest-y stuff here, stuff about other payloads, stuff about NROL-76 slip hypothetically costing SpaceX money, that is really not actually about NROL-76.  I'd suggest these discussions are better suited for another thread or threads.  Can we try and keep it on topic about the NROL-76 launch please?

Let's do keep general cadence stuff to other threads. Thanks.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Norm38 on 04/13/2017 02:11 AM
NRO will have a specific core

I'd like to clarify this. A specific core doesn't necessarily mean a separate design, special modifications. Is there anything unique about this core?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jarnis on 04/13/2017 04:48 AM
NRO will have a specific core

I'd like to clarify this. A specific core doesn't necessarily mean a separate design, special modifications. Is there anything unique about this core?

It has been carefully observed & inspected by the NRO people?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: psionedge on 04/13/2017 06:02 AM
NRO will have a specific core

I'd like to clarify this. A specific core doesn't necessarily mean a separate design, special modifications. Is there anything unique about this core?

It has been carefully observed & inspected by the NRO people?
More likely their SETAs. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systems_Engineering_and_Technical_Assistance)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: stcks on 04/13/2017 08:52 PM
Looks like we have rollback into the HIF for the Strongback and Launch Table, per Instagram.

https://www.instagram.com/p/BS1lppZAYXU/?tagged=spacex (https://www.instagram.com/p/BS1lppZAYXU/?tagged=spacex)

Good progress given 1 1/2 weeks to Static Fire.

Wow, thats quite early! Can we take this as confirmation that the delay was indeed payload related?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: rpapo on 04/13/2017 08:55 PM
Do we know if they are going to do some sort of primitive vertical integration on this launch?  Like with a crane?  The need for the rocket to be vertical could explain both the delay in launch and the early ingress of the TEL.

Though I think that idea a bit far out...
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Humuku on 04/13/2017 09:13 PM
I suppose there is no thread for those people who booked a flight to Cape Canaveral to see the launch and landing on the 16th to meet up and have a barbecue instead? Just wondering, because I will be one of them...  ???
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: woods170 on 04/14/2017 06:53 AM
Do we know if they are going to do some sort of primitive vertical integration on this launch?  Like with a crane?  The need for the rocket to be vertical could explain both the delay in launch and the early ingress of the TEL.

Though I think that idea a bit far out...
This particular NRO payload does not require vertical integration. It will use the standard horizontal integration flow.
Unlike what some people think the requirement for vertical integration applies to only a limited number of US national security missions.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Targeteer on 04/17/2017 10:10 PM
First of several discussions by Ted on the website.  Interesting that posts here are discussed :)

http://www.satobs.org/seesat/Apr-2017/0117.html  "NROL-76 payload speculation"
http://www.satobs.org/seesat/Apr-2017/0121.html
http://www.satobs.org/seesat/Apr-2017/0125.html
http://www.satobs.org/seesat/Apr-2017/0126.html

"2. Possible GEO mission

A post by William Graham on 2017 March 30 to the NROL-76 discussion on NSF, alerted me to the fact that the first stage of a Falcon 9 GTO launch could RTLS, given a payload sufficiently low in mass. And he had a specific payload in mind:

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=40328.80

"I haven't done the maths, but I'm wondering if Falcon would, hypothetically, be able to return to the launch site
following a GTO launch with a sufficiently light payload - such as a 2,000 kg 702SP."

Poster envy887 responded:

"Most likely, yes, RTLS is possible. The F9 upper stage can accelerate a 2,000 kg payload through about 1,300 m/s more dv than it can with a 5,300 kg payload like SES-10 which is just on the edge of ASDS recovery. Even a payload as large as 3500 kg could potentially RTLS.""
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 04/18/2017 07:29 AM
I am surprised that in this day and age the NRO still need to use SDS satellites in Molniya orbits to support the KH-11 fleet. Especially as I had got the impression that these had been phased out.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: envy887 on 04/18/2017 02:54 PM
Mike Wagner‏, from @USLaunchReport has tweeted this (https://twitter.com/USLaunchReport/status/854342131175100416):

#SpaceX  Falcon 9 minus payload upright  on 39A venting 10:30 AM  04/18/2017

This is probably not true thought.

Looks like just the TEL. Would be mighty odd for Falcon to be tanking with an Atlas launch in 20 minutes.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jim on 04/18/2017 02:55 PM
There is no vehicle on the pad
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: old_sellsword on 04/18/2017 02:58 PM
There is no vehicle on the pad

Do you know if the TE is venting? Or were they wrong about that part as well?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: ChrisGebhardt on 04/18/2017 04:24 PM
There is no vehicle on the pad

Do you know if the TE is venting? Or were they wrong about that part as well?

TEL wasn't venting... and it wasn't completely upright, either, when I saw it.  It was more 45-degree-ish angle.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: ChrisGebhardt on 04/18/2017 06:19 PM
TEL is undergoing testing today.  They were just raising it back up to vertical again.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: ChrisGebhardt on 04/18/2017 09:00 PM
They *might* have been doing TEL throwback tests.  The TEL kept going from 45-ish degrees to vertical.  Then it was back at 45... and so on and so forth.  Never actually saw it "throwback", so someone with better knowledge can correct.  Just reporting what I saw.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Flying Beaver on 04/18/2017 09:06 PM
They *might* have been doing TEL throwback tests.  The TEL kept going from 45-ish degrees to vertical.  Then it was back at 45... and so on and so forth.  Never actually saw it "throwback", so someone with better knowledge can correct.  Just reporting what I saw.

Is it back to horizontal with the launch table yet? That would be great for rollback and SF next week.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: ChrisGebhardt on 04/18/2017 09:07 PM
They *might* have been doing TEL throwback tests.  The TEL kept going from 45-ish degrees to vertical.  Then it was back at 45... and so on and so forth.  Never actually saw it "throwback", so someone with better knowledge can correct.  Just reporting what I saw.

Is it back to horizontal with the launch table yet? That would be great for rollback and SF next week.

It was at 45-degrees on the pad when I left at 3pm EDT.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: speedevil on 04/19/2017 03:20 PM
There is no vehicle on the pad

Given that this is an NRO mission, could it be a stealth vehicle?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: CorvusCorax on 04/19/2017 09:02 PM
There is no vehicle on the pad

Given that this is an NRO mission, could it be a stealth vehicle?

At this point the NRO will not confirm or deny this information.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Skyrocket on 04/19/2017 10:50 PM
There is no vehicle on the pad

Given that this is an NRO mission, could it be a stealth vehicle?


We will see - or not see...  Stealth for satellites is a really complicated issue, as it has to work in front of the cold space background for a broad range of wave lengths. Therefore there were pretty few attempts in this area (e.g. LES-9, the MISTY satellites or the still unacknowledged PROWLER.

Here is some interesting material on stealth for satellites: https://fas.org/spp/military/program/track/stealth.pdf
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: cscott on 04/20/2017 12:13 AM
Pretty sure "stealth vehicle" was referring to the F9 and was a joke. But the stealth satellite link looks interesting...
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: amarkit on 04/23/2017 02:00 PM
http://www.satobs.org/seesat/Apr-2017/0155.html

The launch hazard chart for the region near the launch site reveals that the trajectory will follow the northeast coast
of North America; therefore, the target orbit is a quasi-60 degree LEO, or a Molniya.

http://www.patrick.af.mil/Portals/14/documents/Launch%20Hazard%20Area%20Maps/4-30-2017%20LHA.pdf?ver=2017-04-20-154754-750

Per my earlier posts in this thread, since the return of the Falcon 9's first stage is targeting the launch site, the
payload is either headed for LEO, or is a fairly low in mass and headed for Molniya.

If LEO, I suspect it is a replacement or follow-on to the experimental USA 193, which was launched on NROL-21, and
failed upon reaching its 58.5 deg, 360 km orbit.

If Molniya, then I suspect it is a new generation of SDS Molniya, built on Boeing's BSS-702SP bus.

Molniya SDS seems more likely.

Ted Molczan

Any thoughts on the possibility that this could be a NOSS / Intruder pair? They're in 63º orbits and have been launched from the Cape before (NROL-23 and -30). Or would the relatively high-LEO target orbit (1000 km) and payload mass for such a pair preclude a RTLS landing?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Galactic Penguin SST on 04/23/2017 02:04 PM
http://www.satobs.org/seesat/Apr-2017/0155.html

The launch hazard chart for the region near the launch site reveals that the trajectory will follow the northeast coast
of North America; therefore, the target orbit is a quasi-60 degree LEO, or a Molniya.

http://www.patrick.af.mil/Portals/14/documents/Launch%20Hazard%20Area%20Maps/4-30-2017%20LHA.pdf?ver=2017-04-20-154754-750

Per my earlier posts in this thread, since the return of the Falcon 9's first stage is targeting the launch site, the
payload is either headed for LEO, or is a fairly low in mass and headed for Molniya.

If LEO, I suspect it is a replacement or follow-on to the experimental USA 193, which was launched on NROL-21, and
failed upon reaching its 58.5 deg, 360 km orbit.

If Molniya, then I suspect it is a new generation of SDS Molniya, built on Boeing's BSS-702SP bus.

Molniya SDS seems more likely.

Ted Molczan

While a long shot due to the presence of NROL-79, I wonder why NOSS is eliminated from the probable list? It could be that 79 is of the older generation and 76 is a new prototype, which could theoretically explain such a scenario.

Speaking of which, where is the NRO's mission patch? Such patches are usually made public long before by now. Or will the fairing spots a huge question mark? (http://www.airliners.net/forum/images/smilies/duck.gif)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Galactic Penguin SST on 04/23/2017 04:11 PM
http://www.satobs.org/seesat/Apr-2017/0155.html

The launch hazard chart for the region near the launch site reveals that the trajectory will follow the northeast coast
of North America; therefore, the target orbit is a quasi-60 degree LEO, or a Molniya.

http://www.patrick.af.mil/Portals/14/documents/Launch%20Hazard%20Area%20Maps/4-30-2017%20LHA.pdf?ver=2017-04-20-154754-750

Per my earlier posts in this thread, since the return of the Falcon 9's first stage is targeting the launch site, the
payload is either headed for LEO, or is a fairly low in mass and headed for Molniya.

If LEO, I suspect it is a replacement or follow-on to the experimental USA 193, which was launched on NROL-21, and
failed upon reaching its 58.5 deg, 360 km orbit.

If Molniya, then I suspect it is a new generation of SDS Molniya, built on Boeing's BSS-702SP bus.

Molniya SDS seems more likely.

Ted Molczan

While a long shot due to the presence of NROL-79, I wonder why NOSS is eliminated from the probable list? It could be that 79 is of the older generation and 76 is a new prototype, which could theoretically explain such a scenario.

Speaking of which, where is the NRO's mission patch? Such patches are usually made public long before by now. Or will the fairing spots a huge question mark? (http://www.airliners.net/forum/images/smilies/duck.gif)

Following to that, I have reviewed the previous posts that Ted Molczan posted there:

http://satobs.org/seesat/Apr-2017/0117.html (http://satobs.org/seesat/Apr-2017/0117.html)
http://satobs.org/seesat/Apr-2017/0121.html (http://satobs.org/seesat/Apr-2017/0121.html)
http://satobs.org/seesat/Apr-2017/0125.html (http://satobs.org/seesat/Apr-2017/0125.html)
http://satobs.org/seesat/Apr-2017/0126.html (http://satobs.org/seesat/Apr-2017/0126.html)

He linked up previous reports around late 2013, of the US government ordering 3 Boeing BSS-702SP all-electric thrusters comsat, as well as an order of the F9 before it was certified for US government payloads, with NROL-76. His speculation is that it was ordered a la PAN/CLIO, in which the satellite builder (Boeing in his theory) ordered the ride to orbit in a package deal. The direction of the launch and the capability of the F9 1st stage to RTLS with a single BSS-702SP satellite payload to GTO also fits with it.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: William Graham on 04/23/2017 05:40 PM
While a long shot due to the presence of NROL-79, I wonder why NOSS is eliminated from the probable list? It could be that 79 is of the older generation and 76 is a new prototype, which could theoretically explain such a scenario.

My main problem with it being NOSS is not how close it is to L79 per se, but rather that NOSS seems to operate with four pairs of satellites, none of which are due for replacement. A prototype could be one way to explain an out-of-sequence launch; a failing satellite or expansion of the constellation would be other explanations.

This could also explain an oddity in the ODNI budget document that Snowden leaked to the Washington Post a few years ago. This listed three pairs of satellites: Intruder 5/6; Intruder 7/8 and Intruder 11/12. There was no Intruder 9 or 10. For reasons that I intend to go over in a separate thread in the not-too-distant future, I believe each number relates to a pair of satellites, and that NROL-79 was Intruder 8. Potentially Intruder 9/10 could be funded elsewhere if they were being built for R&D. I still think it's very early to be seeing another launch as I wouldn't have expected one until around 2020/21 to replace NROL-34.


I like Ted's theory that it is a HEO Quasar. If it's a 702SP then three satellites would be enough for continuous coverage. Previous Molniya SDS launches have used a lower deployment orbit with the satellite performing orbit raising, so I wouldn't rule out a heavier satellite going to an intermediate orbit. The question is if it is a Quasar going to HEO, why now? The three most-recently-launched satellites are over nine (L-24), twelve (L-1) and nineteen (L-5) years old respectively; contemporary GEO satellites were replaced after eleven years. If they only need two satellites, the schedule's about right for replacing L-1.

LEO shouldn't be ruled out. Even if it's not some kind of L-21 followup, it could be a different demonstration mission, a new class of satellite or even a rideshare for several experimental satellites.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Skyrocket on 04/23/2017 11:39 PM
While a long shot due to the presence of NROL-79, I wonder why NOSS is eliminated from the probable list? It could be that 79 is of the older generation and 76 is a new prototype, which could theoretically explain such a scenario.

My main problem with it being NOSS is not how close it is to L79 per se, but rather that NOSS seems to operate with four pairs of satellites, none of which are due for replacement. A prototype could be one way to explain an out-of-sequence launch; a failing satellite or expansion of the constellation would be other explanations.

This could also explain an oddity in the ODNI budget document that Snowden leaked to the Washington Post a few years ago. This listed three pairs of satellites: Intruder 5/6; Intruder 7/8 and Intruder 11/12. There was no Intruder 9 or 10. For reasons that I intend to go over in a separate thread in the not-too-distant future, I believe each number relates to a pair of satellites, and that NROL-79 was Intruder 8. Potentially Intruder 9/10 could be funded elsewhere if they were being built for R&D. I still think it's very early to be seeing another launch as I wouldn't have expected one until around 2020/21 to replace NROL-34.


I like Ted's theory that it is a HEO Quasar. If it's a 702SP then three satellites would be enough for continuous coverage. Previous Molniya SDS launches have used a lower deployment orbit with the satellite performing orbit raising, so I wouldn't rule out a heavier satellite going to an intermediate orbit. The question is if it is a Quasar going to HEO, why now? The three most-recently-launched satellites are over nine (L-24), twelve (L-1) and nineteen (L-5) years old respectively; contemporary GEO satellites were replaced after eleven years. If they only need two satellites, the schedule's about right for replacing L-1.

LEO shouldn't be ruled out. Even if it's not some kind of L-21 followup, it could be a different demonstration mission, a new class of satellite or even a rideshare for several experimental satellites.

NOSS can likely be ruled out for this launch, as NOSS are operated in certain orbital planes and the launch period did not change accordingly, when NROL-76 was delayed 2 weeks.

Concerning the Quasar/702SP theory, the satellites were never ordered under commercial contracts as were the three 702SP, so i am somewhat skeptical.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Rebel44 on 04/24/2017 12:49 AM
Any info which locations will be available for watching this launch and which ones will be closed? NASA causeway, Playalinda Beach etc. ?

Thanks
/first time I will be watching launch in person/
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Orbiter on 04/24/2017 01:30 AM
Any info which locations will be available for watching this launch and which ones will be closed? NASA causeway, Playalinda Beach etc. ?

Thanks
/first time I will be watching launch in person/

Playalinda has been closed for all F9 launches from LC-39A and NROL-76 will be no different.

I would recommend Port Canaveral/Jetty Park solely for the landing experience.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 04/24/2017 04:57 PM
Is this normal for NROL launches?

Quote
Rocket Launch Update: No launch viewing opportunities available at #KennedySpaceCenter for #SpaceX #NROL76 NET April 30

https://twitter.com/explorespaceksc/status/856541703519571969 (https://twitter.com/explorespaceksc/status/856541703519571969)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: jacqmans on 04/24/2017 05:17 PM
Is this normal for NROL launches?

NO...

But it might be because of the launch time, KSC VC does not open until 9am...
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: zubenelgenubi on 04/24/2017 05:43 PM
Is this normal for NROL launches?

Quote
Rocket Launch Update: No launch viewing opportunities available at #KennedySpaceCenter for #SpaceX #NROL76 NET April 30

https://twitter.com/explorespaceksc/status/856541703519571969 (https://twitter.com/explorespaceksc/status/856541703519571969)

NO...

But it might be because of the launch time, KSC VC does not open until 9am...

I suspect the same--Visitor Center open/close time is the determinant.  NROL-76 launch window is 7:00-9:30 am EDT; launch window opens well before the VC opens.

Which LC-39A launches thus far this year had launch opportunities from the KSC Visitor Center?

Payload             Launch, ET       KSC VC launch viewing?
CRS-10             9:39 am EST   yes--see Comga's response down-thread
EchoStar XXIII  2:00 am EDT   no?
SES-10             6:27 pm EDT   yes   Re: Launch, Land, and Relaunch Party Thread (http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=42585.msg1659486#msg1659486)

Multiple EDITS
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Orbiter on 04/24/2017 05:46 PM
Is this normal for NROL launches?

NO...

But it might be because of the launch time, KSC VC does not open until 9am...

https://twitter.com/explorespaceksc/status/856541703519571969

@ExploreSpaceKSC
We are open every day. We don't provide viewing if launch is scheduled way outside of operating hours. This one is planned early AM.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 04/24/2017 10:05 PM
Thanks for the replies - too many launches, I'd got the times muddled up!
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Comga on 04/25/2017 02:06 AM
But it might be because of the launch time, KSC VC does not open until 9am...

I suspect the same--Visitor Center open/close time is the determinant.  NROL-76 launch window is 7:00-9:30 am EDT; launch window opens well before the VC opens.

Which LC-39A launches thus far this year had launch opportunities from the KSC Visitor Center?

Payload             Launch, ET       KSC VC launch viewing?
CRS-10             9:38 am EST  ?
EchoStar XXIII  2:00 am EDT   no?
SES-10             6:27 pm EDT  yes   Re: Launch, Land, and Relaunch Party Thread (http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=42585.msg1659486#msg1659486)

I was there for CRS/SpX-10.
The gate at the Visitor Center opened for us at 6:30 AM.
After the abort, with the ISS orbit precessing 20 minutes earlier each day, on Sunday that gate opened at.....  7:00, which still gave us plenty of time for the 9:38 liftoff. 
It's not obvious that the Visitor Center hours are the real reason for no special viewing arrangements.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: JamesH65 on 04/25/2017 11:53 AM
It's not obvious that the Visitor Center hours are the real reason for no special viewing arrangements.

Apart from them tweeting that is actually the reason?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Comga on 04/25/2017 10:52 PM
It's not obvious that the Visitor Center hours are the real reason for no special viewing arrangements.

Apart from them tweeting that is actually the reason?
Oh. I missed that. Sounds strange but they said it.
"Never mind!"😁
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: cscott on 04/26/2017 02:25 AM
It's not obvious that the Visitor Center hours are the real reason for no special viewing arrangements.

Apart from them tweeting that is actually the reason?
Oh. I missed that. Sounds strange but they said it.
"Never mind!"😁
The key phrase from their tweet is "way outside".  They'll open early or stay open late...within reason.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: sewebster on 04/26/2017 06:23 AM
The key phrase from their tweet is "way outside".  They'll open early or stay open late...within reason.

I also wouldn't be surprised if they stretched the times a bit more for NASA missions than for commercial (or NROL) launches...
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Shanuson on 04/26/2017 11:00 AM
The key phrase from their tweet is "way outside".  They'll open early or stay open late...within reason.

I also wouldn't be surprised if they stretched the times a bit more for NASA missions than for commercial (or NROL) launches...
Also if you see satelite launches every 2 weeks, it is not so much a miss when you dont open for one.
Most NASA launches are unique with larger public interest in them to allow an opening at 3am or so.
And there are other places further away were you can still see the launch from right?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Comga on 04/26/2017 12:26 PM
The key phrase from their tweet is "way outside".  They'll open early or stay open late...within reason.

I also wouldn't be surprised if they stretched the times a bit more for NASA missions than for commercial (or NROL) launches...

That makes sense.
There were many NASA and contractor teams involved in the CRS/SpX-10 launch, some that had been working on parts of this mission for three decades. (SAGE-III-ISS)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: mn on 04/26/2017 04:17 PM
NROL-76 heading to the 39A HIF tonight. Roadblocks in force.

Oh man for a second there I thought we moved to Kourou  ;)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Bubbinski on 04/26/2017 07:31 PM
And here we have NOTMAR Launch Hazard Areas in Map for Mission1363 with NROL-76 payload.
https://goo.gl/umnY2Q

https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/pdf/lnms/lnm07172017.pdf

Looks like NROL-76 is launching at a high inclination. 57 degrees?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Mike_1179 on 04/26/2017 08:12 PM
And here we have NOTMAR Launch Hazard Areas in Map for Mission1363 with NROL-76 payload.
https://goo.gl/umnY2Q

https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/pdf/lnms/lnm07172017.pdf

Looks like NROL-76 is launching at a high inclination. 57 degrees?

A heading from CCAFS (28.39N 80.61W) to the end-point of that NOTAM (31.26N 77.13W) is about 47 degrees.

A Molniya Orbit has an inclination of 63.4 degrees

Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Kabloona on 04/26/2017 10:38 PM
And here we have NOTMAR Launch Hazard Areas in Map for Mission1363 with NROL-76 payload.
https://goo.gl/umnY2Q

https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/pdf/lnms/lnm07172017.pdf

Looks like NROL-76 is launching at a high inclination. 57 degrees?

Reposting Ted Molczan's comments, in which he suggests Molniya is the most likely target orbit:

http://www.satobs.org/seesat/Apr-2017/0155.html
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: kevin-rf on 04/27/2017 02:32 AM
Is it me, or does the new second stage NOTAM point to is spending several hours in orbit before coming down?  As in if it came down on the first orbit from LEO it would be somewhere east of Australia?

So it is kicking up to a higher orbit.... Hmm what would that be?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Lars-J on 04/27/2017 07:05 AM
Is it me, or does the new second stage NOTAM point to is spending several hours in orbit before coming down?  As in if it came down on the first orbit from LEO it would be somewhere east of Australia?

So it is kicking up to a higher orbit.... Hmm what would that be?

If it is indeed a molnyia orbit, that would explain it. The second stage is presumably being deorbited on the first or second perigee after deployment.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: William Graham on 04/27/2017 07:26 AM
Is it me, or does the new second stage NOTAM point to is spending several hours in orbit before coming down?  As in if it came down on the first orbit from LEO it would be somewhere east of Australia?

So it is kicking up to a higher orbit.... Hmm what would that be?

If it is indeed a molnyia orbit, that would explain it. The second stage is presumably being deorbited on the first or second perigee after deployment.

Unless I'm missing something, according to the PDF posted in the update thread both hazard areas are restricted from 10:55 to 13:45 UTC. If the launch window closes at 13:00, that wouldn't give enough time for a Molniya mission launching at the end of the window to get to apogee, deorbit and fall into the hazard area. To deorbit within that time you'd be looking at single burn to LEO, but I'm struggling to see a profile that puts it in that drop zone at that MET.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Ben the Space Brit on 04/27/2017 08:36 AM
Could the payload include a 'third stage' for later apogee adjustments? I admit that the case for such a configuration is hard to justify (why do it with a third stage when the F9US could do it?) but it is a possibility if NRO want to hide the target orbit from hobbyists and orbital mechanics experts from intelligence agencies.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: douglas100 on 04/27/2017 08:40 AM
If the second stage puts the satellite in an orbit with a lower apogee than a Molniya then it might be possible for it to re-enter within the time frame posted. In that case the satellite would use its own propulsion to raise the apogee to the required 12 hour orbit. And since the satellite is rumored to be based on a commercial Boeing comsat bus, it would certainly have plenty of delta V available. All this assumes it is a Molniya style launch, of course.

But I agree, the timing seems tight if the launch is delayed till the end of the window.

EDIT @ Ben
Yes, the "third stage" would be the satellite itself. Doubt that the launch profile is to hide the satellite itself. If the payload is a comsat, it doesn't matter if its orbit is known or not. Knowing the orbit doesn't tell you what data the satellite is relaying.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: BabaORileyUSA on 04/27/2017 01:16 PM
And here we have NOTMAR Launch Hazard Areas in Map for Mission1363 with NROL-76 payload.
https://goo.gl/umnY2Q

https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/pdf/lnms/lnm07172017.pdf

Looks like NROL-76 is launching at a high inclination. 57 degrees?

A heading from CCAFS (28.39N 80.61W) to the end-point of that NOTAM (31.26N 77.13W) is about 47 degrees.

A Molniya Orbit has an inclination of 63.4 degrees

Comparing the NOTAM graphic for NROL-76 with that of CRS-10 in February, it appears that the inclination will be very close to, but slightly less than 51.6 degrees (but not as low as 47 degrees).

Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: .Scott on 04/27/2017 02:59 PM
Comparing the NOTAM graphic for NROL-76 with that of CRS-10 in February, it appears that the inclination will be very close to, but slightly less than 51.6 degrees (but not as low as 47 degrees).
Is 51.6 degrees the bearing at Florida or the orbital path at the equator?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: edkyle99 on 04/27/2017 03:08 PM
Comparing the NOTAM graphic for NROL-76 with that of CRS-10 in February, it appears that the inclination will be very close to, but slightly less than 51.6 degrees (but not as low as 47 degrees).
Is 51.6 degrees the bearing at Florida or the orbital path at the equator?
It is the orbit inclination.

I would suggest that these NOTAMs do not cover the possibility of doglegs.

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Semmel on 04/27/2017 03:41 PM
The inclination of the second stage NOTAM should indicate a dogleg during launch. Can someone check that?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: spacenut on 04/27/2017 03:44 PM
Is this going to be live streamed by SpaceX?  If so, when will it come on line?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jarnis on 04/27/2017 03:46 PM
Is this going to be live streamed by SpaceX?  If so, when will it come on line?

Yes. Normally about 20 minutes prior to liftoff. http://www.spacex.com/webcast
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 04/27/2017 04:03 PM
I can believe this about the NROL-76 patch (http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=42639.msg1671660#msg1671660) but surely not hard to change in the last few months?

Quote
John Kraus‏ @johnkrausphotos 36s37 seconds ago

LC-39A is on KSC property--not CCAFS. I'm guessing this patch was made before SpaceX's CCAFS launchpad became inactive?

https://twitter.com/johnkrausphotos/status/857625442085466112 (https://twitter.com/johnkrausphotos/status/857625442085466112)

Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Ben the Space Brit on 04/27/2017 04:21 PM
The mission patch suggests a mapping satellite. Maybe some new wavelength has become available to carry out imaging (perhaps of subsurface or camouflaged facilities)?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: ChrisGebhardt on 04/27/2017 04:50 PM
Is this going to be live streamed by SpaceX?  If so, when will it come on line?

Is this going to be live streamed by SpaceX?  If so, when will it come on line?

Yes. Normally about 20 minutes prior to liftoff. http://www.spacex.com/webcast

...but per NRO request, live commentary and tracking of 2nd stage will cutoff at payload fairing jettison.  Live feed will then transition to discuss only the first stage as it attempts an RTLS landing back at CCAFS.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: spacenut on 04/27/2017 05:43 PM
What time is it about 6am Eastern Saturday Morning?

Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: ChrisGebhardt on 04/27/2017 05:46 PM
What time is it about 6am Eastern Saturday Morning?



Are you asking when the launch is?  If so, the launch window is Sunday 30 April 2017 from 0700-0900 EDT.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: spacenut on 04/27/2017 06:00 PM
Got my days mixed up, thought Saturday was the 30th.  Yes, Sunday Morning.  So the live feed should be on by 7AM Eastern Sunday morning or a little earlier.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: BabaORileyUSA on 04/27/2017 06:01 PM
The inclination of the second stage NOTAM should indicate a dogleg during launch. Can someone check that?

A dog-leg would be a rather silly waste of fuel, since the vehicle *could* launch directly into an orbit with an inclination between 57 and 62 degrees, if a higher inclination were desired.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jarnis on 04/27/2017 06:05 PM
Got my days mixed up, thought Saturday was the 30th.  Yes, Sunday Morning.  So the live feed should be on by 7AM Eastern Sunday morning or a little earlier.

20 min prior, and usually launches aim to the beginning of the window.

Of course they may retarget the T-0 Sunday morning and that may cause webcast to start later. Follow the mission update thread here after 6:40 AM local if the webcast is not up then.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Newton_V on 04/27/2017 06:05 PM
The inclination of the second stage NOTAM should indicate a dogleg during launch. Can someone check that?

A dog-leg would be a rather silly waste of fuel, since the vehicle *could* launch directly into an orbit with an inclination between 57 and 62 degrees, if a higher inclination were desired.

There could be issues with the IIP trace going over Newfoundland.   It can (has) been done, but makes Flight Safety issues easier to avoid to just fly a dogleg, especially if you have a lot of excess performance.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: satwatcher on 04/27/2017 08:34 PM
Note that both the launch and de-orbit hazard areas are consistent with an orbit inclined at 50 degrees. This argues against the use of a dogleg maneuver to target higher inclinations.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: kevin-rf on 04/27/2017 09:11 PM
Besides GPS, what goes to 50 degrees?



interesting patent hit, but most likely unrelated: https://www.google.ch/patents/US6325332
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: sevenperforce on 04/27/2017 09:15 PM
I wonder if they will wipe the speed indicators from webcast. The speedometer readily provides acceleration, which in turn provides a pretty good estimate of payload mass.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Newton_V on 04/27/2017 09:25 PM
I wonder if they will wipe the speed indicators from webcast. The speedometer readily provides acceleration, which in turn provides a pretty good estimate of payload mass.

Only if you know the second stage dry mass, and fluid masses at engine cutoff.  There are way too many unknowns to back out payload mass.  Nevertheless, all data will be cutoff before PLF jettison.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: ZachS09 on 04/27/2017 09:28 PM
Just looked at the NROL-76 press kit.

The MECO time is, to my knowledge, the earliest for a Falcon 9 mission. 2 minutes and 17 seconds after launch. This gives the first stage more fuel than the CRS-9, CRS-10, and Orbcomm-2 flights.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: IanThePineapple on 04/27/2017 09:38 PM
Just looked at the NROL-76 press kit.

The MECO time is, to my knowledge, the earliest for a Falcon 9 mission. 2 minutes and 17 seconds after launch. This gives the first stage more fuel than the CRS-9, CRS-10, and Orbcomm-2 flights.

This HAS to be LEO, or they're messing with us.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: André Carmel on 04/27/2017 09:48 PM
Just looked at the NROL-76 press kit.

The MECO time is, to my knowledge, the earliest for a Falcon 9 mission. 2 minutes and 17 seconds after launch. This gives the first stage more fuel than the CRS-9, CRS-10, and Orbcomm-2 flights.

Max-Q also happens sooner than ever, maybe this is the first block 4 core, with higher trust. If I remember correctly this core did a full duration burn at Mcgregor. I don't recall if anyone ever gave a good explanation for the longer burn.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: IanThePineapple on 04/27/2017 09:52 PM
Just looked at the NROL-76 press kit.

The MECO time is, to my knowledge, the earliest for a Falcon 9 mission. 2 minutes and 17 seconds after launch. This gives the first stage more fuel than the CRS-9, CRS-10, and Orbcomm-2 flights.

Max-Q also happens sooner than ever, maybe this is the first block 4 core, with higher trust. If I remember correctly this core did a full duration burn at Mcgregor. I don't recall if anyone ever gave a good explanation for the longer burn.

Or the sat could be extremely light, or maybe even both.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Comga on 04/27/2017 11:18 PM
Just looked at the NROL-76 press kit.

The MECO time is, to my knowledge, the earliest for a Falcon 9 mission. 2 minutes and 17 seconds after launch. This gives the first stage more fuel than the CRS-9, CRS-10, and Orbcomm-2 flights.

Max-Q also happens sooner than ever, maybe this is the first block 4 core, with higher trust. If I remember correctly this core did a full duration burn at Mcgregor. I don't recall if anyone ever gave a good explanation for the longer burn.

Or the sat could be extremely light, or maybe even both.

The impact of spacecraft mass on the tie of Max-Q has to be very small, while a change in total thrust has a very large impact.  Higher thrust means higher acceleration means higher velocity at a given altitude and going supersonic in denser air. 
Our skilled contributors can verify this or dispute it quantitatively.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Skyrocket on 04/27/2017 11:40 PM
This all (inclusive the the Lewis and Clark logo) makes me think of a pretty small area surveillance payload, perhaps something comparable to FORMOSAT-5. Although i would expect a sunsynchronous orbit for this. Or a small SAR area surveillance satellite.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: speedevil on 04/27/2017 11:47 PM
...but per NRO request, live commentary and tracking of 2nd stage will cutoff at payload fairing jettison.  Live feed will then transition to discuss only the first stage as it attempts an RTLS landing back at CCAFS.

Is there going to be a post-launch press conference, with someone from spacex, and a sheet of paper saying 'no comment' on the NRO side?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jcc on 04/27/2017 11:52 PM
Just looked at the NROL-76 press kit.

The MECO time is, to my knowledge, the earliest for a Falcon 9 mission. 2 minutes and 17 seconds after launch. This gives the first stage more fuel than the CRS-9, CRS-10, and Orbcomm-2 flights.

Max-Q also happens sooner than ever, maybe this is the first block 4 core, with higher trust. If I remember correctly this core did a full duration burn at Mcgregor. I don't recall if anyone ever gave a good explanation for the longer burn.

Or the sat could be extremely light, or maybe even both.

The impact of spacecraft mass on the tie of Max-Q has to be very small, while a change in total thrust has a very large impact.  Higher thrust means higher acceleration means higher velocity at a given altitude and going supersonic in denser air. 
Our skilled contributors can verify this or dispute it quantitatively.

Faster acceleration and earlier MECO means less gravity loss, sooner boost back and less downrange distance to make up. The fuel saving should more than make up for higher friction at Max-Q.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: envy887 on 04/28/2017 01:29 AM
Just looked at the NROL-76 press kit.

The MECO time is, to my knowledge, the earliest for a Falcon 9 mission. 2 minutes and 17 seconds after launch. This gives the first stage more fuel than the CRS-9, CRS-10, and Orbcomm-2 flights.

Max-Q also happens sooner than ever, maybe this is the first block 4 core, with higher trust. If I remember correctly this core did a full duration burn at Mcgregor. I don't recall if anyone ever gave a good explanation for the longer burn.

Or the sat could be extremely light, or maybe even both.

The impact of spacecraft mass on the tie of Max-Q has to be very small, while a change in total thrust has a very large impact.  Higher thrust means higher acceleration means higher velocity at a given altitude and going supersonic in denser air. 
Our skilled contributors can verify this or dispute it quantitatively.

Faster acceleration and earlier MECO means less gravity loss, sooner boost back and less downrange distance to make up. The fuel saving should more than make up for higher friction at Max-Q.

Aerodynamic drag has a fairly small effect on fuel burn, but earlier Max-Q could have higher dynamic structural loads. The altitude and velocity data from previous flights show clear throttling through transsonic - but not at Max-Q, so it seems Falcon 9 has some structural margins to allow for more acceleration.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Semmel on 04/28/2017 06:17 AM
Could this be a NRO validation flight? So no real payload but some dummy satellite. The purpose would be to establish and validate all the NRO requirements on SpaceX. Can SpaceX actually guarantee the secrecy required for an NRO mission or is there some leak?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jarnis on 04/28/2017 07:03 AM
Could this be a NRO validation flight? So no real payload but some dummy satellite. The purpose would be to establish and validate all the NRO requirements on SpaceX. Can SpaceX actually guarantee the secrecy required for an NRO mission or is there some leak?

I doubt even NRO has the money to just send up a dummy payload.

An experimental payload - high risk, low price - is far more likely. So, a real payload but something that doesn't matter that much if something goes wrong (or leaks). Checking out SpaceX procedures "for reals" in preparation of future missions? Maybe a secondary objective.

Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 04/28/2017 07:30 AM
Could this be a NRO validation flight? So no real payload but some dummy satellite. The purpose would be to establish and validate all the NRO requirements on SpaceX. Can SpaceX actually guarantee the secrecy required for an NRO mission or is there some leak?

I doubt even NRO has the money to just send up a dummy payload.

An experimental payload - high risk, low price - is far more likely. So, a real payload but something that doesn't matter that much if something goes wrong (or leaks). Checking out SpaceX procedures "for reals" in preparation of future missions? Maybe a secondary objective.
I very much doubt that leaks on even an experimental payload would be tolerated.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jarnis on 04/28/2017 08:10 AM
Could this be a NRO validation flight? So no real payload but some dummy satellite. The purpose would be to establish and validate all the NRO requirements on SpaceX. Can SpaceX actually guarantee the secrecy required for an NRO mission or is there some leak?

I doubt even NRO has the money to just send up a dummy payload.

An experimental payload - high risk, low price - is far more likely. So, a real payload but something that doesn't matter that much if something goes wrong (or leaks). Checking out SpaceX procedures "for reals" in preparation of future missions? Maybe a secondary objective.
I very much doubt that leaks on even an experimental payload would be tolerated.

Oh quite true, but it would not be the end of the world. Most likely it would just end up SpaceX getting the boot as a contractor and hefty fines to the guilty party. Experimental payload, experimental launch, experimenting with a provider before Serious Business payloads are manifested.

Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jim on 04/28/2017 12:18 PM
Could this be a NRO validation flight? So no real payload but some dummy satellite. The purpose would be to establish and validate all the NRO requirements on SpaceX. Can SpaceX actually guarantee the secrecy required for an NRO mission or is there some leak?

No need for such.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Ben the Space Brit on 04/28/2017 01:21 PM
More tea-leaf reading:

The Molniya-type orbit would leave the spacecraft over the poles for long periods. Could this be a reconsat intended to keep watch on clandestine military and economic activity in the Arctic Sea? We know that the Russians have been proposing industrialise the northern polar areas for some time and it isn't unreasonable to want to keep watch on these developments.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: edkyle99 on 04/28/2017 01:53 PM
If it is a higher-thrust Falcon 9, pucker up!  Max-Q and landing with higher-thrust engines for the first time.  Etc. 

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 04/28/2017 02:04 PM
Eric Berger's pre-launch article:

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/04/spacex-looks-to-break-into-national-security-launch-market-on-sunday/ (https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/04/spacex-looks-to-break-into-national-security-launch-market-on-sunday/)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: stcks on 04/28/2017 02:20 PM
If it is a higher-thrust Falcon 9, pucker up!  Max-Q and landing with higher-thrust engines for the first time.  Etc. 

 - Ed Kyle

You have confirmation of this?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: envy887 on 04/28/2017 02:28 PM
If it is a higher-thrust Falcon 9, pucker up!  Max-Q and landing with higher-thrust engines for the first time.  Etc. 

 - Ed Kyle

You have confirmation of this?
Ed said "If".

Landing might actually be easier, as better launch performance will reserve more fuel for landing. I've seen no reason to believe that the minimum thrust is higher, even if the maximum thrust is higher.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: stcks on 04/28/2017 02:45 PM
If it is a higher-thrust Falcon 9, pucker up!  Max-Q and landing with higher-thrust engines for the first time.  Etc. 

You have confirmation of this?
Ed said "If".

Landing might actually be easier, as better launch performance will reserve more fuel for landing. I've seen no reason to believe that the minimum thrust is higher, even if the maximum thrust is higher.

Ah, you're right. I completely missed the "if". I think the earlier MECO might be explainable by a different throttle profile as compared to CRS RTLS missions.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: kevin-rf on 04/28/2017 03:07 PM
More tea-leaf reading:

The Molniya-type orbit would leave the spacecraft over the poles for long periods. Could this be a reconsat intended to keep watch on clandestine military and economic activity in the Arctic Sea? We know that the Russians have been proposing industrialise the northern polar areas for some time and it isn't unreasonable to want to keep watch on these developments.

Molniya/Trunda orbits are two high over the poles for anything optical (early warning (SBIRS) and weather being the obvious exception). So that would leave SIGINT and communications. For a Molniya orbit that brings us back to SDS or some new SIGINT payload...

No one knows of any SBIRS HEO in the works, right?

Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 04/28/2017 03:10 PM
More tea-leaf reading:

The Molniya-type orbit would leave the spacecraft over the poles for long periods. Could this be a reconsat intended to keep watch on clandestine military and economic activity in the Arctic Sea? We know that the Russians have been proposing industrialise the northern polar areas for some time and it isn't unreasonable to want to keep watch on these developments.

I still think it's more likely to be a Quasar being placed in that kind of orbit to support the next generation KH-11 that are believed to start being orbited in the near future.

Be interesting to see if NROL-52 is another Quasar.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: input~2 on 04/28/2017 03:37 PM
WESTERN NORTH ATLANTIC.
FLORIDA.
1. HAZARDOUS OPERATIONS 301055Z TO 301354Z APR,
ALTERNATE 011055Z TO 011354Z MAY
IN AREA BOUND BY
28-39N 080-39W, 30-34N 078-45W,
31-32N 077-34W, 31-26N 077-13W,
31-06N 077-11W, 30-47N 077-32W,
30-08N 078-26W, 28-29N 080-21W,
28-26N 080-27W, 28-25N 080-35W,
28-25N 080-38W.
2. CANCEL THIS MSG 011454Z MAY 17.//

Authority: EASTERN RANGE 211830Z APR 17.

Date: 271553Z APR 17
Cancel: 01145400 May 17


SOUTHERN INDIAN OCEAN.
DNC 02, DNC 03.
1. HAZARDOUS OPERATIONS 301055Z TO 301354Z APR,
ALTERNATE 011055Z TO 011354Z MAY
IN AREA BOUND BY
30-31S 038-04E, 30-40S 040-19E,
40-11S 060-06E, 47-31S 080-01E,
48-56S 079-46E, 49-00S 075-21E,
47-12S 063-50E, 41-51S 049-33E,
35-39S 040-15E, 32-07S 037-37E.
2. CANCEL THIS MSG 011454Z MAY 17.//

Authority: EASTERN RANGE 211830Z APR 17.

Date: 271617Z APR 17
Cancel: 01145400 May 17
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Nomadd on 04/28/2017 03:44 PM
More tea-leaf reading:

The Molniya-type orbit would leave the spacecraft over the poles for long periods. Could this be a reconsat intended to keep watch on clandestine military and economic activity in the Arctic Sea? We know that the Russians have been proposing industrialise the northern polar areas for some time and it isn't unreasonable to want to keep watch on these developments.

Molniya/Trunda orbits are two high over the poles for anything optical (early warning (SBIRS) and weather being the obvious exception). So that would leave SIGINT and communications. For a Molniya orbit that brings us back to SDS or some new SIGINT payload...

No one knows of any SBIRS HEO in the works, right?


Would they be using it for polar sub comms?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: edkyle99 on 04/28/2017 04:11 PM
If it is a higher-thrust Falcon 9, pucker up!  Max-Q and landing with higher-thrust engines for the first time.  Etc. 

You have confirmation of this?
Ed said "If".

Landing might actually be easier, as better launch performance will reserve more fuel for landing. I've seen no reason to believe that the minimum thrust is higher, even if the maximum thrust is higher.

Ah, you're right. I completely missed the "if". I think the earlier MECO might be explainable by a different throttle profile as compared to CRS RTLS missions.
I'm not sure what to think.  The Orbcomm OG2 flight featured RTLS and its first stage burned for 2 minutes 20 seconds (according to the press kit).   The deployed payloads only weighed about 1.9 tonnes, but the orbit was higher than Dragon insertions (620 x 660 km x 47 deg). 

The CRS RTLS missions saw the first stage burn for 2 min 21 sec with a probably 9-ish tonne payload.  Those insertion orbits are typicaly 200 x 360 km  x 51.6 deg.   So, not much of a burn time difference despite the payload mass difference. 

Now we have NROL 76 with a shortest-ever 2 min 17 sec burn.

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: sevenperforce on 04/28/2017 04:25 PM
I'm not sure what to think.  The Orbcomm OG2 flight featured RTLS and its first stage burned for 2 minutes 20 seconds (according to the press kit).   The deployed payloads only weighed about 1.9 tonnes, but the orbit was higher than Dragon insertions (620 x 660 km x 47 deg). 

The CRS RTLS missions saw the first stage burn for 2 min 21 sec with a probably 9-ish tonne payload.  Those insertion orbits are typicaly 200 x 360 km  x 51.6 deg.   So, not much of a burn time difference despite the payload mass difference. 

Now we have NROL 76 with a shortest-ever 2 min 17 sec burn.

I'm not prophet, but that seems to suggest uprated engines. They're dumping fuel a lot faster.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: stcks on 04/28/2017 04:44 PM
The CRS RTLS missions saw the first stage burn for 2 min 21 sec with a probably 9-ish tonne payload.  Those insertion orbits are typicaly 200 x 360 km  x 51.6 deg.   So, not much of a burn time difference despite the payload mass difference. 

Now we have NROL 76 with a shortest-ever 2 min 17 sec burn.

CRS missions throttle down at Max-Q which would add a few seconds (how many?) to the overall burn compared to a launch w/o a throttle down.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Johnnyhinbos on 04/28/2017 04:49 PM
I highly doubt they use a NRO payload on the first launch of uprated engines / Block 4
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: edkyle99 on 04/28/2017 05:36 PM
I highly doubt they use a NRO payload on the first launch of updated engines / Block 4
Why not?  NROL was first to use upgraded RS-68A engines, etc.

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: abaddon on 04/28/2017 06:51 PM
I highly doubt they use a NRO payload on the first launch of updated engines / Block 4
Why not?  NROL was first to use upgraded RS-68A engines, etc.

 - Ed Kyle
Because it needed it.  Is anyone really suggesting this payload needs uprated thrust?

In fact, the RS-68A was specifically uprated for the payload in question:
Quote
Three RS-68As first flew in June, 2012 on the triple bodied Delta IV Heavy launch of the National Reconnaissance Office NRO-15 spacecraft to geosynchronous orbit.

NRO-15 is a massive electronic intelligence satellite with an eavesdropping antenna spanning up to 360 ft. (110 m). The uprated A version of the RS-68 was developed specifically for this mission and similar giant NRO antennas to follow. The A version will now be used on all Delta IV’s allowing ULA to standardize the assembly and internal structure of all the Common Booster Cores (CBCs) used by the launcher.
Source: http://www.americaspace.com/2015/07/24/delta-iv-using-upgraded-rs-68a-engine-launches-advanced-usaf-wgs-7-satcom/
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: ChrisGebhardt on 04/28/2017 07:37 PM
I highly doubt they use a NRO payload on the first launch of updated engines / Block 4
Why not?  NROL was first to use upgraded RS-68A engines, etc.

 - Ed Kyle
Because it needed it.  Is anyone really suggesting this payload needs uprated thrust?

In fact, the RS-68A was specifically uprated for the payload in question:
Quote
Three RS-68As first flew in June, 2012 on the triple bodied Delta IV Heavy launch of the National Reconnaissance Office NRO-15 spacecraft to geosynchronous orbit.

NRO-15 is a massive electronic intelligence satellite with an eavesdropping antenna spanning up to 360 ft. (110 m). The uprated A version of the RS-68 was developed specifically for this mission and similar giant NRO antennas to follow. The A version will now be used on all Delta IV’s allowing ULA to standardize the assembly and internal structure of all the Common Booster Cores (CBCs) used by the launcher.
Source: http://www.americaspace.com/2015/07/24/delta-iv-using-upgraded-rs-68a-engine-launches-advanced-usaf-wgs-7-satcom/

Haven't seen anyone on this thread suggesting NRO-76 needs upgraded thrust.  But the point of the RS-68As for NRO-15 proves that the NRO is not adverse to flying on the first mission using upgraded engines/thrust.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Kabloona on 04/28/2017 07:45 PM
I'm not sure what to think.  The Orbcomm OG2 flight featured RTLS and its first stage burned for 2 minutes 20 seconds (according to the press kit).   The deployed payloads only weighed about 1.9 tonnes, but the orbit was higher than Dragon insertions (620 x 660 km x 47 deg). 

The CRS RTLS missions saw the first stage burn for 2 min 21 sec with a probably 9-ish tonne payload.  Those insertion orbits are typicaly 200 x 360 km  x 51.6 deg.   So, not much of a burn time difference despite the payload mass difference. 

Now we have NROL 76 with a shortest-ever 2 min 17 sec burn.

I'm not prophet, but that seems to suggest uprated engines. They're dumping fuel a lot faster.

IF the difference is in fact due to a thrust increase, that would be about a 3% thrust increase (137 seconds vs 141 seconds burn time), assuming same quantity of propellant burned.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: abaddon on 04/28/2017 09:01 PM
Haven't seen anyone on this thread suggesting NRO-76 needs upgraded thrust.  But the point of the RS-68As for NRO-15 proves that the NRO is not adverse to flying on the first mission using upgraded engines/thrust.
The point of the RS-68A is the NRO paid for that development specifically for NRO-15 and subsequent payloads.  They could not fly on Delta IV Heavy without the RS-68A upgrade.  So sure, the NRO isn't adverse to flying on the first mission using upgraded engines/thrust, when the payload couldn't fly on anything else.  That doesn't prove the NRO isn't adverse to flying on the first mission using upgraded engines/thrust, when there is absolutely no need for that.  In other words, using the RS-68A as a point of comparison is not valid.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: LouScheffer on 04/28/2017 09:47 PM
I'm not sure what to think.  The Orbcomm OG2 flight featured RTLS and its first stage burned for 2 minutes 20 seconds (according to the press kit).   The deployed payloads only weighed about 1.9 tonnes, but the orbit was higher than Dragon insertions (620 x 660 km x 47 deg). 

The CRS RTLS missions saw the first stage burn for 2 min 21 sec with a probably 9-ish tonne payload.  Those insertion orbits are typicaly 200 x 360 km  x 51.6 deg.   So, not much of a burn time difference despite the payload mass difference. 

Now we have NROL 76 with a shortest-ever 2 min 17 sec burn.

I'm not prophet, but that seems to suggest uprated engines. They're dumping fuel a lot faster.
I think upgraded engines - nothing else make engineering sense.  You don't want to land with more fuel - it puts more stress on the gear, it's more to remove, it takes longer for the LOX to boil off, etc.  You don't want a longer boostback burn, or you'll overshoot and/or go higher, which you don't want.  A longer entry burn makes little sense as well - especially 12 seconds longer which you would need to burn the extra fuel.  And if the other burns are not longer, the only two possibilities are a partial fuel load, or faster consumption.  .A partial fuel load would screw up procedures and modelling, and leave less margin for engine out or other problems.

So the only sensible reason I can see is faster consumption, meaning uprated engines.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: tvg98 on 04/28/2017 09:54 PM
Looks like Go Quest is leaving the port: https://www.vesselfinder.com/?imo=1155515

Fairing recovery is a go?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: mn on 04/28/2017 10:55 PM
Just because they NEEDED the uprated performance doesn't mean they HAD to be FIRST to use it.

Edit: In the case of the RS68A not being first could have meant a long wait, that is certainly not the case here.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: macpacheco on 04/29/2017 12:17 AM
There's also the possibility that F9 Block IV has some mods required by NRO, but the launch doesn't need the extra performance. For all we know, the engine hasn't changed at all for higher thrust, but there are other changes.
It could be the first Block IV launch, but running the engine with Block III limits.
Its also possible the NRO requested SpaceX fly a Block IV on a prior launch but do so 100% silently.
That's the unfortunate world of maximum secrecy that drives us fans MAD !
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: envy887 on 04/29/2017 12:36 AM
There's also the possibility that F9 Block IV has some mods required by NRO, but the launch doesn't need the extra performance. For all we know, the engine hasn't changed at all for higher thrust, but there are other changes.
It could be the first Block IV launch, but running the engine with Block III limits.
Its also possible the NRO requested SpaceX fly a Block IV on a prior launch but do so 100% silently.
That's the unfortunate world of maximum secrecy that drives us fans MAD !

None of this corresponds with MECO being earlier. If they are running at Block 3 thrust, why is MECO earlier?

If Block 4 has a thrust upgrade, then flying without the thrust upgrade isn't actually flying Block 4, so what's the point?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Galactic Penguin SST on 04/29/2017 01:13 AM
Only just tweeted but presumably from earlier this week?

Quote
#NROL76 will carry a classified payload designed, built and operated by @NatReconOfc. @SpaceX @45thSpaceWing

https://twitter.com/natreconofc/status/858007929252974592 (https://twitter.com/natreconofc/status/858007929252974592)

Is this the first time the NRO logo can be spotted on any rocket since the declassification of its existence in the 1990s? I certainly can't think of any previous launch where the organization logo is used instead of the mission logo (which first started around the millennium IIRC).
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: iamlucky13 on 04/29/2017 01:30 AM
Would they be using it for polar sub comms?

That seems like reasonable speculation. High dwell time over the poles could aid with that, among other things.

But general sigint over the poles is at least as compelling of a purpose.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Kabloona on 04/29/2017 03:19 AM
Looks like Go Quest is leaving the port: https://www.vesselfinder.com/?imo=1155515

Fairing recovery is a go?

That was apparently a short round trip down the channel.. She's back in port now.

GO Searcher has been the fairing chase ship on previous missions.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Kabloona on 04/29/2017 03:26 AM
Would they be using it for polar sub comms?

That seems like reasonable speculation. High dwell time over the poles could aid with that, among other things.

But general sigint over the poles is at least as compelling of a purpose.

The two implements on the patch seem significant. In the foreground is the spyglass, meaning "we're watching you." In the background is the gun, not drawing a bead, but ready if needed. Both messages meant for our friend, Boris the polar Bear, as he sniffs around the arctic?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: satwatcher on 04/29/2017 08:07 AM
Now we have NROL 76 with a shortest-ever 2 min 17 sec burn.

Don't forget that main engine cut-off could be early because more fuel is required for the boost-back, reentry and landing burns.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 04/29/2017 08:47 AM
Would they be using it for polar sub comms?

That seems like reasonable speculation. High dwell time over the poles could aid with that, among other things.

But general sigint over the poles is at least as compelling of a purpose.

It's more likely it's because the KH-11s require that because of their orbits.

Would they be using it for polar sub comms?

That seems like reasonable speculation. High dwell time over the poles could aid with that, among other things.

But general sigint over the poles is at least as compelling of a purpose.

The two implements on the patch seem significant. In the foreground is the spyglass, meaning "we're watching you." In the background is the gun, not drawing a bead, but ready if needed. Both messages meant for our friend, Boris the polar Bear, as he sniffs around the arctic?

The spyglass is probably a reference to the KH-11. Between the KH-11 & commercial imagery that they buy in they do not need any other kind of optical reconnaissance assets.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Ronsmytheiii on 04/29/2017 09:20 AM
Haven't seen anyone on this thread suggesting NRO-76 needs upgraded thrust.  But the point of the RS-68As for NRO-15 proves that the NRO is not adverse to flying on the first mission using upgraded engines/thrust.

From what I understand Jim has said in the past, DoD isn't adverse to flying on the first flight or upgrade as long as the vendor gives them extensive access during the development. SpaceX doesn't seem to like this approach, so DoD came up with the flight certification program to overcome the lack of development insight.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: William Graham on 04/29/2017 10:13 AM
Only just tweeted but presumably from earlier this week?

Quote
#NROL76 will carry a classified payload designed, built and operated by @NatReconOfc. @SpaceX @45thSpaceWing

https://twitter.com/natreconofc/status/858007929252974592 (https://twitter.com/natreconofc/status/858007929252974592)

Well, so much for it being a BSS702. I think this is looking more and more like a technology demonstrator bound for LEO.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Alter Sachse on 04/29/2017 11:19 AM
Only just tweeted but presumably from earlier this week?

Quote
#NROL76 will carry a classified payload designed, built and operated by @NatReconOfc. @SpaceX @45thSpaceWing

https://twitter.com/natreconofc/status/858007929252974592 (https://twitter.com/natreconofc/status/858007929252974592)

Well, so much for it being a BSS702. I think this is looking more and more like a technology demonstrator bound for LEO.
reply #40 11/04/2016
Or could it be a satellite to test new technology ?
That was also my guess
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: mikes on 04/29/2017 11:48 AM
Fairing recovery is a go?

Do we know that fairing recovery is on this flight?

I would expect SpaceX to want video documentation of the whole process, but NRO are strongly averse to cameras near their birds.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jcc on 04/29/2017 12:00 PM
Now we have NROL 76 with a shortest-ever 2 min 17 sec burn.

Don't forget that main engine cut-off could be early because more fuel is required for the boost-back, reentry and landing burns.

More fuel compared to what? This is a shorter S1 burn than other boost back missions, which were all successful, so why would they choose to reserve more fuel? More likely, increased thrust means the existing fuel finishes sooner, and if they are less far down range, they actually need less fuel for boost back.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: hopalong on 04/29/2017 12:51 PM
Fairing recovery is a go?

Do we know that fairing recovery is on this flight?

I would expect SpaceX to want video documentation of the whole process, but NRO are strongly averse to cameras near their birds.

My thoughts as well, I would not be surprised if the normal upward looking camera which records the fairings separation as been removed at NRO's request. SpaceX may try for recovery, but no cameras which could catch slight of the payload as the fairings separate .
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: vanoord on 04/29/2017 01:10 PM
Go Quest and Go Searcher are still in port.

Getting to the point where they'd be cutting it fine to get out to the potential recovery area in time.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Norm38 on 04/29/2017 01:54 PM
I thought for this mission they might send OCISLY out with the bouncy castle. Unless it's getting maintenance, why not?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: gosnold on 04/29/2017 02:13 PM
Only just tweeted but presumably from earlier this week?

Quote
#NROL76 will carry a classified payload designed, built and operated by @NatReconOfc. @SpaceX @45thSpaceWing

https://twitter.com/natreconofc/status/858007929252974592 (https://twitter.com/natreconofc/status/858007929252974592)

Well, so much for it being a BSS702. I think this is looking more and more like a technology demonstrator bound for LEO.

I wouldn't throw the BSS702 hypothesis away. It could be that the payload of the satellite is NRO-designed, built and operated. Especially because the NRO does not build its own satellites: the contractors build them. I think that's partly true for the payloads as well: the cameras of the KH-4, 7,8, and 9 were built by Kodak or Perkins-Elmer. For comms and SIGINT systems I don't know.
As for the operation, we don't know who controls PAN and CLIO. It could be that the NSA has subcontracted their orbital operations to the NRO, since they have the experience.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 04/29/2017 05:47 PM
Wired pre-launch article and discussion of significance of SpaceX's first NRO launch:

https://www.wired.com/2017/04/watch-spacex-launch-super-secret-payload-feds/ (https://www.wired.com/2017/04/watch-spacex-launch-super-secret-payload-feds/)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 04/29/2017 10:08 PM
Quote
Falcon 9 launch Sunday with secret sat. I agree with @Marco_Langbroek's analysis here - some kind of USA-193 followon in 51 deg LEO
https://twitter.com/planet4589/status/858330319899983877 (https://twitter.com/planet4589/status/858330319899983877)

Quote
For the moment, I go for a ~51 degree inclined LEO orbit for NROL-76:
https://sattrackcam.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/what-is-nrol-76-and-what-orbit-wil-it.html
But I could be completely wrong
@SSC_NL
https://twitter.com/marco_langbroek/status/858325724549218305 (https://twitter.com/marco_langbroek/status/858325724549218305)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jim on 04/29/2017 10:14 PM
Only just tweeted but presumably from earlier this week?

Quote
#NROL76 will carry a classified payload designed, built and operated by @NatReconOfc. @SpaceX @45thSpaceWing

https://twitter.com/natreconofc/status/858007929252974592 (https://twitter.com/natreconofc/status/858007929252974592)

Well, so much for it being a BSS702. I think this is looking more and more like a technology demonstrator bound for LEO.

All NRO payloads are " designed, built and operated by @NatReconOfc"
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: edkyle99 on 04/30/2017 12:03 AM
In prelaunch images (see update thread), this rocket's second stage looks slightly different than previous second stages.  Some small differences.  A cable or conduit duct is no longer visible where it once was, for example.  Compare F9-34 with F9-33.

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: envy887 on 04/30/2017 12:42 AM
Good eye, Ed.

Some of the features formerly on the missing conduit seem to have found a new home on the remaining conduit. Also, the dark square on the interstage is missing:
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: karki on 04/30/2017 01:03 AM
Good eye, Ed.

Some of the features formerly on the missing conduit seem to have found a new home on the remaining conduit. Also, the dark square on the interstage is missing:

Is this more evidence that this is the first block 4 falcon 9? Second stages have been upgraded in tandem with first stages in past revisions.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: old_sellsword on 04/30/2017 01:11 AM
Good eye, Ed.

Some of the features formerly on the missing conduit seem to have found a new home on the remaining conduit. Also, the dark square on the interstage is missing:

Is this more evidence that this is the first block 4 falcon 9? Second stages have been upgraded in tandem with first stages in past revisions.

* Second stages have been upgraded in tandem with first stages in past major revisions.

The Block upgrades don't align with the Version upgrades, and Version upgrades seem to be the only ones noticeable by us. Most Block upgrades are invisible, unless someone can spot the difference between 1021 and 1031.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Flying Beaver on 04/30/2017 01:25 AM
Just an interesting detail from this pic the 45th Space Wing retweeted.

Hazard area from 39A as well as the approach to LZ-1.

https://twitter.com/fraudauditor/status/858442537069162497
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: envy887 on 04/30/2017 01:30 AM
Good eye, Ed.

Some of the features formerly on the missing conduit seem to have found a new home on the remaining conduit. Also, the dark square on the interstage is missing:

Is this more evidence that this is the first block 4 falcon 9? Second stages have been upgraded in tandem with first stages in past revisions.

* Second stages have been upgraded in tandem with first stages in past major revisions.

The Block upgrades don't align with the Version upgrades. Most Block upgrades aren't even noticeable by us, unless someone can spot the difference between 1021 and 1031.

There have been the same number of block upgrades as version upgrades, and I haven't seen any evidence showing that they aren't aligned.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: TrueBlueWitt on 04/30/2017 01:37 AM
Good eye, Ed.

Some of the features formerly on the missing conduit seem to have found a new home on the remaining conduit. Also, the dark square on the interstage is missing:

No camera's allowed on this flight?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: old_sellsword on 04/30/2017 01:38 AM
I haven't seen any evidence showing that they aren't aligned.

I have, there's plenty.

Quote from: Spiiice (employee)
I... I actually don't know how the blocks line up with the version numbers. Version numbers are pretty much strictly used outside the company and by Elon.

Quote from: Foximus05 (ex-employee)
Correction. [SES-10] was a block 1 (crs8) and wont fly again. Block 3 boosters could have multiple flights before being retired. (https://www.reddit.com/r/spaceflight/comments/62hfm2/spacex_on_twitter_falcon_9_first_stage_has_landed/dfna37n)

...

Former coworkers of mine that still work there referred to the CRS8 core as a block 1 when we were talking about it last weekend. (https://www.reddit.com/r/spaceflight/comments/62hfm2/spacex_on_twitter_falcon_9_first_stage_has_landed/dfnch69)

Quote from:  DSBromeister (ex-intern)
Trying to upgrade parts [on B1021] from block 2 to block 3, failing to install them three times, then giving up and trying (and succeeding with) a method from block 1 (https://www.reddit.com/r/spacex/comments/62aqi7/rspacex_ses10_official_launch_discussion_updates/dfl9xge/)

Quote from: skiboysteve (employee)
The impression [in SpaceX fan communities] of what the blocks are has never been verified as true. But everyone here acts like its a fact. It's just been repeated enough times... (https://www.reddit.com/r/spacex/comments/62aqi7/rspacex_ses10_official_launch_discussion_updates/dfncgc8/)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Rocket Science on 04/30/2017 01:46 AM
Thanks for the meaty article William! :) I had to sharpen my fangs to rip through it...
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: envy887 on 04/30/2017 01:58 AM
I haven't seen any evidence showing that they aren't aligned.

I have, there's plenty.

Quote from: Spiiice (employee)
I... I actually don't know how the blocks line up with the version numbers. Version numbers are pretty much strictly used outside the company and by Elon.
I had seen this, but without the context of the below quotes took it to mean that they aren't officially aligned, even if they are in practice.
Quote
Quote from: Foximus05 (ex-employee)
Correction. [SES-10] was a block 1 (crs8) and wont fly again. Block 3 boosters could have multiple flights before being retired. (https://www.reddit.com/r/spaceflight/comments/62hfm2/spacex_on_twitter_falcon_9_first_stage_has_landed/dfna37n)

...

Former coworkers of mine that still work there referred to the CRS8 core as a block 1 when we were talking about it last weekend. (https://www.reddit.com/r/spaceflight/comments/62hfm2/spacex_on_twitter_falcon_9_first_stage_has_landed/dfnch69)
This I hadn't seen, as I don't frequent reddit and it didn't show up here that I saw. That's quite definitive, and very interesting. Elon's quip about a "version 2.5" of Falcon 9 makes a lot more sense now.
Quote
Quote from:  DSBromeister (ex-intern)
Trying to upgrade parts [on B1021] from block 2 to block 3, failing to install them three times, then giving up and trying (and succeeding with) a method from block 1 (https://www.reddit.com/r/spacex/comments/62aqi7/rspacex_ses10_official_launch_discussion_updates/dfl9xge/)
I thought this was odd, but didn't get that all the blocks he mentioned were v1.2 boosters....
Quote
Quote from: skiboysteve (employee)
The impression [in SpaceX fan communities] of what the blocks are has never been verified as true. But everyone here acts like its a fact. It's just been repeated enough times... (https://www.reddit.com/r/spacex/comments/62aqi7/rspacex_ses10_official_launch_discussion_updates/dfncgc8/)
... because I missed this. I should visit r/SpaceX more.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: envy887 on 04/30/2017 02:01 AM
Good eye, Ed.

Some of the features formerly on the missing conduit seem to have found a new home on the remaining conduit. Also, the dark square on the interstage is missing:

No camera's allowed on this flight?

The payload isn't visible from any of those locations, so cameras wouldn't seem to be an issue.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Ben the Space Brit on 04/30/2017 07:34 AM
The NRO routinely prohibits any footage or telemetry broadcast to public of the majority of upper stage free flights. Therefore, there's no point putting a camera on the upper stage.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Hauerg on 04/30/2017 07:39 AM
Interstage is not stage 2.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: toruonu on 04/30/2017 07:50 AM
Wouldn't first stage cameras possibly spot the 2nd stage and payload during the flip and boostback? :) Then again fairing jettison is I think a bit later than stage separation so most likely close video would only be while the bird is still encapsulated.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: satwatcher on 04/30/2017 08:46 AM
Some thoughts I posted on SeeSat-L: http://www.satobs.org/seesat/Apr-2017/0199.html (http://www.satobs.org/seesat/Apr-2017/0199.html)

Quote
These are the facts that we can consider known about the intended orbit of NROL-76:
* the launch hazard area is consistent with a 50 deg inclination
* the de-orbit hazard ara is also consistent with a 50 deg inclination
* the launch window is not planar (the April 16 launch date also had
  11:00 to 13:00UT)
* the de-orbit hazard area is valid from 03h38m to 6h15m after launch

All these facts can be considered peculiar. To my knowledge, no NRO
launches have targeted orbits inclined at 50 deg, and all launches,
except perhaps missions to GSO, had planar windows.

Furthermore, the long time between launch and de-orbit is not
compatible with previous Falcon 9 launches. On recent CRS missions (8,
9 and 10), the de-orbit area was valid from about 00h26m to 01h19m
after launch, indicating the second stage was de-orbited before it
completed a full orbit, with the impact point South West of
Australia. The Orbcomm OG-2 mission, targeting a 47deg orbit, had a
similar location and time range for the de-orbit area.

During the Jason 3 and Iridium NEXT missions, the second stage
performed a circularization burn at 00h55m (Jason 3;
1296kmx1321km_at_66deg) and 00h52m (Iridium NEXT; 618kmx627km_at_87deg)
after launch. Here, the de-orbit areas were valid between
01h06m-02h07m and 01h52m-02h48m after launch, respectively.

If NROL-76 targets LEO, why de-orbit the second stage only after about
2.5 orbits?

I wonder if instead NROL-76 targets some sort of MEO/HEO orbit. If so,
it may be expected that perigee is located in the South to allow the
second stage to be de-orbited off the coast of Africa.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Paul_G on 04/30/2017 09:15 AM
Quote
Falcon 9 launch Sunday with secret sat. I agree with @Marco_Langbroek's analysis here - some kind of USA-193 followon in 51 deg LEO
https://twitter.com/planet4589/status/858330319899983877 (https://twitter.com/planet4589/status/858330319899983877)

Quote
For the moment, I go for a ~51 degree inclined LEO orbit for NROL-76

Looking at the hazard area for the re-entry of the second stage, is this a longer stage life than we normally see for other missions. On Dragon resupply missions the stage seems to re-enter just off the coast of Australia which I assume is during the first orbit. Here the hazard area only seems to work on the 3rd orbit.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 04/30/2017 10:13 AM
NRO PAO.  NRO did not directly contract with SpaceX.  They contracted with a private company who secured the contract to launch NROL-76 on a Falcon 9.

Is this usual NRO practice? Given even NRO publicise this launch, not obvious to me why the indirection.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: vanoord on 04/30/2017 10:17 AM
Was the suggestion that Boeing built the satellite and contracted the launch?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 04/30/2017 10:36 AM
Was the suggestion that Boeing built the satellite and contracted the launch?

Ball Aerospace:

NRO PAO.  NRO did not directly contract with SpaceX.  They contracted with a private company who secured the contract to launch NROL-76 on a Falcon 9.

Quote
The SpaceX NROL-76 launch was not contracted to SpaceX directly by the NRO but through Ball Aerospace.

https://twitter.com/nova_road/status/858629314341896192 (https://twitter.com/nova_road/status/858629314341896192)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Galactic Penguin SST on 04/30/2017 10:37 AM
NRO PAO.  NRO did not directly contract with SpaceX.  They contracted with a private company who secured the contract to launch NROL-76 on a Falcon 9.

Quote
The SpaceX NROL-76 launch was not contracted to SpaceX directly by the NRO but through Ball Aerospace.

https://twitter.com/nova_road/status/858629314341896192 (https://twitter.com/nova_road/status/858629314341896192)

This really sounds like Ball is the spacecraft contractor - and given what they does, points at the payload more likely to be LEO optical reconnaissance, no?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Mongo62 on 04/30/2017 11:02 AM
I've been searching for a link to the webcast, without success. Is there one?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Herb Schaltegger on 04/30/2017 11:03 AM
I've been searching for a link to the webcast, without success. Is there one?

It was several pages back in the Updates thread:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xvs4tJ3qegM&feature=youtu.be
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Mongo62 on 04/30/2017 11:03 AM
Thank you!
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: vanoord on 04/30/2017 11:04 AM
I've been searching for a link to the webcast, without success. Is there one?

Just gone live
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: M.E.T. on 04/30/2017 11:08 AM
No Technical Webcast for this launch?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: fatdeeman on 04/30/2017 11:10 AM
Hoping for some awesome footage today, we kind of got robbed last time when the launch was delayed, went from a beautiful day to a cloudy one!

Some gorgeous morning lighting at the moment too.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: fatdeeman on 04/30/2017 11:11 AM
No Technical Webcast for this launch?

I think they can cover everything with one webcast this time, they'll only be able to cover the landing after fairing sep anyway.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: jimbowman on 04/30/2017 11:14 AM
Should have just had the technical up and let this guy get some sleep.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Rhyshaelkan on 04/30/2017 11:16 AM
Got here just in time to hear the hold hold hold. 24 hr cycle. Oh well.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: M.E.T. on 04/30/2017 11:16 AM
Well that was disappointing.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: mlindner on 04/30/2017 11:18 AM
What's the toto sensor?

Probably unrelated, but I heard a lot of metal popping noises from thermal expansion in the video stream.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Earendil on 04/30/2017 11:19 AM
Everything was going soo smoothly..

Damn, I was expecting a boring launch :)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Tonioroffo on 04/30/2017 11:24 AM
SpaceX never seems to launch and RTLS when the weather is this pretty.

Sent from my LG-H850 using Tapatalk

Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: jcm on 04/30/2017 11:26 AM
Ball makes small sats. Its only moderately heavy payloads have been Worldview 2 and 3, with a mass of 2600 kg.
They've never made a 5000 kg sat, for example, unlike the major sat builders.

So I am speculating NROL-76 is quite small, under 3000 kg.

[Sorry, accidentally put this in updates originally]
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Lar on 04/30/2017 11:32 AM
If the entirety of your post is "darn it" it probably belongs in the party thread. (because that's where I put mine! :) ) 

It will be interesting to see if we learn much more about what exactly the issue was. Since it was first stage, it's certainly a lot more likely than if it was the bird... :)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: ChrisGebhardt on 04/30/2017 11:33 AM
SpaceX confirms that 7am is the current opening of window target time for 1 May (tomorrow).  No word on what cause the  15min adjustment this morning.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Johnnyhinbos on 04/30/2017 11:34 AM
So much for the two launch a month cadence...
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: old_sellsword on 04/30/2017 11:35 AM
Hey Chris, what exactly did you mean by this post?

Also, webcast would confirm if this is the first flight of the new Block upgrade Falcon 9.

That the webcast telemetry would should a thrust increase? Or that the host(s) would tell us about an upgrade? Something else?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: ChrisGebhardt on 04/30/2017 11:37 AM
Hey Chris, what exactly did you mean by this post?

Also, webcast would confirm if this is the first flight of the new Block upgrade Falcon 9.

That the webcast telemetry would should a thrust increase? Or that the host(s) would tell us about an upgrade? Something else?

The webcast would/will confirm if this is the first flight of the new Falcon 9 1st stage with higher thrust engines.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Lar on 04/30/2017 11:40 AM
So much for the two launch a month cadence...

That's not really fair, NRO caused the majority of the slip. I think we have to let SpaceX slide on a one day. (if it grows... ok, phasers on whinge!!!! )... because if they go a nominal 12 or even 14 days between launches (planned) a one day slip still is 2 launches a month...
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: ChrisGebhardt on 04/30/2017 11:53 AM
So much for the two launch a month cadence...

That's not really fair, NRO caused the majority of the slip. I think we have to let SpaceX slide on a one day. (if it grows... ok, phasers on whinge!!!! )... because if they go a nominal 12 or even 14 days between launches (planned) a one day slip still is 2 launches a month...

And if they go 1 May (or even 2 May) for NROL-76, that still preserves 15 May for Inmarsat and 31 May for CRS-11... which would be three in one month.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: southshore26 on 04/30/2017 11:57 AM
SpaceX never seems to launch and RTLS when the weather is this pretty.

Sent from my LG-H850 using Tapatalk

Clarify pretty... it was pouring rain at Jetty Park at launch time.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Skyrocket on 04/30/2017 12:17 PM
NRO PAO.  NRO did not directly contract with SpaceX.  They contracted with a private company who secured the contract to launch NROL-76 on a Falcon 9.

Quote
The SpaceX NROL-76 launch was not contracted to SpaceX directly by the NRO but through Ball Aerospace.

https://twitter.com/nova_road/status/858629314341896192 (https://twitter.com/nova_road/status/858629314341896192)

This really sounds like Ball is the spacecraft contractor - and given what they does, points at the payload more likely to be LEO optical reconnaissance, no?


Given the ~51° orbit, which is not so well suited for optical payloads, perhaps it is a SAR satellite, perhaps something along the lines of the Ball built Radarsat-1 (http://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/radarsat-1.htm)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jcc on 04/30/2017 01:07 PM
So much for the two launch a month cadence...
May could have 3.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: M.E.T. on 04/30/2017 01:11 PM
So much for the two launch a month cadence...
May could have 3.

Well, to also be fair, 3 in one month doesn't meet their stated goal if there were zero in the previous month. But agreed, most of the NROL delay was out of their control.

Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jim on 04/30/2017 01:33 PM
Payload issues are part of the launch cadence. 
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: M.E.T. on 04/30/2017 01:49 PM
Payload issues are part of the launch cadence.

Yep. And I guess that's why a sustained high launch cadence cannot really be maintained while they are largely reliant on a single launch facility for the majority of their launches.

Once LC40 is up and running I imagine that a planned two week turnaround time per launch pad might, after catering for payload delays, technical scrubs and other unplanned range issues, result in a combined launch cadence of about 2 launches per month. Excluding any bonus launches from Vandenberg.

Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Norm38 on 04/30/2017 02:07 PM
Given this was a new first stage, I'm interested what the sensor failure root cause could be. Infant mortality, installation error, completely random failure?
Is this an instance where a "flight proven" first stage could be more reliable?

If these sensors do just fail, then maybe they need 3 for redundancy instead of two.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: LouScheffer on 04/30/2017 02:12 PM
From the update thread:
Per L2 naughty "out of family" sensor that scrubbed the SpaceX Falcon 9 NROL-76 launch was a TOTO (Temperature Ox Tank Outlet) sensor. They had redundancy, but didn't want to risk losing another one, so the "abundance of caution" was as presented.
It's not obvious to me why they are worried about losing another such TOTO sensor.  If they have a redundant sensor, they know the temperature pre-launch.  And once it's in flight, it should not matter if the sensor fails, since there is nothing they can do about it anyway.

The only way I can see this being useful at all during flight is if they use it to optimize fuel usage or mixture adjustment.  But as far as I know, this is normally done by volume remaining in the tank.  They would want both tanks to run out at the same time, independent of the exact temperature of the LOX.

Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Johnnyhinbos on 04/30/2017 02:26 PM
From the update thread:
Per L2 naughty "out of family" sensor that scrubbed the SpaceX Falcon 9 NROL-76 launch was a TOTO (Temperature Ox Tank Outlet) sensor. They had redundancy, but didn't want to risk losing another one, so the "abundance of caution" was as presented.
It's not obvious to me why they are worried about losing another such TOTO sensor.  If they have a redundant sensor, they know the temperature pre-launch.  And once it's in flight, it should not matter if the sensor fails, since there is nothing they can do about it anyway.

The only way I can see this being useful at all during flight is if they use it to optimize fuel usage or mixture adjustment.  But as far as I know, this is normally done by volume remaining in the tank.  They would want both tanks to run out at the same time, independent of the exact temperature of the LOX.
I don't agree. My rebreather has three oxygen sensors monitored by one computer and a fourth (identical) one monitored by a fully independent second computer. All monitoring the exact same thing - O2 partial pressure. If one of the three read out of range the computer votes it out of the system.

However - what if two read the same and are both wrong? Then the good sensor gets voted out and basically you die. It's a common occurrence. O2 cells from the same batch, mechanical shock, moisture contamination, etc.

Point being, they may not know which sensor is giving bad readings. It's not worth betting the company on.

(By the way, in rebreathers you have to assume the rig is always trying to kill you and you have to use the computer in your head to make the right decisions. I'm very keyed into the danger of assumption)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: SpacedX on 04/30/2017 02:27 PM
From the update thread:
Per L2 naughty "out of family" sensor that scrubbed the SpaceX Falcon 9 NROL-76 launch was a TOTO (Temperature Ox Tank Outlet) sensor. They had redundancy, but didn't want to risk losing another one, so the "abundance of caution" was as presented.
It's not obvious to me why they are worried about losing another such TOTO sensor.  If they have a redundant sensor, they know the temperature pre-launch.  And once it's in flight, it should not matter if the sensor fails, since there is nothing they can do about it anyway.

The only way I can see this being useful at all during flight is if they use it to optimize fuel usage or mixture adjustment.  But as far as I know, this is normally done by volume remaining in the tank.  They would want both tanks to run out at the same time, independent of the exact temperature of the LOX.

Proper characterization of the failure will impact future launches' reliability.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: gosnold on 04/30/2017 02:31 PM
NRO PAO.  NRO did not directly contract with SpaceX.  They contracted with a private company who secured the contract to launch NROL-76 on a Falcon 9.

Quote
The SpaceX NROL-76 launch was not contracted to SpaceX directly by the NRO but through Ball Aerospace.

https://twitter.com/nova_road/status/858629314341896192 (https://twitter.com/nova_road/status/858629314341896192)

This really sounds like Ball is the spacecraft contractor - and given what they does, points at the payload more likely to be LEO optical reconnaissance, no?


Given the ~51° orbit, which is not so well suited for optical payloads, perhaps it is a SAR satellite, perhaps something along the lines of the Ball built Radarsat-1 (http://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/radarsat-1.htm)

But it makes a HEO satellite unlikely though, no? I can't recall any Ball bus going to HEO (or GEO for that matter).
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: LouScheffer on 04/30/2017 02:54 PM
Per L2 naughty "out of family" sensor that scrubbed the SpaceX Falcon 9 NROL-76 launch was a TOTO (Temperature Ox Tank Outlet) sensor. They had redundancy, but didn't want to risk losing another one, so the "abundance of caution" was as presented.
It's not obvious to me why they are worried about losing another such TOTO sensor.  If they have a redundant sensor, they know the temperature pre-launch.  And once it's in flight, it should not matter if the sensor fails, since there is nothing they can do about it anyway.

The only way I can see this being useful at all during flight is if they use it to optimize fuel usage or mixture adjustment.  But as far as I know, this is normally done by volume remaining in the tank.  They would want both tanks to run out at the same time, independent of the exact temperature of the LOX.
Proper characterization of the failure will impact future launches' reliability.
Traditionally, this would have made sense.  But now it's old, expendable rocket thinking.  They can characterize the failure after the booster returns.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: edkyle99 on 04/30/2017 03:06 PM
Traditionally, this would have made sense.  But now it's old, expendable rocket thinking.  They can characterize the failure after the booster returns.
Unless they blow the rocket up on the launch pad again, or in flight, due to the bad sensor.  Take no chances.  Absolutely unforgiving business.  Bad sensor = scrub. 

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: edkyle99 on 04/30/2017 03:09 PM
Ball makes small sats. Its only moderately heavy payloads have been Worldview 2 and 3, with a mass of 2600 kg.
They've never made a 5000 kg sat, for example, unlike the major sat builders.

So I am speculating NROL-76 is quite small, under 3000 kg.
A lightweight payload might allow SpaceX to do some Stage 2 R&D work.  We've noticed that this second stage looks a bit different than previous v1.2 second stages.  Maybe it will do something post spacecraft separation, part of an effort leading toward direct MEO or GEO insertions for EELV someday or somesuch.  GPS inclinations are, what, 55 degrees?  Second stage restarts are 3+ hours after launch.

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: yokem55 on 04/30/2017 03:27 PM
From the update thread:
Per L2 naughty "out of family" sensor that scrubbed the SpaceX Falcon 9 NROL-76 launch was a TOTO (Temperature Ox Tank Outlet) sensor. They had redundancy, but didn't want to risk losing another one, so the "abundance of caution" was as presented.
It's not obvious to me why they are worried about losing another such TOTO sensor.  If they have a redundant sensor, they know the temperature pre-launch.  And once it's in flight, it should not matter if the sensor fails, since there is nothing they can do about it anyway.

The only way I can see this being useful at all during flight is if they use it to optimize fuel usage or mixture adjustment.  But as far as I know, this is normally done by volume remaining in the tank.  They would want both tanks to run out at the same time, independent of the exact temperature of the LOX.
Speculation: This is an outlet temperature sensor, so as the sub cooled lox is leaving the tank, that temperature might be used to inform the turbopumps exactly how hard they have to run to get a certain amount of mass flow of LOX into the chamber to get the desired thrust.

If the same problem that caused the first sensor to fail causes the backup sensor to fail, then the TP's have no good way to tell how warm the lox has gotten during the flight and could end up pumping too much or too little lox into the chambers.

Bottom line, backups are great to have when you have no other choice than to use them. But if the count can still be stopped, then make the choice to figure out why the primary has failed.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: mn on 04/30/2017 04:48 PM
From the update thread:
Per L2 naughty "out of family" sensor that scrubbed the SpaceX Falcon 9 NROL-76 launch was a TOTO (Temperature Ox Tank Outlet) sensor. They had redundancy, but didn't want to risk losing another one, so the "abundance of caution" was as presented.
It's not obvious to me why they are worried about losing another such TOTO sensor.  If they have a redundant sensor, they know the temperature pre-launch.  And once it's in flight, it should not matter if the sensor fails, since there is nothing they can do about it anyway.

The only way I can see this being useful at all during flight is if they use it to optimize fuel usage or mixture adjustment.  But as far as I know, this is normally done by volume remaining in the tank.  They would want both tanks to run out at the same time, independent of the exact temperature of the LOX.
I don't agree. My rebreather has three oxygen sensors monitored by one computer and a fourth (identical) one monitored by a fully independent second computer. All monitoring the exact same thing - O2 partial pressure. If one of the three read out of range the computer votes it out of the system.

However - what if two read the same and are both wrong? Then the good sensor gets voted out and basically you die. It's a common occurrence. O2 cells from the same batch, mechanical shock, moisture contamination, etc.

Point being, they may not know which sensor is giving bad readings. It's not worth betting the company on.

(By the way, in rebreathers you have to assume the rig is always trying to kill you and you have to use the computer in your head to make the right decisions. I'm very keyed into the danger of assumption)

Your example is valid only if the F9 computer uses the readings to make changes in flight which we don't know and Lou clearly mentions that his assertion is only on the assumption that it's not being used.

If the F9 doesn't do anything with the sensor readings than I think Lou's assertion makes sense and your example doesn't apply. IMHO
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Herb Schaltegger on 04/30/2017 05:44 PM
SpaceX has lost two stages to O2 tank overpressure events in the last couple years ... do we *REALLY* think any of us kibitzing on the sidelines has insight into the nuts and bolts of the today's sensor-related scrub and whether it was necessary?

I mean, are we seriously discussing this?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Skyrocket on 04/30/2017 05:59 PM
NRO PAO.  NRO did not directly contract with SpaceX.  They contracted with a private company who secured the contract to launch NROL-76 on a Falcon 9.

Quote
The SpaceX NROL-76 launch was not contracted to SpaceX directly by the NRO but through Ball Aerospace.

https://twitter.com/nova_road/status/858629314341896192 (https://twitter.com/nova_road/status/858629314341896192)

This really sounds like Ball is the spacecraft contractor - and given what they does, points at the payload more likely to be LEO optical reconnaissance, no?


Given the ~51° orbit, which is not so well suited for optical payloads, perhaps it is a SAR satellite, perhaps something along the lines of the Ball built Radarsat-1 (http://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/radarsat-1.htm)

But it makes a HEO satellite unlikely though, no? I can't recall any Ball bus going to HEO (or GEO for that matter).

Kepler went even beyond HEO. But yes, i think HEO is unlikely, especially as the purpose of a 50° HEO escapes me.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jim on 04/30/2017 07:07 PM

  But as far as I know, this is normally done by volume remaining in the tank.


No, it is done by pressure measurement
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: rickl on 04/30/2017 09:22 PM
SpaceX has lost two stages to O2 tank overpressure events in the last couple years ... do we *REALLY* think any of us kibitzing on the sidelines has insight into the nuts and bolts of the today's sensor-related scrub and whether it was necessary?

I mean, are we seriously discussing this?

Reposted because it bears repeating.

I would amend "two stages" to "two missions".


Edit:  And a launch pad.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Lar on 04/30/2017 11:09 PM
(fan hat) Yeah, let's not second guess... it's not that exciting. ... note which hat. But yeah.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: mn on 04/30/2017 11:24 PM
Nobody was second guessing anything.

We are just trying to understand this sentence
Quote
"They had redundancy, but didn't want to risk losing another one"
On the face of it based on the little information we have that sentence doesn't seem to add up. that's it.

I'm not assuming SpaceX was wrong to scrub, on the contrary I'm assuming there is more info we don't know, and that is why we discuss things, so more information can be discovered.

Isn't that what this forum is for?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: deruch on 05/01/2017 12:46 AM
NRO PAO.  NRO did not directly contract with SpaceX.  They contracted with a private company who secured the contract to launch NROL-76 on a Falcon 9.
Quote
The SpaceX NROL-76 launch was not contracted to SpaceX directly by the NRO but through Ball Aerospace.
https://twitter.com/nova_road/status/858629314341896192 (https://twitter.com/nova_road/status/858629314341896192)
This explains why SpaceX had to apply to the FCC for spectrum for what would otherwise have been an NSS launch.  So, this tracks similar to CRS launches.  NASA is the end-user, but the launches are treated as a commercial space launch.  Here, NRO is the end-user, but the launch is actually a commercial launch for Ball.  So, they need FAA launch license and FCC STA.  If the DoD had been the direct client (via NRO), the DoD would have ceded authority and spectrum directly.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: psionedge on 05/01/2017 12:59 AM
NRO PAO.  NRO did not directly contract with SpaceX.  They contracted with a private company who secured the contract to launch NROL-76 on a Falcon 9.

Quote
The SpaceX NROL-76 launch was not contracted to SpaceX directly by the NRO but through Ball Aerospace.

https://twitter.com/nova_road/status/858629314341896192 (https://twitter.com/nova_road/status/858629314341896192)

This really sounds like Ball is the spacecraft contractor - and given what they does, points at the payload more likely to be LEO optical reconnaissance, no?
Seems unusual for the NRO to reveal the spacecraft contractor.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: LouScheffer on 05/01/2017 02:35 AM
Unless they blow the rocket up on the launch pad again, or in flight, due to the bad sensor.  Take no chances.  Absolutely unforgiving business.  Bad sensor = scrub. 
SpaceX has lost two stages to O2 tank overpressure events in the last couple years ... do we *REALLY* think any of us kibitzing on the sidelines has insight into the nuts and bolts of the today's sensor-related scrub and whether it was necessary?

I mean, are we seriously discussing this?
Sure.  It's called engineering, as opposed to knee-jerk reactions.  Commercial air flights, where people's lives are at risk, often take off with broken sensors.  There is a "minimum equipment list" of stuff that has to be working at takeoff.  If it's not on that list you can go with it inoperative. 

This is exactly the same idea applied to rockets.  Instead of a pre-defined list, a group of engineers decides whether it's safe to go.  If it's OK you proceed.  Note that this happened four times on the last Atlas launch alone.
Atlas LOX pump sensor not working properly.  Anomaly team being convened.
plus a LOX leak, an erratic voltage indication, and poor signal to the range.

So it's perfectly reasonable to ask (not second guess) why this sensor failure makes it better to scrub.  And scrubbing, too, has risks, at the very least an extra drain-fill cycle (which is precisely what caused problems before).  So SpaceX must believe, or at least intuit, that proceeding as is had more risk than scrubbing.   The question is why?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: mn on 05/01/2017 03:47 AM
F9 still vertical on the launch pad as of 21:27L.

Was it vertical all day? Does that mean they didn't work on it? Or can they service the sensor while vertical? Or do they prefer to work in the dark (keep us in the dark ;))
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Lar on 05/01/2017 03:49 AM
Nobody was second guessing anything.

We are just trying to understand this sentence
Quote
"They had redundancy, but didn't want to risk losing another one"
On the face of it based on the little information we have that sentence doesn't seem to add up. that's it.

Sure it does. "another one" is the sensor...

In aviation for some systems, if you have a triply redundant system you can go if you lose one, as long as you still have two. For other systems, no. For rockets, losing a sensor is an almost automatic stop the process.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: mn on 05/01/2017 05:21 AM
Nobody was second guessing anything.

We are just trying to understand this sentence
Quote
"They had redundancy, but didn't want to risk losing another one"
On the face of it based on the little information we have that sentence doesn't seem to add up. that's it.

Sure it does. "another one" is the sensor...

In aviation for some systems, if you have a triply redundant system you can go if you lose one, as long as you still have two. For other systems, no. For rockets, losing a sensor is an almost automatic stop the process.

You are 100% correct, provided the system is needed during flight and a failure of that system during flight would cause a LOM

Is that the case here?

I hope by the time I log in again this will be irrelevant.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Lars-J on 05/01/2017 06:18 AM
Nobody was second guessing anything.

We are just trying to understand this sentence
Quote
"They had redundancy, but didn't want to risk losing another one"
On the face of it based on the little information we have that sentence doesn't seem to add up. that's it.

Sure it does. "another one" is the sensor...

In aviation for some systems, if you have a triply redundant system you can go if you lose one, as long as you still have two. For other systems, no. For rockets, losing a sensor is an almost automatic stop the process.

You are 100% correct, provided the system is needed during flight and a failure of that system during flight would cause a LOM

Is that the case here?

I hope by the time I log in again this will be irrelevant.

Help me grasp this, how is this worthy of discussion? What is so difficult to understand here? They have a requirement for double redundancy. They lost a sensor, so now that requirement is no longer met. Thus a scrub.

What is it you need explained? Or are you fishing for something else, that "SpaceX is doing systems engineering wrong" and need to do X and Y? If so start a thread about it in the SpaceX general forum.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Hauerg on 05/01/2017 07:12 AM
... air flights, where people's lives are at risk, often take off with broken sensors.  There is a "minimum equipment list" of stuff that has to be working at takeoff.  If it's not on that list you can go with it inoperative. 

Yeah. I was once in a cockpit when the pilot checked his stuff. He said "ooops", then hit the dash hard with his fist, and a few seconds after that said "good". Totally reassuring.  :o :o
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 05/01/2017 08:49 AM
NROL-76 is going to LEO according to SpaceX's launch license:

http://www.space.com/36668-spy-satellite-orbit-spacex-launch-license.html (http://www.space.com/36668-spy-satellite-orbit-spacex-launch-license.html)

I can't yet see the license on the FAA's active license page for commerical launches.

Spaceflight101's take on it:

Quote
New license docs show #NROL76 is targeting a Low Earth Orbit, ruling out the option of a Molniya Orbit (also in agreement w/ flight profile)
https://twitter.com/s101_live/status/858958264205275136 (https://twitter.com/s101_live/status/858958264205275136)

Quote
This suggests #NROL76 will complete a demonstration of a new type of radar or optical sensor for future reconnaissance missions.
https://twitter.com/s101_live/status/858958501376270337 (https://twitter.com/s101_live/status/858958501376270337)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Skyrocket on 05/01/2017 09:48 AM
NRO PAO.  NRO did not directly contract with SpaceX.  They contracted with a private company who secured the contract to launch NROL-76 on a Falcon 9.

Quote
The SpaceX NROL-76 launch was not contracted to SpaceX directly by the NRO but through Ball Aerospace.

https://twitter.com/nova_road/status/858629314341896192 (https://twitter.com/nova_road/status/858629314341896192)

This really sounds like Ball is the spacecraft contractor - and given what they does, points at the payload more likely to be LEO optical reconnaissance, no?
Seems unusual for the NRO to reveal the spacecraft contractor.

But not without precedence - several experimental NRO missions had their contractor (and even details of the mission) revealed:

* NROL 8: STEX (http://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/stex.htm) (Lockheed Martin)
* NROL 17: GeoLITE (http://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/geolite.htm) (TRW)
* NROL 66: RPP (http://space.skyrocket.de/doc_sdat/rpp.htm) (Millennium Space Systems)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 05/01/2017 10:07 AM
I guess we have the answer as to whether the sensor issue is fixed  :D

Vapors at the Falcon 9.  Fueling is UNDERWAY!
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: deruch on 05/01/2017 10:34 AM
New youtube webcast for second launch attempt:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EzQpkQ1etdA
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: gosnold on 05/01/2017 10:36 AM
So let's recap what we know about the satellite:
- goes to LEO, 51° inclination
- built by Ball
- launch procured by Ball
- contract probably awarded in 2013 (per DNRO remarks to Congress)

What is unknown:
- weight (for LEO, RTLS is possible even with relatively heavy payloads)
- orbital altitude
- role of the satellite

Regarding the role of the satellite, based on previous NRO launches it's either comms, SIGINT, optical observation or radar observation.
Ball's specialty is optical instruments: they built Worldview 1, 2, and 3, Kepler, and optical instruments for many NASA missions. So if the NRO ordered a satellite in a fixed-price bid (as Ball procuring the launch seems to suggest), Ball probably won because it was in its area of expertise, namely optical payloads. So it's likely an optical observation sat.

Radar is possible but I think more unlikely since Ball is not too much into that: their instruments page is titled "Helping you see more with precision optics" and only promotes 1 non-optical payload (http://www.ball.com/aerospace/Aerospace/media/Aerospace/Downloads/D3134_Instruments_06_15_2.pdf?ext=.pdf (http://www.ball.com/aerospace/Aerospace/media/Aerospace/Downloads/D3134_Instruments_06_15_2.pdf?ext=.pdf)), plus they did not build the radar of radarsat-1. A remaining possibility is that Ball integrated a payload from somebody else.

However, 51° inclination is weird for an optical satellite. It could be a non-sun synchronous mission which aims at acquiring data at different times of the day. It could be a high-altitude (for LEO) satellite for more persistent surveillance, in which case 51° could be enough to image most interesting areas.  Ball has been working on just that, a telescope with membrane optics called MOIRE (http://www.ball.com/aerospace/programs/moire (http://www.ball.com/aerospace/programs/moire)), so it could be a demonstrator for that before a full mission in GEO.

Note the USA 193 orbit was also weird: 349 km × 365 km × 58.48° makes regions above 60° inaccessible, so Northern Russia could not have been imaged with that orbit.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: kevin-rf on 05/01/2017 10:53 AM
Don't forget, radar satellites prefer orbits that are slightly retrograde, not prograde. So a cape launch seems a little odd for a radar satellite.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jim on 05/01/2017 10:56 AM
Don't forget, radar satellites prefer orbits that are slightly retrograde, not prograde. So a cape launch seems a little odd for a radar satellite.

STS-27 and Titan B-30
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: M.E.T. on 05/01/2017 11:08 AM
Both yesterday and again today, the presenter of the webcast stated that the Falcon 9 is 12m in diameter. I am right that he is confusing the F9 - which I thought is 3.6m in diameter - with the Falcon Heavy, correct?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Joffan on 05/01/2017 11:10 AM
Aha, dodgy sensor was replaced
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: DreamyPickle on 05/01/2017 11:13 AM
Presenter on the webcast said sensor was replaced, but how? Did it go horizontal since the last attempt?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: hans_ober on 05/01/2017 11:14 AM
I think the presenter just said 1.7million pounds of thrust at liftoff. Confirmation that this flight has upgraded thrust?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: fatdeeman on 05/01/2017 11:18 AM
Amazing staging footage, didn't realised it flipped so quickly.

It just dawned on me that we're going to have tracking footage all the way back in  :o
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: jimbowman on 05/01/2017 11:19 AM
Great footage today
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Mapperuo on 05/01/2017 11:23 AM
Holy crap! This footage is AMAZING
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: kevinof on 05/01/2017 11:25 AM
stunning stunning stunning footage. mouth wide open!
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Semmel on 05/01/2017 11:25 AM
Open mouth for that footage and telemetry. WOW!
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Helodriver on 05/01/2017 11:26 AM
THIS IS THE FOOTAGE I HAVE BEEN WANTING SINCE DAY ONE !!!! WELL DONE!!!!
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: fatdeeman on 05/01/2017 11:26 AM
Great job guys!

The most stunning footage yet, absolutely awe inspiring and even further emphasises just what an impressive feat it is.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Eagandale4114 on 05/01/2017 11:26 AM
Presenter on the webcast said sensor was replaced, but how? Did it go horizontal since the last attempt?

They dont need to. They can access some parts while the vehicle is still vertical.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Poole Amateur on 05/01/2017 11:26 AM
Officially my favourite launch of all time. That was simply breathtaking, it was Sci-Fi come real, I am just blown away.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Astromattical on 05/01/2017 11:27 AM
That was probably the most amazing footage of a launch I have ever seen. Absolutely amazing job once again by Space X.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Earendil on 05/01/2017 11:27 AM
Amazing footage indeed.

 And the landing.. yawn yawn.. what's another landed rocket.. LOL


Sent from my Lenovo B8080-H using Tapatalk

Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: guckyfan on 05/01/2017 11:28 AM
Quote
1st launch of Falcon 9 First Stage No. 32

From SFN life comments before launch.  :)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: cebri on 05/01/2017 11:28 AM
 :o :o Those nitrogen thrusters. Beautiful.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Hauerg on 05/01/2017 11:28 AM
Holy cow!

Wife and daughter were watching their first Falcon landing and were deeply impressed.

Wow.

Also congrats to SpaceX and a big THANK YOU for sharing those images.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Rhyshaelkan on 05/01/2017 11:29 AM
That footage was fantastic..
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: deruch on 05/01/2017 11:29 AM
Ok, it's official.  NSF loves the NRO!!  Only reason we get to see the video tracking the first stage all the way through return is because they're not supposed to show any of the 2nd stage video.  That was amazing!
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Helodriver on 05/01/2017 11:29 AM
Entry burn is confirmed as 1 3 1. Center engine ignites, then outer two ignite, then outer two stop, then center engine extinguishes. Great to see. Apogee 162KM, so no question the stage is a space flown artifact. ;)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: toruonu on 05/01/2017 11:29 AM
Hollywood should take notes, this footage was waaay cooler than any hollywood enactment :D
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Terra Incognita on 05/01/2017 11:29 AM
Yes that's the best footage of the 1st stage landing that I have seen so far. Amazing
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: LouScheffer on 05/01/2017 11:29 AM
A few observations from this wonderful footage:

There is a "heartbeat" like glow (not the nitrogen thrusters) at the base of the rocket every few seconds.  My guess is that they are releasing pressure through the engines so (as opposed to the vents) so they don't upset the attitude.

The jets are navigating in 3d,not just two.  You can see them thrusting fore and aft as well as sideways.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Perchlorate on 05/01/2017 11:29 AM
Far and away the best video coverage EVER!  Evidenced by Chris Bergin's wow-gasm.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: andyr on 05/01/2017 11:30 AM
Wow, they've come along way from the first video having to be patched frame by frame....
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Joffan on 05/01/2017 11:30 AM
That was definitely a much faster flip than SpaceX have done in the past. They are getting very smooth at this stage return.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: gospacex on 05/01/2017 11:30 AM
Woooooow!

(1) SpaceX seems to not care that this footage will now be analyzed to death by competitors.
(2) "SpaceX landings are fake" nutjobs on youtube will see their audience shrink a lot after this.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: yokem55 on 05/01/2017 11:31 AM
I was a little surprised watching staging entirely from the external view. A little disconcerting as we usually see the view from both ends of the interstage, but a very cool was to see it happen.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: spacekid on 05/01/2017 11:32 AM
My impression is first stage flight was more lofted than shuttle launches. Was towards the NE.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Pete on 05/01/2017 11:32 AM
Hollywood, take note.
THIS is what an alien invader coming in for landing should look like.
.
I was absolutely overwhelmed by the sheer mechanical *majesty* of that vehicle coming in for its landing burn.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 05/01/2017 11:33 AM
Odd that I didn't spot any military bods in mission control for an NRO launch. Did Space X keep them out the way somewhere to keep the cool image going.

Excellent first stage return coverage also proved a useful distraction from any consideration of the second stage and payload.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Keeval on 05/01/2017 11:33 AM
My jaw hit the floor when I saw that footage... absolutely amazing. And I thought it was going to a bit boring* without seeing the S2 footage today.

*Boring being that landing S1 of a rocket is now apparently "Normal" :)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Steven Pietrobon on 05/01/2017 11:33 AM
View of the pad as the updates thread has been locked.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: cebri on 05/01/2017 11:33 AM
I was quite impressed by how important is aerobreaking for the landing. From 25km altitude to entry landing burn the rocket decelerated quite a lot.

Edit1: Not entry but landing burn.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: fatdeeman on 05/01/2017 11:34 AM
Woooooow!

(1) SpaceX seems to not care that this footage will now be analyzed to death by competitors.
(2) "SpaceX landings are fake" nutjobs on youtube will see their audience shrink a lot after this.

Lol you know those youtubers will just claim it's all CGI anyway, even if they knew it was real they would still say it's fake, it's just their mentality.

I get the impression some pretty amazing amateur footage is going to come from this one too.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: gin455res on 05/01/2017 11:34 AM
So glad I truncated my supermarket visit to just snatching a bag of carrots and potatoes, and got back for T-2:45; and then that footage!
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Ben the Space Brit on 05/01/2017 11:35 AM
That was fantastic! The spacecraft being tracked from launch all the way to landing by ground cameras and the Stage 1 telemetry all the way up and down meant that we really got an idea of what the Falcon booster's nominal flight looks like and more than a little about its trajectory and velocity during all flight phases.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: guckyfan on 05/01/2017 11:35 AM
That was definitely a much faster flip than SpaceX have done in the past. They are getting very smooth at this stage return.

Noticed that too. They want to limit damage to the interstage by second stage ignition as much as possible.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: docmordrid on 05/01/2017 11:35 AM
Good Grief!! The Hollywood F/X houses will need to go to school on this one. DAMN!!
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: corrodedNut on 05/01/2017 11:35 AM
Dear God, at one point I was asking myself: "is this real?" Hooray for tracking cameras!
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: watermod on 05/01/2017 11:35 AM
Gorgeous!
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 05/01/2017 11:36 AM
I think Eric Berger sums it up pretty well:

Quote
And *that* is how you do spaceflight in the 21st century.

https://twitter.com/sciguyspace/status/859005639963627521 (https://twitter.com/sciguyspace/status/859005639963627521)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Mapperuo on 05/01/2017 11:36 AM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vy7HO7mo2Og

Amazing tracking shots!
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: gospacex on 05/01/2017 11:36 AM
It took only 12-14 secs from separation to start of boostback.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Halidon on 05/01/2017 11:37 AM
Stunning landing footage from that trackimg camera. I thought riding the stage all the way down was going to be the highlight of F9 landing coverage, but watching the stage come down that way made my jaw drop. Well done to SpaceX's tracking and production people.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 05/01/2017 11:37 AM
It's a good job that the second stage trundled off stage left of screen before fairing separation consideration considering how clear the viewing was.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jeff Lerner on 05/01/2017 11:38 AM
The video was amazing but the mission is still ongoing...do,we have any timeline on next events or status ?.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 05/01/2017 11:38 AM
NRO:

Quote
#NROL76 launched today at 7:15 a.m. EDT. Congratulations to the team! @SpaceX, @45thSpaceWing, @NASAKennedy

https://twitter.com/natreconofc/status/859006289288015872 (https://twitter.com/natreconofc/status/859006289288015872)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Navier–Stokes on 05/01/2017 11:38 AM
So glad I got up a little early to watch this one live. That tracking cam footage was just stunning  :).
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: IanO on 05/01/2017 11:38 AM
Ok, it's official.  NSF loves the NRO!!  Only reason we get to see the video tracking the first stage all the way through return is because they're not supposed to show any of the 2nd stage video.  That was amazing!
Absolutely agree!  The morning light was just perfect for catching every little detail of the return flight. Well worth the very early rise on the west coast.  I've been wanting coverage like this ever since their first return attempt.

Mad props to the tracking camera crew.  Does anyone know if this is a NASA asset?

Now to rewatch that stream over and over again... :)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: envy887 on 05/01/2017 11:40 AM
Staged 10 m/s faster than CRS-10, and 4 seconds earlier. Seems very likely to be an upgraded booster.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: corrodedNut on 05/01/2017 11:40 AM
Entry burn is confirmed as 1 3 1. Center engine ignites, then outer two ignite, then outer two stop, then center engine extinguishes. Great to see. Apogee 162KM, so no question the stage is a space flown artifact. ;)

It's like a surfboard of fire...
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: dpark on 05/01/2017 11:40 AM
Well worth the west coast early wake up. Well done spaceX, Elon.

This is why I am still hopeful about our planet and confident that Tesla is about to kick some serious end-of-fossil-fuel economy ASS!

Go Elon!!!

Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: deruch on 05/01/2017 11:40 AM
NRO:

Quote
#NROL76 launched today at 7:15 a.m. EDT. Congratulations to the team! @SpaceX, @45thSpaceWing, @NASAKennedy

https://twitter.com/natreconofc/status/859006289288015872 (https://twitter.com/natreconofc/status/859006289288015872)
Wait, is that confirmation of successful orbit?  Or just that they got off the pad?  Huh.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: testguy on 05/01/2017 11:40 AM
The mission is "CLASSIFED".  Unless we suspect a sinister motive that adversely impacts the American people, speculation as to its purpose, size, etc is not in our nations interest. 

That said, WOW.  The video was spectacular.  I was also surprised at the frequency of the nitrogen thrusters.  Anyone have an idea about the quantity of Gn2 onboard?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: douglas100 on 05/01/2017 11:41 AM
Amazing stuff, especially the tracking camera shots.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Ben the Space Brit on 05/01/2017 11:41 AM
Was it me or was the re-entry burn vectored sharply off to one side during the middle phase? I wonder why they would have done  that; to give asymmetric braking?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 05/01/2017 11:41 AM
Staged 10 m/s faster than CRS-10, and 4 seconds earlier. Seems very likely to be an upgraded booster.

Unfortunately that's the kind of thing the NRO get tetchy about so I wonder if we'll ever hear anything about this in relation to this flight.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Unobscured Vision on 05/01/2017 11:43 AM
Staged 10 m/s faster than CRS-10, and 4 seconds earlier. Seems very likely to be an upgraded booster.

Lighter payload or are you implying Block 4? My bet will be lighter payload ... the Apogee was looking a bit high on the S1, like they were expecting 130-ish km when they were at 160-ish at the peak.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Lar on 05/01/2017 11:45 AM
So glad I truncated my supermarket visit to just snatching a bag of carrots and potatoes, and got back for T-2:45; and then that footage!

Priorities, man!

I'm super impressed at the footage. A confluence of fortuitous events... no S2 coverage, improvements in process and procedures, and the weather cooperated to make it all visible

Yeah, cue the "SpaceX have been hogging awesome footage all along" conspiracy theorists HERE in 3, 2, 1 ... (you know who you are, you know I love you but I have to laugh)

---

Way more nitrogen thruster use than I thought, no wonder they ran out before introducing grid fins....
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: AncientU on 05/01/2017 11:46 AM
Very high apogee... only thrusters have control until reentry interface.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Damon Hill on 05/01/2017 11:46 AM
Wow and wow.  I'm going back to bed, but I doubt I'll sleep much.  Going to be some great video footage when it's all edited.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: chalz on 05/01/2017 11:47 AM
Was it me or was the re-entry burn vectored sharply off to one side during the middle phase? I wonder why they would have done  that; to give asymmetric braking?
It always does that, the elongated plume is visible from the onboard camera in many previous launches. It does look incredible from the outside though. I guess the supersonic airflow does strange things.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: cebri on 05/01/2017 11:47 AM
Obligatory

(http://i.imgur.com/ksnBeKb.gif)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Ben the Space Brit on 05/01/2017 11:48 AM
Did anyone really expect the ground tracking cameras of the booster in free autonomous flight mode to look so awesome? I certainly wasn't expecting the RCS/attitude control thruster plumes to be so visible.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: LouScheffer on 05/01/2017 11:50 AM
Looks like aerodynamic braking is pretty strong, as expected.  After the entry burn, it accelerated for a while in the thin air, then decelerated at about 2G.   Terminal velocity looked like about 300 m/s.  This is about as expected from something of that size, shape, and mass.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: envy887 on 05/01/2017 11:50 AM
Entry burn started at about Mach 3.6, landing burn at about Mach 0.9
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Moskit on 05/01/2017 11:50 AM
Legs seemed to deploy just 3-4s before the touchdown, as opposed to 10s announced.
Given a higher apogee (+20%) is this more an indication of a new mission profile or operating closer to the limits?

Thrusters might have operated more frequently due to strong winds at high altitude (mentioned by Elon).
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: hans_ober on 05/01/2017 11:51 AM
It took only 12-14 secs from separation to start of boostback.

Well, the engines shut down.. but only briefly at MECO. While the centre engine isn't running, there is a continuous plume (from the turbopump, or is it venting LOX?). The center engine restarts first, probably to to keep the propellant from sloshing during the flip, and probably gimbals to speedup and stabilize the rates of rotation. The remaining 2 engines turn on soon after that.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: AncientU on 05/01/2017 11:52 AM
Just wait until a 12m core does that RTLS.
Daily.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Lar on 05/01/2017 11:52 AM
I wonder if fairing recovery was even attempted given the shroud[1] of secrecy

1 - yes I went there
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: yokem55 on 05/01/2017 11:53 AM
Wow and wow.  I'm going back to bed, but I doubt I'll sleep much.  Going to be some great video footage when it's all edited.
Same here... I'm t-minus 1.5 hrs til my normal Monday morning alarm. But that was worth it.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: spacekid on 05/01/2017 11:55 AM
Just wait until a 12m core does that RTLS.
Daily.
Just wait until first stage sep of a Falcon 9 Heavy with 3 stages coming back!
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Michael Baylor on 05/01/2017 11:59 AM
The shot from the land based camera of reentry was...   8)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: M.E.T. on 05/01/2017 11:59 AM
Will there be a post launch press conference this time? Or is that not the norm for a spy satellite launch?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Ben the Space Brit on 05/01/2017 12:03 PM
They certainly won't have a joint presser with NRO or USAF but I wonder if SpaceX may issue a few press releases and answer a few Twitter queries on the launch vehicle's performance.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: rubtest on 05/01/2017 12:14 PM
what a landing , WOW and congrat to SpaceX NRO NASA Chrises especially about the most photogenic landing
seen till now
learned that:
1. First stage climbed after MECO from 66 km to 166 km in boost back scenario .
2. below 5 km air resistance slows quite fast the vehicle. Larger flaps in the future will probably enhance this effect.
3. releasing the landing legs almost before landing minimizes fire damage to them from the landing flames.

Space flight will not be the same again
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: hans_ober on 05/01/2017 12:15 PM
Staged 10 m/s faster than CRS-10, and 4 seconds earlier. Seems very likely to be an upgraded booster.

Lighter payload or are you implying Block 4? My bet will be lighter payload ... the Apogee was looking a bit high on the S1, like they were expecting 130-ish km when they were at 160-ish at the peak.

Not necessarily. Could be that the trajectory was somewhere between the very steep OG2 (vert velocity of ~1500m/s , horizontal ~600m/s = 1670m/s at MECO.) and the flatter CRS-9/10.

MECO was ~1670m/s, but there could have been more of a horizontal component than OG2, which makes sense since OG2 tried burning directly to ~600km.

I think the presenter said 1.7million lb at liftoff, which makes this Block 4 since this is the uprated thrust figure; unless he was just reading data off their website. Changes to S2 make it probable that this was a B4.

Best way to figure out is to skim over velocity+altitude data from the webcast. Figure out vertical v from altitude, and plot horizontal & acceleration from that data.

Was it just me, or did anyone else notice that the altitude data was not consistent, but was jumping to rounded up values of kilometers. Fudged data?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Antares on 05/01/2017 12:18 PM
Was it me or was the re-entry burn vectored sharply off to one side during the middle phase? I wonder why they would have done  that; to give asymmetric braking?
It always does that, the elongated plume is visible from the onboard camera in many previous launches. It does look incredible from the outside though. I guess the supersonic airflow does strange things.

Does the IIP remain offshore through both entry and landing burn or just landing?  It may be adjusting the track at that point.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: CorvusCorax on 05/01/2017 12:21 PM
Did you notice that the telemetry altitude is heavily filtered?

From 99km down to 0, it displayed the alt with seemingly 0.1km accuracy, but the actual altitude went down in jumps, as if the telemetry feed was first reduced to 1km resolution and later filtered to give a "smooth" appearance during ascent - but whatever interpolation they have for that smoothing seems to be coded for ascent under asceleration and shows weird stairstep -behaviour when being run on descent during deceleration.

This has obvious implications for any attempts to recreate accurate trajectory and acceleration information from the telemetry via OCR as has been done in the past.  Obviously the minimum trustworthy altitude resolution is 1km, but the question is about timing.

This is very well visible in the time between entry burn shutdown and actual landing

The nonlinearity on velocity is less obvious, somone would need to run OCR on the webcast and analyse it.

I wonder if they would go as far and deliberately distort also the absolute values (such as MECO velocity and max altitude) to obfuscate the classified NRO trajectory. Since the data is obviously postprocessed that might as well be the case - with the additional benefit of misleading SpaceX competitors.

But that's speculation. The only thing that's certain is that the accurate altitude resolution (and timing) is less than it seems.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: IanO on 05/01/2017 12:26 PM
Did you notice that the telemetry altitude is heavily filtered?

From 99km down to 0, it displayed the alt with seemingly 0.1km accuracy, but the actual altitude went down in jumps, as if the telemetry feed was first reduced to 1km resolution and later filtered to give a "smooth" appearance during ascent - but whatever interpolation they have for that smoothing seems to be coded for ascent under asceleration and shows weird stairstep -behaviour when being run on descent during deceleration.
No, it had the same problem during ascent.  Altitude resolution appeared to be integral km only, with some hokey algorithm to jump between km when <100 km.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: dawei on 05/01/2017 12:34 PM
When the strongback retracted a bit before launch I experienced an optical illusion that the strongback was standing still and the rocket was tipping over.  My brain told me it was an illusion but my heart skipped more than a few beats!  So glad my brain was right.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: AC in NC on 05/01/2017 12:41 PM
Was it me or was the re-entry burn vectored sharply off to one side during the middle phase? I wonder why they would have done  that; to give asymmetric braking?
It always does that, the elongated plume is visible from the onboard camera in many previous launches. It does look incredible from the outside though. I guess the supersonic airflow does strange things.

Does the IIP remain offshore through both entry and landing burn or just landing?  It may be adjusting the track at that point.

As I understand, IIP is remains stable until the final transition from off-target IIP to Landing.  They don't put the IIP on the LZ until a good attempt at landing is assured.  Almost any burn would move the IIP and therefore vectoring in required to maintain it. 
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Kabloona on 05/01/2017 12:46 PM
Looks like aerodynamic braking is pretty strong, as expected.  After the entry burn, it accelerated for a while in the thin air, then decelerated at about 2G.   Terminal velocity looked like about 300 m/s.  This is about as expected from something of that size, shape, and mass.

The entry burn seems to be timed so that, at cutoff, the aerodynamic drag has increased almost to the point of beginning to be able to decelerate the stage by itself. The timing wasn't perfect, as cutoff occurred around 740 m/sec and the stage accelerated under gravity to about 840 m/sec before aero drag was able to begin decelerating. That period of acceleration lasted about 17 seconds.

So the "matching" of the end of propulsive deceleration with the start of aerodynamic drag deceleration wasn't perfect, but it was close, and it's reasonable to think that's how they tried to time the entry burn sequence, ie with a given quanitity of propellant, and thus a given burn duration, time the start of the burn so that, at the end of the burn, aero drag will be just enough to continue deceleration.

(See Welsh Dragon's excellent speed plot below for the graphic illustration of the transition from entry burn deceleration to aero drag deceleration.)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: ugordan on 05/01/2017 12:49 PM
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PAKpTDCvtw

Looks like it leaned into the wind to counteract the drift during the lower portion of the descent (notice the cloud movement direction)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Welsh Dragon on 05/01/2017 12:53 PM
Given the fantastic footage of first stage, and the continual telemetry data, I decided to plot out the data for this stage, thought it would be interesting. Relevant information is in the figure, but took data in 5 second bins, and derived acceleration in 5 second bins too. Interesting the see the significant deceleration due to air resistance between entry and landing burns. Happy to share raw data with anyone.

EDIT: Updated attachment to correct labelling error. Data has not changed.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: saliva_sweet on 05/01/2017 12:53 PM
Interesting periodic "breathing" from the main engines was noticed by reddit user Brusion. From around T+4.30 to reentry burn.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: rsdavis9 on 05/01/2017 01:10 PM
Interesting periodic "breathing" from the main engines was noticed by reddit user Brusion. From around T+4.30 to reentry burn.

I think this periodic venting is something the head of mission assurance(Koenigsmann) said was going to be done to fix bubbles in lines that were preventing even starting of engines for landing burn. All he said was that there was a problem of heating on the intake lines to the engines. So to fix it they can insulate better and didn't say what the other was.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: LouScheffer on 05/01/2017 01:12 PM
Interesting periodic "breathing" from the main engines was noticed by reddit user Brusion. From around T+4.30 to reentry burn.
Venting from the side would upset the attitude, as well.  So maybe they vent from the engines to avoid this:

A few observations from this wonderful footage:

There is a "heartbeat" like glow (not the nitrogen thrusters) at the base of the rocket every few seconds.  My guess is that they are releasing pressure through the engines so (as opposed to the vents) so they don't upset the attitude.

The jets are navigating in 3d,not just two.  You can see them thrusting fore and aft as well as sideways.

Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: sevenperforce on 05/01/2017 01:24 PM
Because we know that the boostback burn is always going to be just about perfectly horizontal (as anything off-horizontal is going to waste propellant), we can now determine for the first time with reasonably good accuracy exactly what the trajectory was at MECO, based on separation altitude vs apogee.

Separation: 1.68 km/s at 69.6 km altitude, T+2:23
Apogee: 0.293 km/s at 166 km altitude, T+4:46
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Kabloona on 05/01/2017 01:26 PM
  Terminal velocity looked like about 300 m/s.  This is about as expected from something of that size, shape, and mass.

Interesting. That terminal velocity is 2x the 150 m/sec terminal velocity observed on the first F9 landing at the Cape. F9 has bulked up since then...

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=39100.msg1465116#msg1465116
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Elmar Moelzer on 05/01/2017 01:26 PM
It looks like we can attribute most of the "toastiness" of the first stage after landing to merely to soot deposited from the boost- back-, re- entry-, and landing- burns. With the re- entry burn being the one that deposits most of the soot. The button of the stage seemed slightly darker before boost back already, but that may have been an optical illusion.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: ugordan on 05/01/2017 01:31 PM
Interesting periodic "breathing" from the main engines was noticed by reddit user Brusion. From around T+4.30 to reentry burn.

Engine(s) need to be chilled down prior to ignition to get them to the engine start box so it might also be that.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: saliva_sweet on 05/01/2017 01:37 PM
Interesting periodic "breathing" from the main engines was noticed by reddit user Brusion. From around T+4.30 to reentry burn.

I think this periodic venting is something the head of mission assurance(Koenigsmann) said was going to be done to fix bubbles in lines that were preventing even starting of engines for landing burn. All he said was that there was a problem of heating on the intake lines to the engines. So to fix it they can insulate better and didn't say what the other was.

Could be, they appear to be dumping quite a lot though.

There is a "heartbeat" like glow (not the nitrogen thrusters) at the base of the rocket every few seconds.  My guess is that they are releasing pressure through the engines so (as opposed to the vents) so they don't upset the attitude.

I'm not sure how that could be done. Dumping fuel from the bottom of the tank to relieve pressure dosn't seem like a good idea. They are perfectly capable of symmetrical venting and asymmetrical venting could be easily used to correct attitude instead of disturbing it, sparing nitrogen.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Welsh Dragon on 05/01/2017 01:40 PM
  Terminal velocity looked like about 300 m/s.  This is about as expected from something of that size, shape, and mass.

Interesting. That terminal velocity is 2x the 150 m/sec terminal velocity observed on the first F9 landing at the Cape. F9 has bulked up since then...

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=39100.msg1465116#msg1465116
Velocity at start of landing burn was about 320 m/s.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: old_sellsword on 05/01/2017 01:44 PM
Interesting periodic "breathing" from the main engines was noticed by reddit user Brusion. From around T+4.30 to reentry burn.

Engine(s) need to be chilled down prior to ignition to get them to the engine start box so it might also be that.

It's most likely this, we can see the LOX bleeding from the octaweb in the Eutelsat/ABS M2 webcast here (17:40): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ckjP8stlzxI?t=17m40s
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: sevenperforce on 05/01/2017 02:00 PM
"...the execution of 100s of people at SpaceX "

I had heard that this approach was used in North Korea to encourage hard work among the survivors, but I didn't expect it to be used in the USA as well.  Still, these days, who knows?

Haha, I lol'ed...  :-)

Amazing footage indeed. Would have loved a closer ground-to-booster view on landing but that's my only quibble.

Congrats to the NRO on being able to snoop even more on all of us
Elon just posted a nice view (https://t.co/m8DH1DkvFO) on Instagram.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: LouScheffer on 05/01/2017 02:02 PM
  Terminal velocity looked like about 300 m/s.  This is about as expected from something of that size, shape, and mass.
Interesting. That terminal velocity is 2x the 150 m/sec terminal velocity observed on the first F9 landing at the Cape. F9 has bulked up since then...
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=39100.msg1465116#msg1465116
I'm very suspicious of that 150 m/s number.  If we plug in what we know of the booster (mass = 30t, from Hans), cross sectional area of 10 m^2 (known), coefficient of drag of a cylinder end on (0.8), density of air at 4000m (0.8 kg/m^3), we get a terminal velocity of about 300 m/s.  None of these figures seems uncertain enough to get the terminal velocity down to 150 m/s.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: alang on 05/01/2017 02:10 PM
"...the execution of 100s of people at SpaceX "

I had heard that this approach was used in North Korea to encourage hard work among the survivors, but I didn't expect it to be used in the USA as well.  Still, these days, who knows?

Haha, I lol'ed...  :-)

Amazing footage indeed. Would have loved a closer ground-to-booster view on landing but that's my only quibble.

Congrats to the NRO on being able to snoop even more on all of us
Elon just posted a nice view (https://t.co/m8DH1DkvFO) on Instagram.

Something like six seconds from start of leg deployment to landing. How does that compare with previous landings?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: laika_fr on 05/01/2017 02:20 PM
Massive bow shock on three engines.
some studies have shown that a large bow is easier to maintain, and probably more efficient on multiple engines
on one engine you may "pierce" the arc more easily, it's a balance between thrust and air pressure, takes time to fine tune it.

Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: envy887 on 05/01/2017 02:24 PM
Massive bow shock on three engines.
some studies have shown that a large bow is easier to maintain, and probably more efficient on multiple engines
on one engine you may "pierce" the arc more easily, it's a balance between thrust and air pressure, takes time to fine tune it.

Yes, the eye of Sauron - we've seen this on previous entries. This was definitely the best footage of it so far, though.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: deruch on 05/01/2017 02:26 PM
Because we know that the boostback burn is always going to be just about perfectly horizontal (as anything off-horizontal is going to waste propellant), we can now determine for the first time with reasonably good accuracy exactly what the trajectory was at MECO, based on separation altitude vs apogee.

Separation: 1.68 km/s at 69.6 km altitude, T+2:23
Apogee: 0.293 km/s at 166 km altitude, T+4:46
Hans Koenniggsman has talked before about using the boostback burn to lower the apogee by aiming below the horizon and thereby reducing upward velocity, etc.  So, while it may be fine as a rule of thumb, I wouldn't necessarily rely on that as 100% set in stone.  Plus it may change on a launch by launch basis.  Or, since he made those statements quite a while ago, they may no longer be doing this.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Kabloona on 05/01/2017 02:26 PM
  Terminal velocity looked like about 300 m/s.  This is about as expected from something of that size, shape, and mass.
Interesting. That terminal velocity is 2x the 150 m/sec terminal velocity observed on the first F9 landing at the Cape. F9 has bulked up since then...
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=39100.msg1465116#msg1465116
I'm very suspicious of that 150 m/s number.  If we plug in what we know of the booster (mass = 30t, from Hans), cross sectional area of 10 m^2 (known), coefficient of drag of a cylinder end on (0.8), density of air at 4000m (0.8 kg/m^3), we get a terminal velocity of about 300 m/s.  None of these figures seems uncertain enough to get the terminal velocity down to 150 m/s.

I'm looking at hrissan's video analysis and trying to find why his number was so much lower. I don't see any obvious errors, but it was a night landing, so maybe the darkness of the video threw his analysis off somehow.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: StuffOfInterest on 05/01/2017 02:34 PM
Where is the tracking camera that followed the entire launch/landing flight?  It was definitely up the coast a ways from the landing site as there was always some side view of the rocket.  It would be an interesting perspective to have a camera near the landing site to look up the throat as the rocket is coming back in.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Helodriver on 05/01/2017 02:35 PM
The extreme closeups the vehicle at terminal velocity falling toward LZ-1 were most likely by a 45th Space Wing range tracking camera, not a dedicated SpaceX asset.

Was anticipating the quality of those images starting a few years ago. Nice to predict the future once again.  8)

Hope that becomes a regular part of coverage at some point.

http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=36558.msg1330568#msg1330568 (http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=36558.msg1330568#msg1330568)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Kabloona on 05/01/2017 02:35 PM
Because we know that the boostback burn is always going to be just about perfectly horizontal (as anything off-horizontal is going to waste propellant), we can now determine for the first time with reasonably good accuracy exactly what the trajectory was at MECO, based on separation altitude vs apogee.

Separation: 1.68 km/s at 69.6 km altitude, T+2:23
Apogee: 0.293 km/s at 166 km altitude, T+4:46
Hans Koenniggsman has talked before about using the boostback burn to lower the apogee by aiming below the horizon and thereby reducing upward velocity, etc.  So, while it may be fine as a rule of thumb, I wouldn't necessarily rely on that as 100% set in stone.  Plus it may change on a launch by launch basis.  Or, since he made those statements quite a while ago, they may no longer be doing this.

Welsh Dragon's altitude vs. time plot upthread shows nicely that the boostback burn was entirely horizontal, because the altitude vs. time curve during the boostback burn has the same shape as the corresponding period during the "free fall" period on the other side of the curve...ie, going up with (horizontal) boostback is the same as going down under gravity alone, as far as altitude vs. time is concerned.

Which makes sense, now that they've recovered several stages and proven that the stage can survive "falling" from apogee with an entry burn of reasonable duration.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: alang on 05/01/2017 02:39 PM
"...the execution of 100s of people at SpaceX "

I had heard that this approach was used in North Korea to encourage hard work among the survivors, but I didn't expect it to be used in the USA as well.  Still, these days, who knows?

Haha, I lol'ed...  :-)

Amazing footage indeed. Would have loved a closer ground-to-booster view on landing but that's my only quibble.

Congrats to the NRO on being able to snoop even more on all of us
Elon just posted a nice view (https://t.co/m8DH1DkvFO) on Instagram.

Something like six seconds from start of leg deployment to landing. How does that compare with previous landings?

Seems about about a second earlier during CRS-10:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=DTdFzCSLjGM
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: sevenperforce on 05/01/2017 02:49 PM
Because we know that the boostback burn is always going to be just about perfectly horizontal (as anything off-horizontal is going to waste propellant), we can now determine for the first time with reasonably good accuracy exactly what the trajectory was at MECO, based on separation altitude vs apogee.

Separation: 1.68 km/s at 69.6 km altitude, T+2:23
Apogee: 0.293 km/s at 166 km altitude, T+4:46
Hans Koenniggsman has talked before about using the boostback burn to lower the apogee by aiming below the horizon and thereby reducing upward velocity, etc.  So, while it may be fine as a rule of thumb, I wouldn't necessarily rely on that as 100% set in stone.  Plus it may change on a launch by launch basis.  Or, since he made those statements quite a while ago, they may no longer be doing this.

Welsh Dragon's altitude vs. time plot upthread shows nicely that the boostback burn was entirely horizontal, because the altitude vs. time curve during the boostback burn has the same shape as the corresponding period during the "free fall" period on the other side of the curve...ie, going up with (horizontal) boostback is the same as going down under gravity alone, as far as altitude vs. time is concerned.
With this wealth of data, we should be able to derive near-exact propellant loading numbers for the entire flight.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: mme on 05/01/2017 02:52 PM
A few observations from this wonderful footage:

There is a "heartbeat" like glow (not the nitrogen thrusters) at the base of the rocket every few seconds.  My guess is that they are releasing pressure through the engines so (as opposed to the vents) so they don't upset the attitude.

The jets are navigating in 3d,not just two.  You can see them thrusting fore and aft as well as sideways.
I suspect that some of the "heartbeat" is for ullage.  The stage is essentially in freefall and they'll want to keep the propellent at the bottom of the tanks.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Welsh Dragon on 05/01/2017 02:53 PM
I am currently doing the burns with a 1 second resolution. So that should give better data if you want to do something with it. EDIT: In reply to sevenperforce
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: deruch on 05/01/2017 03:04 PM
Because we know that the boostback burn is always going to be just about perfectly horizontal (as anything off-horizontal is going to waste propellant), we can now determine for the first time with reasonably good accuracy exactly what the trajectory was at MECO, based on separation altitude vs apogee.

Separation: 1.68 km/s at 69.6 km altitude, T+2:23
Apogee: 0.293 km/s at 166 km altitude, T+4:46
Hans Koenniggsman has talked before about using the boostback burn to lower the apogee by aiming below the horizon and thereby reducing upward velocity, etc.  So, while it may be fine as a rule of thumb, I wouldn't necessarily rely on that as 100% set in stone.  Plus it may change on a launch by launch basis.  Or, since he made those statements quite a while ago, they may no longer be doing this.

Welsh Dragon's altitude vs. time plot upthread shows nicely that the boostback burn was entirely horizontal, because the altitude vs. time curve during the boostback burn has the same shape as the corresponding period during the "free fall" period on the other side of the curve...ie, going up with (horizontal) boostback is the same as going down under gravity alone, as far as altitude vs. time is concerned.

Which makes sense, now that they've recovered several stages and proven that the stage can survive "falling" from apogee with an entry burn of reasonable duration.
My caution wasn't about any one particular launch but more because sevenperforce was saying that it was a given for all launches.  That may turn out to be the case moving forward as SpaceX has improved their hardware and their recovery knowledge, but it isn't automatically so based solely on a logical assumption.  Especially not given Hans' previous comments.  Though, since this is the NROL-76 thread, and it did in fact use a purely horizontal burn, this is a bit of moot point. 
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: mn on 05/01/2017 03:06 PM
Both yesterday and again today, the presenter of the webcast stated that the Falcon 9 is 12m in diameter. I am right that he is confusing the F9 - which I thought is 3.6m in diameter - with the Falcon Heavy, correct?

The presenter said 12ft (at about 15:50 into the webcast replay) which is close enough with rounding.

Edit: I went back and listened to the full webcast and the presenter said 12m in the pre launch chatter, and said 12ft later in the broadcast after launch.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: edkyle99 on 05/01/2017 03:11 PM
Both yesterday and again today, the presenter of the webcast stated that the Falcon 9 is 12m in diameter. I am right that he is confusing the F9 - which I thought is 3.6m in diameter - with the Falcon Heavy, correct?

The presenter said 12ft (at about 15:50 into the webcast replay) which is close enough with rounding.

The diameter is 12 feet - 144 inches.  That is 3.6576 meters exactly.

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: mn on 05/01/2017 03:12 PM
Looks like aerodynamic braking is pretty strong, as expected.  After the entry burn, it accelerated for a while in the thin air, then decelerated at about 2G.   Terminal velocity looked like about 300 m/s.  This is about as expected from something of that size, shape, and mass.

The announcer said 1000 km/h ( = 277 m/s ), (but he may have been rounding).
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 05/01/2017 03:14 PM
It's been noted elsewhere that this mission like USA-193 features a brown raptor bird in its patch.

https://m.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=116648047531&l=169616826b
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: RonM on 05/01/2017 03:15 PM
Both yesterday and again today, the presenter of the webcast stated that the Falcon 9 is 12m in diameter. I am right that he is confusing the F9 - which I thought is 3.6m in diameter - with the Falcon Heavy, correct?

The presenter said 12ft (at about 15:50 into the webcast replay) which is close enough with rounding.

Since he said it two days in a row, it was an error in his script (meters instead of feet). He got it right later, or should I say the script was correct.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: edkyle99 on 05/01/2017 03:25 PM
With this launch, LC 39 Pad A has handled more launches this year than any other launch center, let alone launch pad.   Likely temporary, but shows how hard SpaceX is pushing to recover from AMOS 6.

This was the tenth successful first stage landing and the fourth at LZ-1.  Nine first stages have now flown to recovery (one twice).  Something like four of those have apparently been retired.

Among v1.2 variants, this had the shortest first stage burn (137 seconds) and the second longest boost-back burn (40 seconds).

F9-34 performed the 98th LC 39A liftoff.

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: just-nick on 05/01/2017 03:52 PM
Both yesterday and again today, the presenter of the webcast stated that the Falcon 9 is 12m in diameter. I am right that he is confusing the F9 - which I thought is 3.6m in diameter - with the Falcon Heavy, correct?

The presenter said 12ft (at about 15:50 into the webcast replay) which is close enough with rounding.

Since he said it two days in a row, it was an error in his script (meters instead of feet). He got it right later, or should I say the script was correct.
To be fair, the commentary was using a mix of units...imperial for the vehicle dimensions and metric for the velocity and irritating analogy units for vehicle performance (thrust of a 747? What model? What engines? What thrust rating?!?!). Has to get confusing when trying to keep up that cheerful patter.

Cheers!
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Kabloona on 05/01/2017 03:58 PM
Another thing we can see from the excellent video footage is the ignition sequence at the start of the entry burn. The center engine starts first, making the "ring of fire," then about 3 seconds later the other two engines light, changing the shape of the plume:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BTjVdLVB1bO/
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: LouScheffer on 05/01/2017 04:03 PM
I was wondering why we can see the nitrogen jets.  After all, nitrogen is pretty transparent (we look through kilometers of it every day).  And it can't be that it's cold enough to condense water out of the air, since there is almost no atmosphere until it returns to much lower altitudes.

The only thing I can think of is that the free expansion cools the jet so much that droplets of liquid nitrogen condense, and scattering from these drops is what we see.  This seems plausible based on  The Effects of Condensation on Gas Velocity in a Free Jet Expansion (http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/762503.pdf), where table 1 indicates that up to 30% of the mass of the jet might condense.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Nomadd on 05/01/2017 04:04 PM
Both yesterday and again today, the presenter of the webcast stated that the Falcon 9 is 12m in diameter. I am right that he is confusing the F9 - which I thought is 3.6m in diameter - with the Falcon Heavy, correct?

The presenter said 12ft (at about 15:50 into the webcast replay) which is close enough with rounding.

Since he said it two days in a row, it was an error in his script (meters instead of feet). He got it right later, or should I say the script was correct.
To be fair, the commentary was using a mix of units...imperial for the vehicle dimensions and metric for the velocity and irritating analogy units for vehicle performance (thrust of a 747? What model? What engines? What thrust rating?!?!). Has to get confusing when trying to keep up that cheerful patter.

Cheers!
I also heard him say 12 meters. I thought they'd built the ITS in secret and was using it to launch the satellite.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: hans_ober on 05/01/2017 04:05 PM
Another thing we can see from the excellent video footage is the ignition sequence at the start of the entry burn. The center engine starts first, making the "ring of fire," then about 3 seconds later the other two engines light, changing the shape of the plume:

https://www.instagram.com/p/BTjVdLVB1bO/

I think they do this for the 3 engine landing burn too.

Might be doing it since it's very likely that both the side engines might not ramp up at the same time, so having the center engine active is good because it can be used to stabilize the stage. Another reason could be that they ignite the center first to minimize the 'jerk' on the stage.

They do the same at MECO. Center engine lights first (probably to prevent propellant from sloshing around), gimbals to control the rate of rotation and the outer 2 light towards the end.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: hans_ober on 05/01/2017 04:07 PM
With this launch, LC 39 Pad A has handled more launches this year than any other launch center, let alone launch pad.   Likely temporary, but shows how hard SpaceX is pushing to recover from AMOS 6.

This was the tenth successful first stage landing and the fourth at LZ-1.  Nine first stages have now flown to recovery (one twice).  Something like four of those have apparently been retired.

Among v1.2 variants, this had the shortest first stage burn (137 seconds) and the second longest boost-back burn (40 seconds).

F9-34 performed the 98th LC 39A liftoff.

 - Ed Kyle

Did the longest bootback belong to one of the CRS flights?

My instinct tells me the higher the apogee, the shorter the boostback needs to be.

With a high enough apogee, they don't need to reverse their velocity, just cancel enough of it so by the time they coast up and back down, the Earth has rotated. OG2 is a good example.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: abaddon on 05/01/2017 04:11 PM
It's been noted elsewhere that this mission like USA-193 features a brown raptor bird in its patch.

https://m.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=116648047531&l=169616826b
Let's hope this one isn't used for target practice...
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 05/01/2017 04:12 PM
Haven't seen this link posted so far about this mission.

https://sattrackcam.blogspot.co.uk/2017/04/what-is-nrol-76-and-what-orbit-wil-it.html?m=1
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jim on 05/01/2017 04:15 PM
I was wondering why we can see the nitrogen jets.  After all, nitrogen is pretty transparent (we look through kilometers of it every day).  And it can't be that it's cold enough to condense water out of the air, since there is almost no atmosphere until it returns to much lower altitudes.

The only thing I can think of is that the free expansion cools the jet so much that droplets of liquid nitrogen condense, and scattering from these drops is what we see. 

No it doesn't turn to liquid , we see like you can see any gas venting into a vacuum.  Just like the other engines.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Lar on 05/01/2017 04:20 PM
I may have missed it but I don't recall the grid fins heating up as much as the last time. That could be due to other factors than upgraded fins of course... (a different reentry burn for example)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Norm38 on 05/01/2017 04:21 PM
Thinking about the rapid flip at stage sep, on past flights it appears that the interstage takes quite a blast from the second stage engine ignition.  Is the rapid flip an attempt to shield the interstage interior from the plume and reduce damage/wear?  The plume may also assist with the flip by pushing on one side, but I doubt that's the primary reason.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Kaputnik on 05/01/2017 04:27 PM
With this launch, LC 39 Pad A has handled more launches this year than any other launch center, let alone launch pad.   Likely temporary, but shows how hard SpaceX is pushing to recover from AMOS 6.

This was the tenth successful first stage landing and the fourth at LZ-1.  Nine first stages have now flown to recovery (one twice).  Something like four of those have apparently been retired.

Among v1.2 variants, this had the shortest first stage burn (137 seconds) and the second longest boost-back burn (40 seconds).

F9-34 performed the 98th LC 39A liftoff.

 - Ed Kyle

Did the longest bootback belong to one of the CRS flights?

My instinct tells me the higher the apogee, the shorter the boostback needs to be.

With a high enough apogee, they don't need to reverse their velocity, just cancel enough of it so by the time they coast up and back down, the Earth has rotated. OG2 is a good example.

Cancel relative to what, though? If you cancel it relative to the launch site, then the Earth will never rotate under the rocket, no matter how long it stays up for.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Hauerg on 05/01/2017 04:28 PM
They only glow on fast returns. This was an easy one.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: sevenperforce on 05/01/2017 04:28 PM
I may have missed it but I don't recall the grid fins heating up as much as the last time. That could be due to other factors than upgraded fins of course... (a different reentry burn for example)
Way, way less aggressive entry. SES-10 had much higher horizontal velocity.

Thinking about the rapid flip at stage sep, on past flights it appears that the interstage takes quite a blast from the second stage engine ignition.  Is the rapid flip an attempt to shield the interstage interior from the plume and reduce damage/wear?  The plume may also assist with the flip by pushing on one side, but I doubt that's the primary reason.

In a near vacuum, the exhaust is going to spread out fast enough that first stage impingement shouldn't be problematic.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Welsh Dragon on 05/01/2017 04:32 PM
As promised, to follow on my analysis of the whole flight (http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=40328.msg1673183#msg1673183), here are the detailed looks at the burns, in 1 second bins. Of course, this makes the data a lot rattier, but it's still interesting.

Boostback burn
Good data. We start the graph with MECO, we see the trust tailing off. Then we have 15 second or so of the stage being ballistic (stage is turning). Then we get the start of the boostback, reaching a peak of -26 m/s/s. There seems to be a bit of plateau in the engine start-up sequence, in the acceleration at seconds 162-166, however, this is quite likely just noise in the data. Following shut-down we can nicely see the stage going ballistic again. Acceleration is still negative, as it is still climbing to apogee. Altitude change during the entire burn is essentially constant, indeed suggesting the burn is done horizontally.

Reentry burn
Very nice data here. We start with the stage in a ballistic descent, still essentially in vacuum (82 km). We see a swift Merlin start-up. We can see a nice increase in acceleration during the burn, as fuel load decreases. (no throttling during the burn, I would think), reaching a maximum of -40 m/s/s around 455 seconds. Following completion of the burn the stage is ballistic again, although now considerably lower in the atmosphere (28 km)

Landing burn
This is a lot more problematic, data is nowhere near as solid. We start as the stage is hitting the dense lower atmosphere hard, and is decelerating fast. We can see the stage never quite reaches terminal velocity, the speed reached before engine start is 315 m/s at 511 seconds. The landing burn is very gentle compared to the three engine suicide burn GTO profile we've gotten used to. A full 30 seconds of burn. The acceleration data is very ratty, as the speed is low here. Highest derived value is -14 m/s/s at 521 seconds. This seems low to me, and I wouldn't trust this data too much. I suspect either I'm not sampling fast enough, or the update rate of the speed in the feed is too slow. The altitude data is way off here, it reaches 0 when speed is 80 m/s. Use these data at your own peril!

Again, data is available to anyone.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Kabloona on 05/01/2017 04:34 PM
Thinking about the rapid flip at stage sep, on past flights it appears that the interstage takes quite a blast from the second stage engine ignition.  Is the rapid flip an attempt to shield the interstage interior from the plume and reduce damage/wear?  The plume may also assist with the flip by pushing on one side, but I doubt that's the primary reason.

Probably propellant conservation is the main reason. The sooner the flip, the sooner boostback burn starts, and the less time the stage spends coasting downrange away from the landing pad, so less propellant is needed for boostback.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: AncientU on 05/01/2017 04:46 PM
Thinking about the rapid flip at stage sep, on past flights it appears that the interstage takes quite a blast from the second stage engine ignition.  Is the rapid flip an attempt to shield the interstage interior from the plume and reduce damage/wear?  The plume may also assist with the flip by pushing on one side, but I doubt that's the primary reason.

Probably propellant conservation is the main reason. The sooner the flip, the sooner boostback burn starts, and the less time the stage spends coasting downrange away from the landing pad, so less propellant is needed for boostback.

Could the thermal shock on the engine be lessened if it is rapidly restarted after separation?  Less thermal transient should mean less severe cracking in the turbine blades it would seem.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: edkyle99 on 05/01/2017 04:47 PM
With this launch, LC 39 Pad A has handled more launches this year than any other launch center, let alone launch pad.   Likely temporary, but shows how hard SpaceX is pushing to recover from AMOS 6.

This was the tenth successful first stage landing and the fourth at LZ-1.  Nine first stages have now flown to recovery (one twice).  Something like four of those have apparently been retired.

Among v1.2 variants, this had the shortest first stage burn (137 seconds) and the second longest boost-back burn (40 seconds).

F9-34 performed the 98th LC 39A liftoff.

 - Ed Kyle

Did the longest bootback belong to one of the CRS flights?
I have the longest boostback, at 45 seconds or longer, taking place during the CRS-9 flight, during which the first stage returned to LZ 1.  For some reason, a shorter 33 second burn was used for CRS-10, which also returned to LZ 1.  Both of these flights had a 141 second first stage MECO.

It does give me the sense that SpaceX is experimenting with fly-back trajectory shaping to minimize damage to the stage.  Note that none of the LZ 1 stages has re-flown to date.

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Davp99 on 05/01/2017 04:48 PM
Great to watch the Telemetry on S1, Speed & Altitude .....So Cool 8)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: ugordan on 05/01/2017 04:53 PM
Note that none of the LZ 1 stages has re-flown to date.

That's hardly a note of significance since there have been a grand total of one reflight so far and it was statistically more likely to have been an ASDS stage, anyway.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: envy887 on 05/01/2017 04:56 PM
...
It does give me the sense that SpaceX is experimenting with fly-back trajectory shaping to minimize damage to the stage.  Note that none of the LZ 1 stages has re-flown to date.

 - Ed Kyle

We know GTO/ASDS boosters (e.g. Thaicom) are in queue to be reused, and we know they get far more damage on entry than RTLS boosters.

However, they still certainly could be trying to shape the trajectory to get an easier entry. That would be wise.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: abaddon on 05/01/2017 05:08 PM
From the Update thread:
I have confirmation that one-half of the fairing was recovered via parachute. My message said it was recovered from the water, intact.
That's SpaceX for you, always doing things in half measure...

More seriously... I would expect we would start seeing recovery hardware on both fairing halves sooner or later.  I know they want to land them on "bouncy castles", wonder if there is anything salvageable from a water recovery though.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: abaddon on 05/01/2017 05:12 PM
Note that none of the LZ 1 stages has re-flown to date.
That's not really saying much, since only one stage has re-flown so far.  Obviously the Orbcomm2 booster is out, but we don't know anything about reflight plans (or not) for the other two previous successful LZ-1 landings (CRS-9 & CRS-10).
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: rockets4life97 on 05/01/2017 05:18 PM
So, to the speculation about whether this booster had upgraded fuller thrust: can't Chris or someone simply ask SpaceX for us? Doesn't seem like the kind of thing they are intentionally hiding. 
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Lars-J on 05/01/2017 05:20 PM
Amazing flight... Amazing footage. Woo hoo!  ;D


Do people recall this ad from a couple of years ago by PWR? (Now part of AeroJet rocketdyne?) :D
So far this year... 9 US orbital launches:
 - 5 by SpaceX
 - 4 by ULA (1 Delta IV, 3 Atlas V)

If counting by engines:
 - 50 engines by SpaceX
 - 5 engines by AJR
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: sevenperforce on 05/01/2017 05:21 PM
...
It does give me the sense that SpaceX is experimenting with fly-back trajectory shaping to minimize damage to the stage.  Note that none of the LZ 1 stages has re-flown to date.

 - Ed Kyle

We know GTO/ASDS boosters (e.g. Thaicom) are in queue to be reused, and we know they get far more damage on entry than RTLS boosters.

However, they still certainly could be trying to shape the trajectory to get an easier entry. That would be wise.
Peak heating on GTO entries is higher, but maybe there are other considerations we aren't able to see. A big lofted trajectory with boostback, like today's, will have lower peak heating but might have higher gee forces because it slams into the atmosphere going a lot faster.
So, to the speculation about whether this booster had upgraded fuller thrust: can't Chris or someone simply ask SpaceX for us? Doesn't seem like the kind of thing they are intentionally hiding. 
Evidently not, based on the acceleration off the pad. Acceleration was pretty much identical to CRS-10.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: M.E.T. on 05/01/2017 05:26 PM
Well, I learnt something today.

I was surprised that even though the main engine cut out at around 65km altitude, the booster gained more altitude AFTER main engine cut out than it had gained for the entire time that the engine was actually burning. This is obviously old news to you experts on the forum, but to me as a layman I just intuitively expected that altitude gains would stop pretty soon after the booster's engine cut out.

As it turns out, the booster engine cut out at 65km, but the 1st stage continued up to attain an altitude of 165km or so before it started falling back to Earth.

In hindsight it makes sense, as basic physics tells me that vertical speed would only decrease by 10m/s once the thrust disappeared, but it was interesting to see nevertheless. Normally we just see the 2nd stage altitude after MECO.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: hans_ober on 05/01/2017 05:34 PM
...
It does give me the sense that SpaceX is experimenting with fly-back trajectory shaping to minimize damage to the stage.  Note that none of the LZ 1 stages has re-flown to date.

 - Ed Kyle

We know GTO/ASDS boosters (e.g. Thaicom) are in queue to be reused, and we know they get far more damage on entry than RTLS boosters.

However, they still certainly could be trying to shape the trajectory to get an easier entry. That would be wise.
Peak heating on GTO entries is higher, but maybe there are other considerations we aren't able to see. A big lofted trajectory with boostback, like today's, will have lower peak heating but might have higher gee forces because it slams into the atmosphere going a lot faster.
So, to the speculation about whether this booster had upgraded fuller thrust: can't Chris or someone simply ask SpaceX for us? Doesn't seem like the kind of thing they are intentionally hiding. 
Evidently not, based on the acceleration off the pad. Acceleration was pretty much identical to CRS-10.

I second this. While the post-reentry velocity of S1 is ~800m/s for RTLS and ~1300m/s (I suspect that it was a bit higher for SES-10), RTLS boosters have a lot of vertical velocity, which is why I'm guessing that in certain cases, they slam through the atmosphere so quickly that they might not even hit terminal velocity (since it's time for the landing burn before they have time to slow down.

On the other hand, GTO S1s have mostly horizontal velocity. The re-entry burn might be to reduce the vertical velocity (since S1 will hit the dense atmosphere before it slows down enough). Slower vertical velocity means that they can bleed off more horizontal velocity slowly, by flying at a high angle of attack and 'lifting' the booster.

We've got official confirmation from Elon that they plan on doing this. This will be very important for FH. The core will be doing around 3-3.5kmps in some cases, and will need to slow down to around 1.5kms before it hits the atmosphere (using the entry burn). Again, this will be mainly to bleed off vertical velocity. Now, if the booster is falling slow enough, but travelling horizontally fast enough, they can bleed a LOT of this speed off by flying at high angles of attack (which is why they need bigger grid fins). (Will they try complete horizontal? :o A lot to gain if they can somehow pitch the engines higher than the interstage to generate more lift  ::)

tldr: RTLS has mostly vertical velocity, slams into the atmosphere very quickly, and in some cases does not reach terminal velocity.
GTO has horizontal velocity, probably speeds close to half a minute at terminal velocity (although the re-entry is hotter).
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: hans_ober on 05/01/2017 05:38 PM
Well, I learnt something today.

I was surprised that even though the main engine cut out at around 65km altitude, the booster gained more altitude AFTER main engine cut out than it had gained for the entire time that the engine was actually burning. This is obviously old news to you experts on the forum, but to me as a layman I just intuitively expected that altitude gains would stop pretty soon after the booster's engine cut out.

As it turns out, the booster engine cut out at 65km, but the 1st stage continued up to attain an altitude of 165km or so before it started falling back to Earth.

In hindsight it makes sense, as basic physics tells me that vertical speed would only decrease by 10m/s once the thrust disappeared, but it was interesting to see nevertheless. Normally we just see the 2nd stage altitude after MECO.

This happens on S2 too. The vertical velocity imparted by S1 on GTO flights takes S1 and s2 to ~135km. S2 pitches up a little and increases this to ~170km. If you look closely, you'll notice that S2 flies to around ~170km, and then actually falls in altitude to ~160km before completing it's burn.

This effect is more apparent on rockets with low thrust S2. Look at Ariane 5, Atlas or Delta. Centaur is so low thrust that it barely finishes circularizing before it starts falling back, which is why Atlas booster has to fly lofted.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: .Scott on 05/01/2017 05:46 PM
Odd that I didn't spot any military bods in mission control for an NRO launch. Did Space X keep them out the way somewhere to keep the cool image going.
I'm sure the "military bods" were monitoring from a SCIF.  Too bad, they were probably focused on their payload during that amazing 1st-stage recovery video.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: edkyle99 on 05/01/2017 05:49 PM
Stage 2 should have reentered an hour or two or four ago, correct?

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: spacekid on 05/01/2017 05:52 PM
Well, I learnt something today.

I was surprised that even though the main engine cut out at around 65km altitude, the booster gained more altitude AFTER main engine cut out than it had gained for the entire time that the engine was actually burning. This is obviously old news to you experts on the forum, but to me as a layman I just intuitively expected that altitude gains would stop pretty soon after the booster's engine cut out.

As it turns out, the booster engine cut out at 65km, but the 1st stage continued up to attain an altitude of 165km or so before it started falling back to Earth.

In hindsight it makes sense, as basic physics tells me that vertical speed would only decrease by 10m/s once the thrust disappeared, but it was interesting to see nevertheless. Normally we just see the 2nd stage altitude after MECO.
I think on this flight, it was flying more up than normal.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Herb Schaltegger on 05/01/2017 06:07 PM
Stage 2 should have reentered an hour or two or four ago, correct?

 - Ed Kyle
Have you seen L2 re S2 on this flight?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: edkyle99 on 05/01/2017 06:23 PM
Stage 2 should have reentered an hour or two or four ago, correct?

 - Ed Kyle
Have you seen L2 re S2 on this flight?
Yes.  I still expect reentry was to take place within three hours of liftoff based on NOTAMs.

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: sanman on 05/01/2017 06:57 PM
Wow, there sure were some great close-ups of the returning booster - anybody notice that? I've never seen such great close-ups like that before.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: LouScheffer on 05/01/2017 07:10 PM
I was wondering why we can see the nitrogen jets.  After all, nitrogen is pretty transparent (we look through kilometers of it every day).  And it can't be that it's cold enough to condense water out of the air, since there is almost no atmosphere until it returns to much lower altitudes.

The only thing I can think of is that the free expansion cools the jet so much that droplets of liquid nitrogen condense, and scattering from these drops is what we see. 

No it doesn't turn to liquid , we see like you can see any gas venting into a vacuum.  Just like the other engines.
Not saying that it's different from other gasses - just wondering from a physics perspective why we can see it at all.

I finally found a good reference on this.  It's  CONDENSATION OF NITROGEN IN A HYPERSONIC NOZZLE FLOW FIELD  (http://www.dtic.mil/dtic/tr/fulltext/u2/919337.pdf).  It covers this exact topic (visibility of plumes from nitrogen cold-gas thrusters) in detail, in an attempt to understand the effect of attitude control thrusters on observations.  They conclude the visible properties of the plume are due to Raleigh scattering from small particles of condensed gas.
Quote
It is well known that nozzle gas sources, such as those employed as attitude control system thrusters, produce a hypersonic flow which condenses when the gas source pressure is sufficiently high for a given gas source temperature. [...]  the formation of such species results in enhanced scattering of optical radiation incident upon the plume.
Quote
Based upon the electron beam and Raman density data (Fig. 25), approximately 10 to 20 percent of the total flow molecules were in the condensed phase.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: pb2000 on 05/01/2017 07:49 PM
The latest spaceX flickr photo from the update thread, has a bizzare trick of the light/angle that make it appear that a few merlins are missing. Weird.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Senex on 05/01/2017 07:51 PM
And Lou wins an official NSF "I corrected Jim!" T-shirt.

Jim, with his amazing knowledge, sets such a high bar that the T-shirts will always be rare.

Congratulations, Lou!

(Chris, we really need to get those T-shirts printed)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: stcks on 05/01/2017 07:57 PM
And Lou wins an official NSF "I corrected Jim!" T-shirt.

Jim, with his amazing knowledge, sets such a high bar that the T-shirts will always be rare.

Congratulations, Lou!

(Chris, we really need to get those T-shirts printed)

Both are assets on this forum. Two of the handful of reasons I signed up.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: abaddon on 05/01/2017 08:16 PM
Jim wasn't wrong, so it is dubious to claim he was corrected.

Thanks to Lou for looking up the details on what is going on.  Fascinating stuff.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Proponent on 05/01/2017 08:25 PM
Do we know which core flew today?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: stcks on 05/01/2017 08:30 PM
Do we know which core flew today?

B1032. Check the number painted just above the octaweb.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: georgegassaway on 05/01/2017 11:28 PM
I have the longest boostback, at 45 seconds or longer, taking place during the CRS-9 flight, during which the first stage returned to LZ 1.  For some reason, a shorter 33 second burn was used for CRS-10, which also returned to LZ 1.  Both of these flights had a 141 second first stage MECO.

Didn't CRS-10 have a much higher lofted trajectory than CRS-9? If so,  less horizontal velocity and shorter distance to fly back. 2nd stage has to work a bit harder but as long as it has enough fuel, then that allows for a shorter burn for the boostback.

May require a longer re-entry burn due to heating issues (falling at a steeper angle, from higher altitude) if the heating level is a concern for multiple re-use or minimal refurbishment/parts replacement.

Took a quick look at Flight Club videos, MECO for CRS-9 seemed to be at about 58-58.5 km, CRS-10 at about 64 km.  I'm sure much better detailed info is available, but that seems to confirm a higher lofted trajectory
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: rockettrey on 05/02/2017 12:56 AM
I also eagerly await all the smart and informed answers to these questions!  Gravity losses and basic orbital mechanics are something I somehow missed out on my space "career"!  Thanks everyone!
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Herb Schaltegger on 05/02/2017 01:10 AM
I also eagerly await all the smart and informed answers to these questions!  Gravity losses and basic orbital mechanics are something I somehow missed out on my space "career"!  Thanks everyone!

I'll catch hell but, whatever ...

Just like all NSF-based discussions of spaceflight eventually gravitate toward SpaceX, most SpaceX discussions among uneducated (*) fans eventually turns to Kerbal Space Program. But aside from the snark, if you spend a few weeks with that game and really try to learn it, you'll get a better intuitive grasp of the physics involved than you can get without a multi-year college education.

(*) Not an insult; just shorthand to describe those who may lack at least a Bachelor's level degree in aerospace engineering, physics, or something similar.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: bunker9603 on 05/02/2017 01:36 AM
Great Youtube footage with nice close-ups of the landing (Not my video)


33 seconds in is my favorite


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GoRKhH8J1YQ#t=75.629688 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GoRKhH8J1YQ#t=75.629688)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: IanThePineapple on 05/02/2017 01:46 AM
I also eagerly await all the smart and informed answers to these questions!  Gravity losses and basic orbital mechanics are something I somehow missed out on my space "career"!  Thanks everyone!

I'll catch hell but, whatever ...

Just like all NSF-based discussions of spaceflight eventually gravitate toward SpaceX, most SpaceX discussions among uneducated (*) fans eventually turns to Kerbal Space Program. But aside from the snark, if you spend a few weeks with that game and really try to learn it, you'll get a better intuitive grasp of the physics involved than you can get without a multi-year college education.

(*) Not an insult; just shorthand to describe those who may lack at least a Bachelor's level degree in aerospace engineering, physics, or something similar.

Oof, I've played about 1500 hours of KSP, I must have at least a mediocre grasp on physics
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Robotbeat on 05/02/2017 01:59 AM
  Terminal velocity looked like about 300 m/s.  This is about as expected from something of that size, shape, and mass.
Interesting. That terminal velocity is 2x the 150 m/sec terminal velocity observed on the first F9 landing at the Cape. F9 has bulked up since then...
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=39100.msg1465116#msg1465116
I'm very suspicious of that 150 m/s number.  If we plug in what we know of the booster (mass = 30t, from Hans), cross sectional area of 10 m^2 (known), coefficient of drag of a cylinder end on (0.8), density of air at 4000m (0.8 kg/m^3), we get a terminal velocity of about 300 m/s.  None of these figures seems uncertain enough to get the terminal velocity down to 150 m/s.
The shape of the engine bells gives you something more like an inverted cone, about 1.3 drag coefficient. Also, the grid find are pretty big and generate quite a lot of drag plus some lift, allowing the vehicle to fly at an angle of attack, further decreasing terminal velocity.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: macpacheco on 05/02/2017 02:24 AM
Well, I learnt something today.

I was surprised that even though the main engine cut out at around 65km altitude, the booster gained more altitude AFTER main engine cut out than it had gained for the entire time that the engine was actually burning. This is obviously old news to you experts on the forum, but to me as a layman I just intuitively expected that altitude gains would stop pretty soon after the booster's engine cut out.

As it turns out, the booster engine cut out at 65km, but the 1st stage continued up to attain an altitude of 165km or so before it started falling back to Earth.

In hindsight it makes sense, as basic physics tells me that vertical speed would only decrease by 10m/s once the thrust disappeared, but it was interesting to see nevertheless. Normally we just see the 2nd stage altitude after MECO.
Once the engine shuts down, gravity would be slowing the stage down 10m/s per second downward (10m/s²) but since the stage is flying horizontally at some good speed, that speed produces a centripetal force with fights gravity on its own.
Imagine if the stage were going at orbital velocity horizontally, that speed would be enough to cancel out gravity and keep it in orbit.
Half orbital speed would cancel quarter gravity.
1/4 orbital speed would cancel 1/16 gravity.
A typical GTO mission staging speeds, F9 boosters are flying at something like 1/3 of orbital speed, which cancels 1/9 of gravity.
In LEO with RTLS missions, F9 boosters are flying something between 1/4 and 1/5 of orbital speed.

Edit: Thanks for the correction, Mr LouScheffer !
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: LouScheffer on 05/02/2017 02:39 AM
Once the engine shuts down, gravity would be slowing the stage down 10m/s per second downward (10m/s²) but since the stage is flying horizontally at some good speed, that speed produces a centripetal force with fights gravity on its own.
Imagine if the stage were going at orbital velocity horizontally, that speed would be enough to cancel out gravity and keep it in orbit.
Half orbital speed would cancel half gravity.
1/4 orbital speed would cancel 1/4 gravity.
Centripetal acceleration goes like v^2/r, so half orbital speed cancels 1/4 gravity.  1/4 orbit speed cancels 1/16 gravity.

So for the speeds reached by the first stage, gravity cancellation is quite a minor effect.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: baldusi on 05/02/2017 02:40 AM
The fact that Ball contracted the flight might not mean much. They could be building the while thing, they could be building the bus and integrating a payload from a different manufacturer, they could be just integrators, or they might have the option because the lost some contract and were approached by the main contractor to sell the launch service.
What I wonder, is if they could do this only because they have the USAF certification.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: JMS on 05/02/2017 03:10 AM
Wow, there sure were some great close-ups of the returning booster - anybody notice that?

Yes... multiple times in both the UPDATES and DISCUSSION threads. And, yes, they are fantastic images.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Pete on 05/02/2017 04:15 AM
Once the engine shuts down, gravity would be slowing the stage down 10m/s per second downward (10m/s²) but since the stage is flying horizontally at some good speed, that speed produces a centripetal force with fights gravity on its own.
Imagine if the stage were going at orbital velocity horizontally, that speed would be enough to cancel out gravity and keep it in orbit.
Half orbital speed would cancel half gravity.
1/4 orbital speed would cancel 1/4 gravity.
Centripetal acceleration goes like v^2/r, so half orbital speed cancels 1/4 gravity.  1/4 orbit speed cancels 1/16 gravity.

So for the speeds reached by the first stage, gravity cancellation is quite a minor effect.

Interesting.
Due to Centripetal/centrifugal effect, the rocket "weighs" about 9% less, at start of boostback burn.
Due to altitude, the rocket "weighs" about 6% less, at apogee.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Lars-J on 05/02/2017 04:28 AM
Great Youtube footage with nice close-ups of the landing (Not my video)


33 seconds in is my favorite


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GoRKhH8J1YQ#t=75.629688 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GoRKhH8J1YQ#t=75.629688)

The best footage is from this new Instagram video posted by Elon:
https://www.instagram.com/p/BTjVdLVB1bO/
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: kevinof on 05/02/2017 08:31 AM
I watched this "live"  (aka youbube), have watched the video maybe 30 times since then and my jaw still drops.

This video from Elon is even better and you can see the flip and almost instant re-start of the S1 to get back home - It doesn't hang around. Then the falling S1 coming back in is just crazy. Anyone else yell out "legs,legs.." when watching it come into land live or is that just me. They seem to leave it very late (too late for my ticker anyway).

Wonderful stuff. Will never get old and never be the same again.


Great Youtube footage with nice close-ups of the landing (Not my video)


33 seconds in is my favorite


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GoRKhH8J1YQ#t=75.629688 (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GoRKhH8J1YQ#t=75.629688)

The best footage is from this new Instagram video posted by Elon:
https://www.instagram.com/p/BTjVdLVB1bO/
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Steven Pietrobon on 05/02/2017 10:59 AM
The best footage is from this new Instagram video posted by Elon:
https://www.instagram.com/p/BTjVdLVB1bO/

Here are the Instagram videos on Youtube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t5LaRxwepgc

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBdhuUp_GeI
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: kevinof on 05/02/2017 12:18 PM
Nice gimbal movement on the first video. Working hard.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: AncientU on 05/02/2017 01:04 PM
We've come a long way from reconstructing the landing footage of CRS-3, haven't we? :)

Congratulations to SpaceX on their first DoD flight and for a spectacular depiction of how our robot overlords will soon invade us. I, for one, welcome more simulations.

Nice reminder... CRS-3 was April 18, 2014. 
Three years to go from seemingly impossible to routine!
First half (1y8m) got us to first land landing -- now (1y4m later) a core has been reflown, a handful are scheduled this year, and landing is routine -- though not boring.  Final upgrade of F9 is being fab'd to incorporate lessons learned.
Brilliant test program. 

Naysayers... any last words?
(other than ULA's 'wet blanket/lost performance' comment yesterday at #ulcats)
Quote
Les Kovacs, ULA: want to throw a wet blanket on concept of reusability. Additional systems needed to land stages comes at cost of payload.

Edit: added Kovacs quote
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: gospacex on 05/02/2017 01:27 PM
Well, I learnt something today.

I was surprised that even though the main engine cut out at around 65km altitude, the booster gained more altitude AFTER main engine cut out than it had gained for the entire time that the engine was actually burning. This is obviously old news to you experts on the forum, but to me as a layman I just intuitively expected that altitude gains would stop pretty soon after the booster's engine cut out.

As it turns out, the booster engine cut out at 65km, but the 1st stage continued up to attain an altitude of 165km or so before it started falling back to Earth.

In hindsight it makes sense, as basic physics tells me that vertical speed would only decrease by 10m/s once the thrust disappeared, but it was interesting to see nevertheless. Normally we just see the 2nd stage altitude after MECO.
Once the engine shuts down, gravity would be slowing the stage down 10m/s per second downward (10m/s²)

After MECO and boostback, whatever slowdown gravity induces on the way up, will be again imparted by the same gravity on the way down. Essentially, if boostback thrust vector is strictly horizontal, the vertical component of velocity does not change, and when the stage arches up and then falls back and when it is at the same altitude as where boostback was done, the vertical component of velocity will be exactly the same, only now pointing down. (Since boostback is done at the altitude of 70km, air resistance is negligible).

Quote
but since the stage is flying horizontally at some good speed, that speed produces a centripetal force with fights gravity on its own.

In this flight, horizontal velocity component after boostback was only 290m/s. It's too low to induce significant centripetal force. (see 16:44 on the "NROL-76 Launch Webcast" youtube vid, when S1 reached the top of the return parabola).
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: su27k on 05/02/2017 01:31 PM
We've come a long way from reconstructing the landing footage of CRS-3, haven't we? :)

Congratulations to SpaceX on their first DoD flight and for a spectacular depiction of how our robot overlords will soon invade us. I, for one, welcome more simulations.

Nice reminder... CRS-3 was April 18, 2014. 
Three years to go from seemingly impossible to routine!
First half (1y8m) got us to first land landing -- now (1y4m later) a core has been reflown, a handful are scheduled this year, and landing is routine -- though not boring.  Final upgrade of F9 is being fab'd to incorporate lessons learned.
Brilliant test program. 

Naysayers... any last words?
(other than ULA's 'wet blanket/lost performance' comment yesterday at #ulcats)

All good except for the Elon TimeTM factor, if you look back at the interview after CRS-3, the plan was successful landing in 2014 and refly in 2015, so it took them twice as long to accomplish what they set out to do.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Welsh Dragon on 05/02/2017 01:35 PM
<snip>

Naysayers... any last words?
(other than ULA's 'wet blanket/lost performance' comment yesterday at #ulcats)
Technical naysayers should be shut up by now yes. Economical naysayers? Remains to be seen. I'm crossing all my appendages for it to work out financially as well, but we don't know yet.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Tuts36 on 05/02/2017 01:41 PM
We've come a long way from reconstructing the landing footage of CRS-3, haven't we? :)

Congratulations to SpaceX on their first DoD flight and for a spectacular depiction of how our robot overlords will soon invade us. I, for one, welcome more simulations.

Nice reminder... CRS-3 was April 18, 2014. 
Three years to go from seemingly impossible to routine!
First half (1y8m) got us to first land landing -- now (1y4m later) a core has been reflown, a handful are scheduled this year, and landing is routine -- though not boring.  Final upgrade of F9 is being fab'd to incorporate lessons learned.
Brilliant test program. 

Naysayers... any last words?
(other than ULA's 'wet blanket/lost performance' comment yesterday at #ulcats)

All good except for the Elon TimeTM factor, if you look back at the interview after CRS-3, the plan was successful landing in 2014 and refly in 2015, so it took them twice as long to accomplish what they set out to do.

I don't think his original timeline included the two RUD's.  If you took the resulting delays out, how close would his estimate have been?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: mme on 05/02/2017 02:01 PM
...
All good except for the Elon TimeTM factor, if you look back at the interview after CRS-3, the plan was successful landing in 2014 and refly in 2015, so it took them twice as long to accomplish what they set out to do.
I can't even imagine thinking that matters compared to the value of the actual accomplishments.  SpaceX would not exist if Elon Musk was not a slightly insane optimist.  It's a feature not a bug...

It reminds me of the Louis C.K. rant, " Everything Is Amazing And Nobody Is Happy."
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: gospacex on 05/02/2017 02:03 PM
All good except for the Elon TimeTM factor, if you look back at the interview after CRS-3, the plan was successful landing in 2014 and refly in 2015, so it took them twice as long to accomplish what they set out to do.

As opposed to, say, JWST schedule, or Constellation-nee-SLS schedule?
Allow me to remind you that first manned Ares I launch was supposed to happen in 2014.

Don't get me wrong, I also would prefer than everything SpaceX plans to do always happens exactly as planned, no delays of any sort. But the reality of aerospace is that all future dates are only NET, and usually slip.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: gospacex on 05/02/2017 02:06 PM
<snip>

Naysayers... any last words?
(other than ULA's 'wet blanket/lost performance' comment yesterday at #ulcats)
Technical naysayers should be shut up by now yes. Economical naysayers? Remains to be seen. I'm crossing all my appendages for it to work out financially as well, but we don't know yet.

There is a "naysayer roadmap" on the Internet for it :D

Falcon 1 is not proven
Contract with NASA is not proven
Falcon 9 is not proven
Dragon is not proven
ISS resupply is not proven
1st stage return is not proven
Barge landing is not proven
Reuse is not proven
=== You are here ===
Falcon Heavy is not proven
Economy of reuse is not proven
Dragon 2 is not proven
Crewed flights are not proven
Lunar flyby is not proven
Capsule propulsive landing is not proven
Red Dragon is not proven
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Welsh Dragon on 05/02/2017 02:12 PM
Yup entirely correct. I'm optimistic it'll all be ticked off soon enough, but I'm still a scientist. It's not true until I've observed it!
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: spacekid on 05/02/2017 02:19 PM
I have the longest boostback, at 45 seconds or longer, taking place during the CRS-9 flight, during which the first stage returned to LZ 1.  For some reason, a shorter 33 second burn was used for CRS-10, which also returned to LZ 1.  Both of these flights had a 141 second first stage MECO.

Didn't CRS-10 have a much higher lofted trajectory than CRS-9? If so,  less horizontal velocity and shorter distance to fly back. 2nd stage has to work a bit harder but as long as it has enough fuel, then that allows for a shorter burn for the boostback.

May require a longer re-entry burn due to heating issues (falling at a steeper angle, from higher altitude) if the heating level is a concern for multiple re-use or minimal refurbishment/parts replacement.

Took a quick look at Flight Club videos, MECO for CRS-9 seemed to be at about 58-58.5 km, CRS-10 at about 64 km.  I'm sure much better detailed info is available, but that seems to confirm a higher lofted trajectory
Viewing it from the Fla west coast, it went up much higher than a normal launch.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 05/02/2017 02:28 PM
Yup entirely correct. I'm optimistic it'll all be ticked off soon enough, but I'm still a scientist. It's not true until I've observed it!

All timescales in the space industry as in many others in my view should be treated with the upmost scepticism when it comes to big projects.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: whitelancer64 on 05/02/2017 02:44 PM
All good except for the Elon TimeTM factor, if you look back at the interview after CRS-3, the plan was successful landing in 2014 and refly in 2015, so it took them twice as long to accomplish what they set out to do.

I don't think his original timeline included the two RUD's.  If you took the resulting delays out, how close would his estimate have been?

From CRS-7 to RTF was 173 days. From Amos-6 to RTF was 133 days. Adds up to 306 days, almost exactly 10 months.

It's worth noting that no landing attempts with a chance of recovery happened in 2014, there were three "soft splashdowns" in the ocean. The first successful 1st stage recovery did happen in 2015, and it was the first launch after CRS-7. If not for Amos-6 I think it's reasonable to say we would have seen a reflown booster in 2016, it would probably still have been SES-10, late in the year.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: AncientU on 05/02/2017 02:58 PM
Yup entirely correct. I'm optimistic it'll all be ticked off soon enough, but I'm still a scientist. It's not true until I've observed it!

As another scientist, it isn't 'true' when you observe it... quantum mechanics aside.
You just have another data point that shows it has likely been true all along. 

I think we have sufficient data to avoid the knee jerk naysaying that assumes it is false (instead of unknown to us) until proven otherwise.  There aren't many data supporting this version of reuse being uneconomical (spreadsheets used to support your opinion are not data).
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Kansan52 on 05/02/2017 03:00 PM
Yup entirely correct. I'm optimistic it'll all be ticked off soon enough, but I'm still a scientist. It's not true until I've observed it!

All timescales in the space industry as in many others in my view should be treated with the upmost scepticism when it comes to big projects.

And if we had followed the time table of the Apollo days, the first Mars landing would have been in the 1980's. So I'm also in the camp of hope it happens but don't expect it to happen as quickly as Elon states.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: envy887 on 05/02/2017 03:01 PM
Yup entirely correct. I'm optimistic it'll all be ticked off soon enough, but I'm still a scientist. It's not true until I've observed it!

As another scientist, it isn't 'true' when you observe it... quantum mechanics aside.
You just have another data point that shows it has likely been true all along. 

I think we have sufficient data to avoid the knee jerk naysaying that assumes it is false (instead of unknown to us) until proven otherwise.  There aren't many data supporting this version of reuse being uneconomical (spreadsheets used to support your opinion are not data).

There is data supporting both opinions, but it's proprietary to the private companies that operate the vehicles that are the source of the data.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: AncientU on 05/02/2017 03:08 PM
There are flight data for only one of those 'opinions'(1)

(1) Equating an extensive flight test and demonstration program with a PowerPoint concept that won't fly for a decade is a bit disingenuous
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: edkyle99 on 05/02/2017 03:10 PM
Although Space-Track will never show orbits for the NROL 76 payload or its Falcon 9 second stage, it should list a "decay date" for the stage if and when it deorbits.  As of today it does not show a decay date, but these updates have sometimes proven to lag reality by a day or days.  Keeping an eye out.

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: AncientU on 05/02/2017 03:22 PM
Although Space-Track will never show orbits for the NROL 76 payload or its Falcon 9 second stage, it should list a "decay date" for the stage if and when it deorbits.  As of today it does not show a decay date, but these updates have sometimes proven to lag reality by a day or days.  Keeping an eye out.

 - Ed Kyle

Is there any chance the second stage could still be alive and planning de-orbit burn?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: andrewsdanj on 05/02/2017 03:49 PM
LEO mission so the 2nd stage should have deorbited before making a single orbit - into the danger area in the Indian ocean posted a ways back?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 05/02/2017 03:55 PM
LEO mission so the 2nd stage should have deorbited before making a single orbit - into the danger area in the Indian ocean posted a ways back?

You need L2 access.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: pospa on 05/02/2017 04:01 PM
Btw, Spaceflight 101 prepared nice graphs from 1st stage flight data. Speed, altitude, acceleration, vertical velocity vs. time with burns highlighted.
Here just speed vs. time plot, more here:  http://spaceflight101.com/falcon-9-nrol-76-flight-data/
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: andrewsdanj on 05/02/2017 04:02 PM
Oooooo might have to run that one past the wife... It does sound like there is mystery afoot.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: neoforce on 05/02/2017 04:03 PM
All good except for the Elon TimeTM factor, if you look back at the interview after CRS-3, the plan was successful landing in 2014 and refly in 2015, so it took them twice as long to accomplish what they set out to do.

Yeah, I agree that Elon Time is frustrating.  He always is two years late to being ten years early.     ;)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: edkyle99 on 05/02/2017 04:32 PM
LEO mission so the 2nd stage should have deorbited before making a single orbit - into the danger area in the Indian ocean posted a ways back?

You need L2 access.
Also, just look at the warning zones listed earlier in this thread.  They span more than the usual time for second stage reentry.  My guess was that the second stage was going to coast for a couple of orbits before trying for a deorbit burn.  I doubt very much that the stage is still alive now, more than 24 hours after liftoff, if it is still up there at all.

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Wolfram66 on 05/02/2017 04:57 PM
LEO mission so the 2nd stage should have deorbited before making a single orbit - into the danger area in the Indian ocean posted a ways back?

You need L2 access.
Also, just look at the warning zones listed earlier in this thread.  They span more than the usual time for second stage reentry.  My guess was that the second stage was going to coast for a couple of orbits before trying for a deorbit burn.  I doubt very much that the stage is still alive now, more than 24 hours after liftoff, if it is still up there at all.

 - Ed Kyle

There could have been ride share CubeSats that S2 deployed. I believe the planned de-orbit was planned for orbit 3. saw that somewhere on NSF...
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 05/02/2017 05:05 PM
And what the payload could have been is speculated on here in this new article that rounds up the available information.

https://spaceflightnow.com/2017/05/01/spacex-successfully-boosts-top-secret-u-s-government-into-space/
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Lar on 05/02/2017 06:40 PM
There could have been ride share CubeSats that S2 deployed. I believe the planned de-orbit was planned for orbit 3. saw that somewhere on NSF...

I might be missing something but wouldn't the NRO not be very keen on rideshares? My expectation was zero cubesats, as their orbits might give away info about the primary bird.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Wolfram66 on 05/02/2017 06:44 PM
There could have been ride share CubeSats that S2 deployed. I believe the planned de-orbit was planned for orbit 3. saw that somewhere on NSF...

I might be missing something but wouldn't the NRO not be very keen on rideshares? My expectation was zero cubesats, as their orbits might give away info about the primary bird.

unless the cubesats were NRO's and are testbed for future technologies.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: AncientU on 05/02/2017 06:49 PM
There could have been ride share CubeSats that S2 deployed. I believe the planned de-orbit was planned for orbit 3. saw that somewhere on NSF...

I might be missing something but wouldn't the NRO not be very keen on rideshares? My expectation was zero cubesats, as their orbits might give away info about the primary bird.

unless the cubesats were NRO's and are testbed for future technologies.

Only two targets identified from launch, so single spacecraft is most likely.

The Lewis and Clark patch theme may indicate the NRO is exploring new territory (technologies) on this spacecraft, though.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Lar on 05/02/2017 06:49 PM
There could have been ride share CubeSats that S2 deployed. I believe the planned de-orbit was planned for orbit 3. saw that somewhere on NSF...

I might be missing something but wouldn't the NRO not be very keen on rideshares? My expectation was zero cubesats, as their orbits might give away info about the primary bird.

unless the cubesats were NRO's and are testbed for future technologies.

Point. In which case we may never know.... no announcement, no orbital elements, nothing.

Want to keep a really big secret? Wrap it in outer layers of secrets that are themselves hard to penetrate and not necessarily relevant/related. Include some false secrets too...  (see "Footfall" for a plot device example of that)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: DreamyPickle on 05/02/2017 06:51 PM
There is a "naysayer roadmap" on the Internet for it :D

Falcon 1 is not proven
Contract with NASA is not proven
Falcon 9 is not proven
Dragon is not proven
ISS resupply is not proven
1st stage return is not proven
Barge landing is not proven
Reuse is not proven
=== You are here ===
Falcon Heavy is not proven
Economy of reuse is not proven
Dragon 2 is not proven
Crewed flights are not proven
Lunar flyby is not proven
Capsule propulsive landing is not proven
Red Dragon is not proven

An interesting note about this is that "Economy of reuse is not proven" is pretty much non-falsifiable. SpaceX has already reused a rocket without going bankrupt and they claim to be profitable. What more can they prove?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: AncientU on 05/02/2017 07:06 PM
That they are still in business and growing their market share when they are launching a reused booster every week or two.*  When they were only launching a few per year, some were claiming they were losing over a hundred million per launch.  Can't do that launching monthly.

* Of course, by then it's too late if you are the competition betting against the economics...
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Mike_1179 on 05/02/2017 07:09 PM

An interesting note about this is that "Economy of reuse is not proven" is pretty much non-falsifiable. SpaceX has already reused a rocket without going bankrupt and they claim to be profitable. What more can they prove?


That it costs less to reuse a stage given the payload you have to sacrifice than to just build a new one. This includes the recurring costs of refurbishing stages - if a one-off was able to get done because tons of people worked 80 hour weeks without overtime, that is not necessarily sustainable.

I'm not suggesting that many people had to put in lots of hours unpaid which they wouldn't be willing to do every week, but that's one reason why they haven't shown its financially feasible yet.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Lars-J on 05/02/2017 07:12 PM
We might be drifting off the NROL-76 topic...  :) Economy of reuse (proven or not) talk should probably go to the SpaceX reuse sub-forum.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: whitelancer64 on 05/02/2017 07:18 PM
There is a "naysayer roadmap" on the Internet for it :D

Falcon 1 is not proven
Contract with NASA is not proven
Falcon 9 is not proven
Dragon is not proven
ISS resupply is not proven
1st stage return is not proven
Barge landing is not proven
Reuse is not proven
=== You are here ===
Falcon Heavy is not proven
Economy of reuse is not proven
Dragon 2 is not proven
Crewed flights are not proven
Lunar flyby is not proven
Capsule propulsive landing is not proven
Red Dragon is not proven

An interesting note about this is that "Economy of reuse is not proven" is pretty much non-falsifiable. SpaceX has already reused a rocket without going bankrupt and they claim to be profitable. What more can they prove?

The question is not "Is SpaceX profitable?"

Elon Musk has said they spent about a billion dollars developing recovery and reuse. So that needs to be recovered before they are making money with reuse. How long that takes depends on how much they discount the rockets for launch and how much it costs to refurbish them for the next launch. The issue boils down to the question - when do they make more money by reusing rockets than they spent on making them reusable?

An additional facet of this is "how much of your capabilities have you intentionally sacrificed to make your rocket reusable?" which is what ULA has been asking. There is a big gap between the expendable capabilities of the Falcon 9 compared to the capabilities it has when it's landing again.

IOW, how much money could you have made by simply using the maximum capabilities of your rocket? This is why ULA likes the idea of just recovering the engines with a parachute, it puts much less of a dent in the maximum capability of the rocket.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: kevin-rf on 05/02/2017 07:31 PM

Point. In which case we may never know.... no announcement, no orbital elements, nothing.

Want to keep a really big secret? Wrap it in outer layers of secrets that are themselves hard to penetrate and not necessarily relevant/related. Include some false secrets too...  (see "Footfall" for a plot device example of that)

This one will be hard for amateur observers to track, Basically no one north of London will ever see it. Especially if it's sun sync such that it's always at it's highest latitude during the day. You'll have to be pretty far south to get a glimpse of it at night. Might just rule out it ever being spotted by many of the usual people who make it a habit of  tracking these birds.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Coastal Ron on 05/02/2017 08:08 PM
The issue boils down to the question - when do they make more money by reusing rockets than they spent on making them reusable?

...

IOW, how much money could you have made by simply using the maximum capabilities of your rocket?

You have to look at the ROI over the life of the product, not just the first couple of years.  So if it were to take SpaceX 5 years to recoup their initial investment in reusability, that would leave many more years of competitive advantage for them in the marketplace.

Quote
This is why ULA likes the idea of just recovering the engines with a parachute, it puts much less of a dent in the maximum capability of the rocket.

ULA has stated Vulcan won't be reusable when it becomes operational, so no one knows how many years (decades) it would be until they implement it.  In the mean time SpaceX should have recouped their investment in reusability by the time Vulcan launches, and will already be discounting their launch services based on being profitable at much lower prices.  Far lower than what ULA will be able to offer.

And at that point, who cares if SpaceX is not maximizing the capabilities of their launch vehicles on every launch?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Lar on 05/02/2017 09:10 PM
General reuse economics go in other threads. I'm lazy so might not move your posts, just aetherize them.  It'd be a shame if that happened to such nice posts. Capiche?

PS: You should buy some of Abby's art, she's really good... that's her Merlin the spy...
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Antares on 05/02/2017 09:12 PM
Odd that I didn't spot any military bods in mission control for an NRO launch. Did Space X keep them out the way somewhere to keep the cool image going.
I'm sure the "military bods" were monitoring from a SCIF.  Too bad, they were probably focused on their payload during that amazing 1st-stage recovery video.

Do you see them in the control rooms for Delta and Atlas NRO launches?  Are there NASA types visible in SpaceX control rooms for Dragon launches?  Why would you need to send LV data to a SCIF?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: sanman on 05/02/2017 10:06 PM
Wow, there sure were some great close-ups of the returning booster - anybody notice that?

Yes... multiple times in both the UPDATES and DISCUSSION threads. And, yes, they are fantastic images.

How come such amazing camera work this time around? Any chance we'll see nice close-ups like that from now on? Or does it get special love because it's for NRO? It really does look awe-inspiring to see it such closer detail when it's coming down like that - flames and all!
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: tvg98 on 05/02/2017 10:11 PM
Wow, there sure were some great close-ups of the returning booster - anybody notice that?

Yes... multiple times in both the UPDATES and DISCUSSION threads. And, yes, they are fantastic images.

How come such amazing camera work this time around? Any chance we'll see nice close-ups like that from now on? Or does it get special love because it's for NRO? It really does look awe-inspiring to see it such closer detail when it's coming down like that - flames and all!

We got great views mainly because:

1- It was daytime.
2- It was not too cloudy
3- Focus on first stage due to nature of the mission


I hope they keep this up, and if we're lucky we'll see this again with CRS-11.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: manoweb on 05/02/2017 10:28 PM
Also it was likely a light payload, early MECO, RTLS, so it was visible by the antennas for the whole time... on a hot GTO launch it may not be possible with the same setup.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: sanman on 05/02/2017 11:13 PM
Okay, so RTLS is a prerequisite for nice close-ups like that, because they likely wouldn't be able to get such a good view from out at sea?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: pb2000 on 05/02/2017 11:40 PM
Maybe the NRO was ground testing a new optical tracking system and figured they'd hide the test in plain sight.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: georgegassaway on 05/02/2017 11:52 PM
Quote
Les Kovacs, ULA: want to throw a wet blanket on concept of reusability. Additional systems needed to land stages comes at cost of payload.

Want to throw a wet blanket on Kovacs’ shortsighted biased comment. Build the vehicle with 10-15% extra payload capacity beyond most industry needs, then use that extra capacity whenever practical to re-use the rocket. Rocket costs a bit more to build ONCE* than an expendable that’s maxed-out but you don't have to build a new one for every launch.

Uh, does his comment mean Kovacs is not onboard with ULA’s Vulcan? Even returning “parts” of  a rocket for re-use also comes at cost of payload.  #disingenuous  #illogical Vulcan

* - All things being equal it would cost a bit more. But SpaceX is beating ULA's costs even when Falcons are flown as expendables
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: AncientU on 05/03/2017 12:08 AM
Quote
Les Kovacs, ULA: want to throw a wet blanket on concept of reusability. Additional systems needed to land stages comes at cost of payload.

Want to throw a wet blanket on Kovacs’ shortsighted biased comment. Build the vehicle with 10-15% extra payload capacity beyond most industry needs, then use that extra capacity whenever practical to re-use the rocket. Rocket costs a bit more to build ONCE* than an expendable that’s maxed-out but you don't have to build a new one for every launch.

Uh, does his comment mean Kovacs is not onboard with ULA’s Vulcan? Even returning “parts” of  a rocket for re-use also comes at cost of payload.  #disingenuous  #illogical Vulcan

* - All things being equal it would cost a bit more. But SpaceX is beating ULA's costs even when Falcons are flown as expendables

So, NRO only got 70% of its payload delivered?  What about the next guy to use 1032 -- does he get zero percent?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jcc on 05/03/2017 12:15 AM
There is a "naysayer roadmap" on the Internet for it :D

Falcon 1 is not proven
Contract with NASA is not proven
Falcon 9 is not proven
Dragon is not proven
ISS resupply is not proven
1st stage return is not proven
Barge landing is not proven
Reuse is not proven
=== You are here ===
Falcon Heavy is not proven
Economy of reuse is not proven
Dragon 2 is not proven
Crewed flights are not proven
Lunar flyby is not proven
Capsule propulsive landing is not proven
Red Dragon is not proven

An interesting note about this is that "Economy of reuse is not proven" is pretty much non-falsifiable. SpaceX has already reused a rocket without going bankrupt and they claim to be profitable. What more can they prove?

The question is not "Is SpaceX profitable?"

Elon Musk has said they spent about a billion dollars developing recovery and reuse. So that needs to be recovered before they are making money with reuse. How long that takes depends on how much they discount the rockets for launch and how much it costs to refurbish them for the next launch. The issue boils down to the question - when do they make more money by reusing rockets than they spent on making them reusable?

An additional facet of this is "how much of your capabilities have you intentionally sacrificed to make your rocket reusable?" which is what ULA has been asking. There is a big gap between the expendable capabilities of the Falcon 9 compared to the capabilities it has when it's landing again.

IOW, how much money could you have made by simply using the maximum capabilities of your rocket? This is why ULA likes the idea of just recovering the engines with a parachute, it puts much less of a dent in the maximum capability of the rocket.

Yes this is ULA's argument. What they are not mentioning is the fact that it would cost ULA much more than it cost SpaceX to do a fully reusable S1, first because they use one big engine instead of 9 small ones so using the center engine to land is not an option. They would need a complete redesign and new small landing engines in addition to their main engine. At least that might help them do away with the solids in some cases. Second, their parent companies and stockholders would not approve a multi-billion dollar budget, or even 1 billion to spend on reusability. So, attempting to reuse the main engine on Vulcan is the best they can hope to do realistically, if that.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: sanman on 05/03/2017 12:19 AM
Maybe the NRO was ground testing a new optical tracking system and figured they'd hide the test in plain sight.

If that's the case, then Musk should offer them a discount in exchange for being able to make use of their tracking technology - because it sure does provide a new level of thrill to spectators. Besides, it could probably come in handy for debugging/investigation if flight anomalies (eg.RUDs) occur in the future.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Lars-J on 05/03/2017 12:29 AM
Okay, so RTLS is a prerequisite for nice close-ups like that, because they likely wouldn't be able to get such a good view from out at sea?

Correct. Unless you have a tracking ship out there with a very stabilized telescope platform.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: cppetrie on 05/03/2017 02:24 AM
Okay, so RTLS is a prerequisite for nice close-ups like that, because they likely wouldn't be able to get such a good view from out at sea?

Correct. Unless you have a tracking ship out there with a very stabilized telescope platform.
Yep. It's because of the curvature of the earth. Even under the best conditions you can only see about 22 miles away because the earth curves down and away and things beyond that get hidden by the horizon. The ASDS is "catching" the returning first stages from a couple hundred miles off the coast. They could track the first stage for most of the decent but the landing could not be imaged using the camera system installed at the cape. You'd need a second system near the ASDS which would be able to image the launch until the rocket cleared the horizon plus then you have to try and stabilize the position making platform at sea which is no easy task. Not impossible. It's something akin to stabilizing the main gun barrel of an Abrams tank while it drives at full speed, which it can do. But it isn't 'easy'.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Sam Ho on 05/03/2017 03:42 AM
There could have been ride share CubeSats that S2 deployed. I believe the planned de-orbit was planned for orbit 3. saw that somewhere on NSF...

I might be missing something but wouldn't the NRO not be very keen on rideshares? My expectation was zero cubesats, as their orbits might give away info about the primary bird.

unless the cubesats were NRO's and are testbed for future technologies.

Point. In which case we may never know.... no announcement, no orbital elements, nothing.

Want to keep a really big secret? Wrap it in outer layers of secrets that are themselves hard to penetrate and not necessarily relevant/related. Include some false secrets too...  (see "Footfall" for a plot device example of that)

The NRO is actually a big fan of rideshares. They sponsored the development of the Centaur Aft Bulkhead Carrier.

The Atlas V Aft Bulkhead Carrier Update – Past Missions, Upcoming Launches and Future Improvements (http://www.ulalaunch.com/uploads/docs/Published_Papers/Rideshare/The_Atlas_V_Aft_Bulkhead_Carrier_Update_-_Past_Missions_Upcoming_-_2015.pdf) (2015)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: hrissan on 05/03/2017 03:53 AM

Point. In which case we may never know.... no announcement, no orbital elements, nothing.

Want to keep a really big secret? Wrap it in outer layers of secrets that are themselves hard to penetrate and not necessarily relevant/related. Include some false secrets too...  (see "Footfall" for a plot device example of that)

This one will be hard for amateur observers to track, Basically no one north of London will ever see it. Especially if it's sun sync such that it's always at it's highest latitude during the day. You'll have to be pretty far south to get a glimpse of it at night. Might just rule out it ever being spotted by many of the usual people who make it a habit of  tracking these birds.
A bunch of professionals, with secret capabilities of course :) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Space_Intelligence_Centre

1. "We pretend no one can detect our bird" 2. "We pretend we did not detect your bird" 3.... 4. Profit!
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: rsdavis9 on 05/03/2017 10:11 AM
You'd need a second system near the ASDS which would be able to image the launch until the rocket cleared the horizon plus then you have to try and stabilize the position making platform at sea which is no easy task. Not impossible. It's something akin to stabilizing the main gun barrel of an Abrams tank while it drives at full speed, which it can do. But it isn't 'easy'.

for one of the launches about 2 years ago there were 1 or 2 nasa ships in portsmouth nh with big optics on board and I asked them when I kayaked by them what they were doing and they said trying to grab photos of the spacex launch. I'm pretty sure they had some kind of active stabilization.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: gospacex on 05/03/2017 10:47 AM
Elon Musk has said they spent about a billion dollars developing recovery and reuse. So that needs to be recovered before they are making money with reuse. How long that takes depends on how much they discount the rockets for launch and how much it costs to refurbish them for the next launch. The issue boils down to the question - when do they make more money by reusing rockets than they spent on making them reusable?

An additional facet of this is "how much of your capabilities have you intentionally sacrificed to make your rocket reusable?" which is what ULA has been asking.

Which is a bogus question.

Payload has a fixed mass. You get paid for orbiting this payload. Any extra performance you have over this weight on this flight would not earn you a single extra dollar.
If you can orbit the payload of this fixed mass and land the stage, you "sacrificed" nothing for reusing this state.
If you can orbit the payload of this fixed mass only by expending the stage, you are no worse than your competitors who do not have reuse option at all.

ULA are not stupid, they know this too. They are just not yet resigned to accept the new reality.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: satwatcher on 05/03/2017 11:28 AM
This one will be hard for amateur observers to track, Basically no one north of London will ever see it. Especially if it's sun sync such that it's always at it's highest latitude during the day. You'll have to be pretty far south to get a glimpse of it at night. Might just rule out it ever being spotted by many of the usual people who make it a habit of  tracking these birds.

Don't be too pessimistic. Most of the active observers are at latitudes South of London. And since it is not in a Sun synchronous orbit, it will precess into evening/morning visibility for both hemispheres throughout the year, just like ISS does. Already at the end of May the nominal orbital plane will be at high Beta angle and and parallel to the terminator, meaning visibility from the Northern hemisphere for the entire night, allowing for NROL-76 search marathons. So chances are high it will be spotted sooner rather than later.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Sam Ho on 05/03/2017 12:31 PM
Elon Musk has said they spent about a billion dollars developing recovery and reuse. So that needs to be recovered before they are making money with reuse. How long that takes depends on how much they discount the rockets for launch and how much it costs to refurbish them for the next launch. The issue boils down to the question - when do they make more money by reusing rockets than they spent on making them reusable?

An additional facet of this is "how much of your capabilities have you intentionally sacrificed to make your rocket reusable?" which is what ULA has been asking.

Which is a bogus question.

Payload has a fixed mass. You get paid for orbiting this payload. Any extra performance you have over this weight on this flight would not earn you a single extra dollar.
If you can orbit the payload of this fixed mass and land the stage, you "sacrificed" nothing for reusing this state.
If you can orbit the payload of this fixed mass only by expending the stage, you are no worse than your competitors who do not have reuse option at all.

ULA are not stupid, they know this too. They are just not yet resigned to accept the new reality.

That's far too general of a statement. You most certainly can get paid for excess performance, notably by taking rideshares, or, if the payload makes further orbital changes, say by going to GEO, by giving the payload a better insertion orbit.

In any case, we are drifting from the topic of this thread, which is NROL-76. The relevant question here would be whether there were rideshares on this flight, and if so, what effect that had on the decision to do a RTLS. The answer to the second question is most likely not much.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: envy887 on 05/03/2017 01:17 PM
Elon Musk has said they spent about a billion dollars developing recovery and reuse. So that needs to be recovered before they are making money with reuse. How long that takes depends on how much they discount the rockets for launch and how much it costs to refurbish them for the next launch. The issue boils down to the question - when do they make more money by reusing rockets than they spent on making them reusable?

An additional facet of this is "how much of your capabilities have you intentionally sacrificed to make your rocket reusable?" which is what ULA has been asking.

Which is a bogus question.

Payload has a fixed mass. You get paid for orbiting this payload. Any extra performance you have over this weight on this flight would not earn you a single extra dollar.
If you can orbit the payload of this fixed mass and land the stage, you "sacrificed" nothing for reusing this state.
If you can orbit the payload of this fixed mass only by expending the stage, you are no worse than your competitors who do not have reuse option at all.

ULA are not stupid, they know this too. They are just not yet resigned to accept the new reality.

Please take the reuse economics to the proper thread. See my response here:
https://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=40377.msg1674068#msg1674068
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: spacekid on 05/03/2017 07:47 PM
Maybe the NRO was ground testing a new optical tracking system and figured they'd hide the test in plain sight.

If that's the case, then Musk should offer them a discount in exchange for being able to make use of their tracking technology - because it sure does provide a new level of thrill to spectators. Besides, it could probably come in handy for debugging/investigation if flight anomalies (eg.RUDs) occur in the future.
These tracking cameras have been around a long time. Check out a shuttle launch video replay. More likely, Musk didn't want to pay for them. In this case, NRO probably payed for it. There's also more video they took that you didn't see like of the payload when the fairing came off.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: abaddon on 05/03/2017 07:55 PM
These views aren't new, even for SpaceX.  Check out 0:37 & 0:50 (CRS-9) and 0:56 (OG-2 M2) for some examples that should look familiar.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DKqY8sy3nkM
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: darkenfast on 05/03/2017 08:30 PM
A couple of the earlier Falcon 9 launches showed spectacular footage on days when the atmospheric conditions  were really good for the higher magnification trackers.  It varies from launch to launch.  Perhaps Jim can tell us if those cameras are always used for launches from CCAFS/KSC or if they are now an optional extra charge.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: kevin-rf on 05/04/2017 12:57 AM

Don't be too pessimistic. Most of the active observers are at latitudes South of London. And since it is not in a Sun synchronous orbit, it will precess into evening/morning visibility for both hemispheres throughout the year, just like ISS does. Already at the end of May the nominal orbital plane will be at high Beta angle and and parallel to the terminator, meaning visibility from the Northern hemisphere for the entire night, allowing for NROL-76 search marathons. So chances are high it will be spotted sooner rather than later.

After looking up the nominal altitude for a 51 degree sun synchronous orbit, I concede the point. 4000ish km is a tad high for the the assumed optical payload.

I will say, that the clouds have been bad on the east coast this week, and seesat had been pretty quiet. I look forward to being proven wrong.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Ben the Space Brit on 05/04/2017 12:22 PM
I'm guessing that attempting to 'stealth' a spacecraft with low-optical reflectivity material would be counter-productive as it would greatly increase the internal heating from sunlight.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: LouScheffer on 05/04/2017 01:01 PM
I'm guessing that attempting to 'stealth' a spacecraft with low-optical reflectivity material would be counter-productive as it would greatly increase the internal heating from sunlight.
A black satellite introduces no huge thermal problems.  It absorbs a lot of sunlight, but it's also a very good emitter, so it balances out.

Another approach is to cover the spacecraft with a mirror, or mirrors, that re-direct the line of sight from Earth into space.

These and other approaches are summarized in the  A Stealth Satellite Sourcebook (https://fas.org/spp/military/program/track/stealth.pdf), an open summary of what is known or suspected about space stealth.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Skyrocket on 05/04/2017 03:23 PM
I'm guessing that attempting to 'stealth' a spacecraft with low-optical reflectivity material would be counter-productive as it would greatly increase the internal heating from sunlight.
A black satellite introduces no huge thermal problems.  It absorbs a lot of sunlight, but it's also a very good emitter, so it balances out.

Another approach is to cover the spacecraft with a mirror, or mirrors, that re-direct the line of sight from Earth into space.

These and other approaches are summarized in the  A Stealth Satellite Sourcebook (https://fas.org/spp/military/program/track/stealth.pdf), an open summary of what is known or suspected about space stealth.

A black satellite will appear very bright in infra-red in front of the cold space, so this is not a good way for stealth. The known stealth satellite attempts (eg LES 8 ) appear to have used the mirror concept.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: LouScheffer on 05/04/2017 03:57 PM
I'm guessing that attempting to 'stealth' a spacecraft with low-optical reflectivity material would be counter-productive as it would greatly increase the internal heating from sunlight.
A black satellite introduces no huge thermal problems.  It absorbs a lot of sunlight, but it's also a very good emitter, so it balances out.

Another approach is to cover the spacecraft with a mirror, or mirrors, that re-direct the line of sight from Earth into space.

These and other approaches are summarized in the  A Stealth Satellite Sourcebook (https://fas.org/spp/military/program/track/stealth.pdf), an open summary of what is known or suspected about space stealth.

A black satellite will appear very bright in infra-red in front of the cold space, so this is not a good way for stealth. The known stealth satellite attempts (eg LES 8 ) appear to have used the mirror concept.
Researchers have used fancy materials to get radiative cooling during the daytime by enhancing the emissivity in atmospheric windows.  Perhaps for stealth you could do the opposite, making a material that radiates only in the wavelengths where the atmosphere is opaque.  This would allow it to cool while still being hard to spot from the ground.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Lars-J on 05/04/2017 05:47 PM
I'm guessing that attempting to 'stealth' a spacecraft with low-optical reflectivity material would be counter-productive as it would greatly increase the internal heating from sunlight.
A black satellite introduces no huge thermal problems.  It absorbs a lot of sunlight, but it's also a very good emitter, so it balances out.

Another approach is to cover the spacecraft with a mirror, or mirrors, that re-direct the line of sight from Earth into space.

These and other approaches are summarized in the  A Stealth Satellite Sourcebook (https://fas.org/spp/military/program/track/stealth.pdf), an open summary of what is known or suspected about space stealth.

A black satellite will appear very bright in infra-red in front of the cold space, so this is not a good way for stealth. The known stealth satellite attempts (eg LES 8 ) appear to have used the mirror concept.
Researchers have used fancy materials to get radiative cooling during the daytime by enhancing the emissivity in atmospheric windows.  Perhaps for stealth you could do the opposite, making a material that radiates only in the wavelengths where the atmosphere is opaque.  This would allow it to cool while still being hard to spot from the ground.

Or you could use a simpler approach... Black earth facing side, and a high emmisive/radiating surface facing away from earth.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: gosnold on 05/04/2017 05:56 PM
I'm guessing that attempting to 'stealth' a spacecraft with low-optical reflectivity material would be counter-productive as it would greatly increase the internal heating from sunlight.
A black satellite introduces no huge thermal problems.  It absorbs a lot of sunlight, but it's also a very good emitter, so it balances out.

Another approach is to cover the spacecraft with a mirror, or mirrors, that re-direct the line of sight from Earth into space.

These and other approaches are summarized in the  A Stealth Satellite Sourcebook (https://fas.org/spp/military/program/track/stealth.pdf), an open summary of what is known or suspected about space stealth.

A black satellite will appear very bright in infra-red in front of the cold space, so this is not a good way for stealth. The known stealth satellite attempts (eg LES 8 ) appear to have used the mirror concept.
Researchers have used fancy materials to get radiative cooling during the daytime by enhancing the emissivity in atmospheric windows.  Perhaps for stealth you could do the opposite, making a material that radiates only in the wavelengths where the atmosphere is opaque.  This would allow it to cool while still being hard to spot from the ground.

Or you could use a simpler approach... Black earth facing side, and a high emmisive/radiating surface facing away from earth.

You could even have a black (in optical bands) and actively cooled Earth side, mirrors/faceted MLI on the side to reflect sunlight away from observers, and a radiator on the side opposite to the Earth.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: zubenelgenubi on 05/08/2017 03:50 PM
One week after launch, and the amateur satellite observing community has not yet announced tracking USA 276.
(no slight to them)

It would be handy if there was a list of the intervals between launch and amateur identification for classified American/allied satellites launched in recent years.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: kevin-rf on 05/08/2017 04:13 PM
One week after launch, and the amateur satellite observing community has not yet announced tracking USA 276.
(no slight to them)

It would be handy if there was a list of the intervals between launch and amateur identification for classified American/allied satellites launched in recent years.
The amateur community tag most within a few days...

I suspect the nature of it's assumed initial orbit makes it difficult to track. As launched, it was launched in the morning to the ascending node. That means as launched the ground track for northern observers is during the day, while southern (below the equator) observers will currently see it at night. The 51 degree inclination also rules out active in South Africa ever getting a good view. It also makes it impossible for people north of London, and difficult but not impossible in Toronto. 

As predicted upthread, it will be a couple of weeks before the orbit should precess  enough for northern observers get a good crack at it.

We will most likely see an announcement on SeeSat as soon as it's found.
http://www.satobs.org/seesat/May-2017/index.html
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: kevin-rf on 05/10/2017 02:49 PM
Interesting low possibility being floated by Ted Molczan on an unidentified seen Monday by Ron Coursen in the general vicinity of ISS. In bold is the last part where he is far from convinced this is USA 276.

http://www.satobs.org/seesat/May-2017/0040.html

Quote
From: Ted Molczan via Seesat-l <seesat-l_at_satobs.org>
Date: Tue, 9 May 2017 17:29:25 -0400
Ron asked:

> Did anyone figure out what the unidentified object was trailing along with
> ISS I observed on Monday Morning?

Several of us have been discussing your mystery object off-list, aided by the additional information that you provided.
I caution that the following is very preliminary and could prove to be without merit.

It does not appear to be any object that we know. NROL-76 launched into a plane that was in the vicinity of ISS. It
probably did not target the orbit of ISS, but as Cees Bassa pointed out, since ISS is a popular target, its close
proximity to that orbit could result in serendipitous sightings.

If your mystery object is related to NROL-76, then its plane is quite a bit west of where it would have been expected,
based on the circumstances of the launch. I have been experimenting with various orbits that could fit your sighting and
correlate with NROL-76.

Something around 48 deg inclination seems to fit. To align with the RAAN of ISS would have required a large manoeuvre
near the northern or southern apex of the orbit, which appears to be within the capability of the launch vehicle, with a
substantial payload. Interestingly, the resulting orbit would have roughly matched the plane of the stage 2 de-orbit
trajectory, implied by the time, location and orientation of the NOTAM co-ordinates.

Below are a few approximate orbits that closely approximate your sighting:

                                                         328 X 335 km
1 74401U          17128.36666670  .00000000  00000-0  00000-0 0    08
2 74401  48.0000 230.8000 0005000 209.7698 205.8000 15.80000000    08
                                                         357 X 363 km
1 74402U          17128.36666669  .00000000  00000-0  00000-0 0    07
2 74402  48.0000 231.2000 0005000 209.7698 205.4000 15.70000000    09
                                                         412 X 418 km
1 74403U          17128.36666668  .00000000  00000-0  00000-0 0    07
2 74403  48.0000 231.9700 0005000 209.7698 204.3674 15.50980000    04

The 74401 orbit would have been near eclipse at the time of your sighting, so it is the approximate lower bound of
altitude.

I am far from confident that your mystery object is related to NROL-76, but it seems a possibility.

Ted Molczan

Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: kevin-rf on 05/24/2017 02:14 PM
Since Star One asked on the updates thread and immediately got thumped.

Here is Ted Molczan's TLE from Leo Barhorst's  data. Star One, go up one post and you can compare the search TLE's with the current rough TLE.

http://www.satobs.org/seesat/May-2017/0112.html

Quote
The following elements are derived from Leo Barhorst's observations of early 2017 May 24 UTC:

USA 276                                                  398 X 401 km
1 42689U 17022A   17144.06548369  .00000000  00000-0  00000-0 0    02
2 42689  49.9572 164.5366 0001907 186.7642 173.3300 15.56136012    06
Arc 20170524.02-0524.08 WRMS resid 0.044 totl 0.009 xtrk

The arc is short, so this solution is approximate, but it should be adequate to reacquire the object tonight and
tomorrow.

Ted Molczan
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: edkyle99 on 05/24/2017 02:14 PM
400 km x 50 deg reported on the SeeSat group. 
http://satobs.org/seesat/May-2017/0108.html
https://twitter.com/planet4589/status/867225945727434752
Seems likely to be technology demonstration.  50 deg inclination misses most of Russia, for example, so not a typical NRO observation type orbit.

 - Ed Kyle 
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: kevin-rf on 05/24/2017 02:47 PM
50 degrees does cover all of the mid east, North Korea, and China.
 
Actually with the exception of Canada, Most of Russia, Northern Europe, and a bit of Southern Chile/Argentina it pretty much covers the entire world. In some cases, when the orbital mechanics work out, you might get two visits a day.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 05/24/2017 02:59 PM
Since Star One asked on the updates thread and immediately got thumped.

Here is Ted Molczan's TLE from Leo Barhorst's  data. Star One, go up one post and you can compare the search TLE's with the current rough TLE.

http://www.satobs.org/seesat/May-2017/0112.html

Quote
The following elements are derived from Leo Barhorst's observations of early 2017 May 24 UTC:

USA 276                                                  398 X 401 km
1 42689U 17022A   17144.06548369  .00000000  00000-0  00000-0 0    02
2 42689  49.9572 164.5366 0001907 186.7642 173.3300 15.56136012    06
Arc 20170524.02-0524.08 WRMS resid 0.044 totl 0.009 xtrk

The arc is short, so this solution is approximate, but it should be adequate to reacquire the object tonight and
tomorrow.

Ted Molczan
Thank you for that's most helpful. Sounds more optical reconnaissance than radar in that kind of orbit.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: kevin-rf on 05/24/2017 04:47 PM
Thank you for that's most helpful. Sounds more optical reconnaissance than radar in that kind of orbit.
We are also assuming it is looking down or doing something we already understand...
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 05/24/2017 04:48 PM
Thank you for that's most helpful. Sounds more optical reconnaissance than radar in that kind of orbit.
We are also assuming it is looking down or doing something we already understand...

You think it's a technology demonstrator for something else then.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: kevin-rf on 05/24/2017 05:26 PM
You think it's a technology demonstrator for something else then.
I think until people observe it for a while, does it flare, does it tumble, how is it's station keeping, anyone detect emmissions, ect. We can't know... honestly, it is completely out of family for anything the NRO has done to date. 

Honestly, the only thing (DOD related) that has gone to a similar orbit is the X-37 and for some reason, I doubt it's an X-37.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: cppetrie on 05/24/2017 08:07 PM
You think it's a technology demonstrator for something else then.
Honestly, the only thing (DOD related) that has gone to a similar orbit is the X-37 and for some reason, I doubt it's an X-37.
Interesting. Is it possible a previous X-37 flight carried the technology demonstrator in its cargo bay and now they have launched the real deal to a similar orbit?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 05/24/2017 08:08 PM
You think it's a technology demonstrator for something else then.
Honestly, the only thing (DOD related) that has gone to a similar orbit is the X-37 and for some reason, I doubt it's an X-37.
Interesting. Is it possible a previous X-37 flight carried the technology demonstrator in its cargo bay and now they have launched the real deal to a similar orbit?

That thought did cross my mind when I saw that post.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: edkyle99 on 05/24/2017 08:28 PM
Thank you for that's most helpful. Sounds more optical reconnaissance than radar in that kind of orbit.
Optical recon is usually in a sun synchronous orbit, for good lighting conditions.  This one is not sun synchronous.  It is not in an orbit typically used by optical or radar recon, by ELNIT, by weathersats, by milcomsats, etc.  The only thing it reminds me of, besides the obvious X-37B type experimental orbit, are some of the early Orbcomm store and forward (packet data relay) satellite orbits - but you need a fleet of satellites to make such a system work.

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 05/24/2017 08:32 PM
Thank you for that's most helpful. Sounds more optical reconnaissance than radar in that kind of orbit.
Optical recon is usually in a sun synchronous orbit, for good lighting conditions.  This one is not sun synchronous.  It is not in an orbit typically used by optical or radar recon, by ELNIT, by weathersats, by milcomsats, etc.  The only thing it reminds me of, besides the obvious X-37B type experimental orbit, are some of the early Orbcomm store and forward (packet data relay) satellite orbits - but you need a fleet of satellites to make such a system work.

 - Ed Kyle

Would you speculate at all on your own thoughts what it might be?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Lars-J on 05/24/2017 08:35 PM
It would be very amusing if the NROL-76 payload actually was another X-37 mission.  ;D
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 05/24/2017 09:01 PM
It would be very amusing if the NROL-76 payload actually was another X-37 mission.  ;D

Next you'll be suggesting it was an EM drive satellite.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: edkyle99 on 05/24/2017 09:01 PM
Would you speculate at all on your own thoughts what it might be?
I can only guess "experimental".  Beyond that I am at a loss.

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 05/24/2017 09:04 PM
Would you speculate at all on your own thoughts what it might be?
I can only guess "experimental".  Beyond that I am at a loss.

 - Ed Kyle

The fact that Ball Aerospace was involved in this payload contract now seems like red herring as far as figuring out the payload.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: kevin-rf on 05/25/2017 12:50 AM
Ball has also done radar sats.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: edkyle99 on 05/25/2017 03:47 AM
Ball has also done radar sats.
And STPSats for the Air Force.  And SBSS.  Etc.

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Robotbeat on 05/25/2017 04:13 AM
And mason jars (does that joke ever get old? Nope.)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 05/26/2017 04:48 PM
Cross posting this as it has only been been posted in the update thread. Strange it appears to be not far from ISS. Perhaps they need a payload that can observe space stations.

Quote
I have found that on June 4, USA 276 will in fact be very close by when (if all goes according to plan)  the SpaceX DRAGON CRS-11 should arive at the ISS at this date. That is, if USA 276 doesn't change its current orbit before then.

Quote
Due to slightly different rates of precession of their orbital nodes, the orbits will slowly diverge from their current close coincidence over time, unless USA 276 makes a corrective manoeuvre.

I have pondered the question whether this all is coincidental or not. While I can in fact think of a potential goal where this all would be on purpose, that would be a very wild thing to do, so perhaps it is not so likely. For the moment, let's better chalk it up to coincidence until new developments seem to point otherwise.

https://sattrackcam.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/observing-usa-276-odd-nrol-76-payload.html?m=1
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: kevin-rf on 05/26/2017 06:29 PM
Is that a mirror of https://sattrackcam.blogspot.nl/2017/05/observing-usa-276-odd-nrol-76-payload.html ???
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 05/26/2017 07:30 PM
Is that a mirror of https://sattrackcam.blogspot.nl/2017/05/observing-usa-276-odd-nrol-76-payload.html ???

No idea I just followed the link you posted?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: DavidH on 05/26/2017 07:38 PM
And mason jars (does that joke ever get old? Nope.)
Hey!! We're proud of our heritage.
http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2014/12/04/ball_aerospace_a_company_known_for_mason_jars_helped_with_nasa_s_orion_capsule.html (http://www.slate.com/blogs/future_tense/2014/12/04/ball_aerospace_a_company_known_for_mason_jars_helped_with_nasa_s_orion_capsule.html)
http://toddneff.com/tag/ball-aerospace/ (http://toddneff.com/tag/ball-aerospace/)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: 4353 on 05/27/2017 12:25 AM
Cross posting this as it has only been been posted in the update thread. Strange it appears to be not far from ISS. Perhaps they need a payload that can observe space stations.

Quote
I have found that on June 4, USA 276 will in fact be very close by when (if all goes according to plan)  the SpaceX DRAGON CRS-11 should arive at the ISS at this date. That is, if USA 276 doesn't change its current orbit before then.

Quote
Due to slightly different rates of precession of their orbital nodes, the orbits will slowly diverge from their current close coincidence over time, unless USA 276 makes a corrective manoeuvre.

I have pondered the question whether this all is coincidental or not. While I can in fact think of a potential goal where this all would be on purpose, that would be a very wild thing to do, so perhaps it is not so likely. For the moment, let's better chalk it up to coincidence until new developments seem to point otherwise.

https://sattrackcam.blogspot.co.uk/2017/05/observing-usa-276-odd-nrol-76-payload.html?m=1

Okay, throwing this out here, while fully acknowledging that the idea is quite outlandish.

The "wild" thing I have been contemplating (as mentioned on my blog quoted above), and please note that this is *very speculative* and add copious grains of salt, is that perhaps USA 276 is a technology demonstrator of a satellite designed to monitor close approaches and berthings in LEO in high detail.

The Russians and Chinese have been experimenting the past years with payloads that approach each other and perhaps grapple each other. Maybe USA 276 is a demonstrator of a satellite system meant to monitor that in detail, either optical or by radar, in order to assess what they are doing exactly.

As far as a demonstration mission (i.e. "proof of concept") goes, ISS and the frequent dockings and berthings and grapplings of cargo ships there would be good test targets, as it concerns known  situations (so make good test cases). It also means you don't have to launch test objects yourself - saves money, saves development time, and saves attention.

Still, that would be a bit of a wild thing to do, also because the ISS is not US but international, so quite sensitive to do something like this. So regard this as a *very* wild idea only - it is perhaps not at all that likely and most likely a true fidget of my imagination.

- Marco
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: kevin-rf on 05/27/2017 12:49 AM
Marco,

Might you be implying something along the lines of the Delta 180 Vector Sun Experiment, Delta 181 Thrust Vector Mission, and Delta 183 Delta Star missions?

Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Antares on 05/27/2017 01:52 AM
I've entertained the idea of this being an ISS observing mission for a while, but why not just launch into an ISS compliant orbit?  NASA and USAF cooperate, and MCC-H would love to have someone looking at NH3 or other potential liberations 24/7.  Close to ISS but not ISS doesn't make sense for something looking at ISS.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 05/27/2017 05:30 AM
I've seen it noted it's quite a bright object from the ground and therefore I wonder if it's more likely using radar to observe as it's the sun catching the array?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: gosnold on 05/27/2017 08:25 AM
Okay, throwing this out here, while fully acknowledging that the idea is quite outlandish.

The "wild" thing I have been contemplating (as mentioned on my blog quoted above), and please note that this is *very speculative* and add copious grains of salt, is that perhaps USA 276 is a technology demonstrator of a satellite designed to monitor close approaches and berthings in LEO in high detail.

The Russians and Chinese have been experimenting the past years with payloads that approach each other and perhaps grapple each other. Maybe USA 276 is a demonstrator of a satellite system meant to monitor that in detail, either optical or by radar, in order to assess what they are doing exactly.

As far as a demonstration mission (i.e. "proof of concept") goes, ISS and the frequent dockings and berthings and grapplings of cargo ships there would be good test targets, as it concerns known  situations (so make good test cases). It also means you don't have to launch test objects yourself - saves money, saves development time, and saves attention.

Still, that would be a bit of a wild thing to do, also because the ISS is not US but international, so quite sensitive to do something like this. So regard this as a *very* wild idea only - it is perhaps not at all that likely and most likely a true fidget of my imagination.

- Marco

This sounds like an Air Force mission, not an NRO one. I think all missions (GSSAP, Mitex, SBSS) dedicated to observing other satellites were not NRO launches.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: 4353 on 05/27/2017 04:23 PM
I've seen it noted it's quite a bright object from the ground and therefore I wonder if it's more likely using radar to observe as it's the sun catching the array?

Depending on the illumination I so far have seen it at a max brightness of +1.5, but more typically +3.
on May 25-26 there was some odd brightness variation during one of the passes:
https://sattrackcam.blogspot.nl/2017/05/brightness-variation-of-usa-276-nrol-76.html
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: 4353 on 05/27/2017 04:40 PM
I've entertained the idea of this being an ISS observing mission for a while, but why not just launch into an ISS compliant orbit?  NASA and USAF cooperate, and MCC-H would love to have someone looking at NH3 or other potential liberations 24/7.  Close to ISS but not ISS doesn't make sense for something looking at ISS.

It would make sense. The one degree difference in inclination between ISS and USA 276 means that twice each orbit USA 276 crosses the orbital plane of the ISS, effectively changing the view on ISS from port to starboard and vice versa.

Looking at the current orbit we have for USA 276 and looking at the situation, the thing is that such a close encounter and plane crossing happens close to the planned CRS-11 berthing time (4 June ~15:30 UT if I have understood the SpaceX bulletin correctly), with USA 276 crossing the plane of ISS from south of it to north of it near ~15:27 UT.

USA 276 would be about 1000 km in front of ISS at that moment (based on the current orbit) with ISS in sight.

So while monitoring it, it would change its observational perspective from starboard to port, i.e. allowing it to get a view of both sides of the situation.

If the current orbit does not change much, USA 276 will make a very close approach to the ISS (about 20-25 km distance) a day earlier, on 3 June near 14:02 and 14:48 UT.


Approaches to ISS to within 500 km:

  Date         UTC Time    Norad  Name                    Range (km) NdAng EphAge
 6/ 3/2017  3:13:34.46 42689 USA 276                     476.5    88.6  +7.12
 6/ 3/2017  4:01:29.55 42689 USA 276                     443.3    85.8  +7.15
 6/ 3/2017  4:46:11.37 42689 USA 276                     411.8    88.9  +7.18
 6/ 3/2017  5:33:52.79 42689 USA 276                     378.8    85.6  +7.21
 6/ 3/2017  6:18:48.31 42689 USA 276                     347.1    89.3  +7.24
 6/ 3/2017  7:06:15.94 42689 USA 276                     314.3    85.3  +7.28
 6/ 3/2017  7:51:25.27 42689 USA 276                     282.5    89.8  +7.31
 6/ 3/2017  8:38:38.97 42689 USA 276                     249.9    84.7  +7.34
 6/ 3/2017  9:24:02.27 42689 USA 276                     217.8    90.3  +7.37
 6/ 3/2017 10:11:01.90 42689 USA 276                     185.6    83.6  +7.40
 6/ 3/2017 10:56:39.29 42689 USA 276                     153.1    91.2  +7.44
 6/ 3/2017 11:43:24.71 42689 USA 276                     121.5    80.8  +7.47
 6/ 3/2017 12:29:16.34 42689 USA 276                      88.5    92.8  +7.50
 6/ 3/2017 13:15:47.41 42689 USA 276                      58.5    71.6  +7.53
 6/ 3/2017 14:01:53.42 42689 USA 276                      24.1   101.5  +7.57
 6/ 3/2017 14:48:10.00 42689 USA 276                      20.3    26.2  +7.60 *

 6/ 3/2017 15:34:30.51 42689 USA 276                      41.3    96.6  +7.63
 6/ 3/2017 16:20:32.47 42689 USA 276                      75.7    75.8  +7.66
 6/ 3/2017 17:07:07.63 42689 USA 276                     105.8    92.2  +7.69
 6/ 3/2017 17:52:54.81 42689 USA 276                     139.2    81.9  +7.73
 6/ 3/2017 18:39:44.77 42689 USA 276                     170.4    90.9  +7.76
 6/ 3/2017 19:25:17.04 42689 USA 276                     203.4    84.0  +7.79
 6/ 3/2017 20:12:21.97 42689 USA 276                     235.1    90.2  +7.82
 6/ 3/2017 20:57:39.13 42689 USA 276                     267.7    85.0  +7.85
 6/ 3/2017 21:44:59.12 42689 USA 276                     299.7    89.7  +7.89
 6/ 3/2017 22:30:01.10 42689 USA 276                     332.0    85.5  +7.92
 6/ 3/2017 23:17:36.32 42689 USA 276                     364.3    89.2  +7.95
 6/ 4/2017  0:02:22.94 42689 USA 276                     396.4    85.7  +7.98
 6/ 4/2017  0:50:13.54 42689 USA 276                     428.9    88.8  +8.02
 6/ 4/2017  1:34:44.64 42689 USA 276                     460.8    85.8  +8.05
 6/ 4/2017  2:22:50.77 42689 USA 276                     493.5    88.5  +8.08

Note that this is based on the current USA 276 orbit, which might need some adjustment by the times of the table above! certainly if it meanwhile manoeuvres. So the above table is an indication only.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: ZachS09 on 05/27/2017 05:26 PM
I'm thinking that none of the USOS astronauts will be allowed to observe NROL-76 and describe its appearance during those close encounters.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 05/27/2017 06:13 PM
I'm thinking that none of the USOS astronauts will be allowed to observe NROL-76 and describe its appearance during those close encounters.

Aren't some of the US astronauts ex-military, could any of these have been tasked to see if they could observe it?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: ZachS09 on 05/27/2017 08:00 PM
I'm thinking that none of the USOS astronauts will be allowed to observe NROL-76 and describe its appearance during those close encounters.

Aren't some of the US astronauts ex-military, could any of these have been tasked to see if they could observe it?

That's a good point, but there could be one ISS expedition where all USOS astronauts have NO military experience.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Semmel on 05/28/2017 07:33 PM
An object, a few meters across doesnt look much from 25km distance. I doubt that any astronaut would be able to tell any details without magnification gear like a very good binocular or small telescope.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 05/28/2017 07:40 PM
An object, a few meters across doesnt look much from 25km distance. I doubt that any astronaut would be able to tell any details without magnification gear like a very good binocular or small telescope.

I am pretty sure they have those aboard.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Lars-J on 05/28/2017 10:44 PM
So is the theory that NROL-76 is an experimental observer of space assets, and that it was placed near ISS to use it as a calibration target?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: toren on 05/29/2017 01:20 AM
How about a small, on-orbit version of this (https://www.defensetech.org/2016/10/18/air-force-acquires-new-sst-to-protect-satellites/), using ISS / cube sat releases - among other potential encounters - to test feasibility of a network of hostile sat detectors in the future?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: cscott on 05/30/2017 02:20 PM
Disadvantage would be that Russians on ISS could also observe the satellite at the 25km approach.  So unless proximity to ISS was key to its mission I can't see why they'd let their supersecret experiment wander so close to ISS.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Comga on 05/30/2017 02:35 PM
Disadvantage would be that Russians on ISS could also observe the satellite at the 25km approach.  So unless proximity to ISS was key to its mission I can't see why they'd let their supersecret experiment wander so close to ISS.

None of this conjecturing about the NROL-76 payload seems convincing to me, but this point has technical issues.
From where would the cosmonauts observe nadir?
I am sure someone here knows exactly where windows are located in Zvezda etc.  Are there any Earth facing windows on the Russian side?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: 4353 on 05/30/2017 03:18 PM
So, I made some animations.

If the *current* orbit for USA 276 does not change (an important caveat!!!), this is what will happen on June 3 when USA 276 makes a couple of (very) close approaches to the ISS. If the DRAGON CRS-10 history is taken as a guideline, DRAGON CRS-11 should also be close (although perhaps not as close as in this animation):

https://vimeo.com/219519742 (https://vimeo.com/219519742)

Note how it is effectively circling the ISS.

And this is what the situation would be a day later, when CRS-11 berths to the ISS.

https://vimeo.com/219510699 (https://vimeo.com/219510699)

Odd, isn't it? Still do not know what to think about it.


Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 05/30/2017 04:26 PM
Disadvantage would be that Russians on ISS could also observe the satellite at the 25km approach.  So unless proximity to ISS was key to its mission I can't see why they'd let their supersecret experiment wander so close to ISS.

None of this conjecturing about the NROL-76 payload seems convincing to me, but this point has technical issues.
From where would the cosmonauts observe nadir?
I am sure someone here knows exactly where windows are located in Zvezda etc.  Are there any Earth facing windows on the Russian side?

Why?

It seems a pretty logical capability to put in place especially as not far down the line time wise ISS will not be the only space station in LEO.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Lars-J on 05/30/2017 05:26 PM
Disadvantage would be that Russians on ISS could also observe the satellite at the 25km approach.  So unless proximity to ISS was key to its mission I can't see why they'd let their supersecret experiment wander so close to ISS.

None of this conjecturing about the NROL-76 payload seems convincing to me, but this point has technical issues.
From where would the cosmonauts observe nadir?
I am sure someone here knows exactly where windows are located in Zvezda etc.  Are there any Earth facing windows on the Russian side?

Yes. The best window in Zvezda is Earth facing.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: John Santos on 05/30/2017 05:37 PM
From the animations, it appears the closest approaches are at orbital sunrise and sunset.  Is this significant?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Semmel on 05/30/2017 08:12 PM
Here is an argument against the ISS spying:

Launch date NET is April 16 with the window opening at 7am local, for around two hours.

If it was planned to chase the ISS, it seems odd to have a 2 hour launch window. Unless you have two ~ 1-min discrete launch windows within 2 hours exactly 92 minutes and 39 seconds apart..

There was also this odd 15 minute delay of the launch, rescheduling it to 7:15 instead of 7:00 local. Might have been done to target the station, might be coincidence.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Lars-J on 05/30/2017 11:02 PM
Here is an argument against the ISS spying:

Launch date NET is April 16 with the window opening at 7am local, for around two hours.

If it was planned to chase the ISS, it seems odd to have a 2 hour launch window. Unless you have two ~ 1-min discrete launch windows within 2 hours exactly 92 minutes and 39 seconds apart..

There was also this odd 15 minute delay of the launch, rescheduling it to 7:15 instead of 7:00 local. Might have been done to target the station, might be coincidence.

The ISS position at launch is irrelevant. A tiny orbital maneuver will allow any spacecraft launch in phase to match it. All that is needed is a slight lowering or raising of the orbit, and eventually you'll drift closer to ISS.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: envy887 on 05/30/2017 11:20 PM
Here is an argument against the ISS spying:

Launch date NET is April 16 with the window opening at 7am local, for around two hours.

If it was planned to chase the ISS, it seems odd to have a 2 hour launch window. Unless you have two ~ 1-min discrete launch windows within 2 hours exactly 92 minutes and 39 seconds apart..

There was also this odd 15 minute delay of the launch, rescheduling it to 7:15 instead of 7:00 local. Might have been done to target the station, might be coincidence.

The ISS position at launch is irrelevant. A tiny orbital maneuver will allow any spacecraft launch in phase to match it. All that is needed is a slight lowering or raising of the orbit, and eventually you'll drift closer to ISS.

You mean any launch in plane, not any launch in phase. Which brings up another point... Falcon 9 doesn't do yaw steering, so launches to a specific plane are instantaneous windows.

Of course, this could have been a de facto instantaneous window even though they announced it as a 2 hour window. Or they could have been targeting a specified range of planes around ISS, which would have allowed a small window instead on an instantaneous one. But not 2 hours.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Lars-J on 05/30/2017 11:48 PM
Here is an argument against the ISS spying:

Launch date NET is April 16 with the window opening at 7am local, for around two hours.

If it was planned to chase the ISS, it seems odd to have a 2 hour launch window. Unless you have two ~ 1-min discrete launch windows within 2 hours exactly 92 minutes and 39 seconds apart..

There was also this odd 15 minute delay of the launch, rescheduling it to 7:15 instead of 7:00 local. Might have been done to target the station, might be coincidence.

The ISS position at launch is irrelevant. A tiny orbital maneuver will allow any spacecraft launch in phase to match it. All that is needed is a slight lowering or raising of the orbit, and eventually you'll drift closer to ISS.

You mean any launch in plane, not any launch in phase. Which brings up another point... Falcon 9 doesn't do yaw steering, so launches to a specific plane are instantaneous windows.

Of course, this could have been a de facto instantaneous window even though they announced it as a 2 hour window. Or they could have been targeting a specified range of planes around ISS, which would have allowed a small window instead on an instantaneous one. But not 2 hours.

Yes, I meant plane. And you are correct, the fact that they had a 2hr launch window indicates that the near plane to ISS was a coincidence, not the plan. (unless the secret launch window really was instantaneous) ;)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: manoweb on 05/31/2017 12:15 AM
Falcon 9 doesn't do yaw steering, so launches to a specific plane are instantaneous windows.

We know this simply because they never announced it can do it, or it has been confirmed it cannot? I am not an expert at all, is specific hardware needed that is obviously not present on the Falcon 9?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: intrepidpursuit on 05/31/2017 12:20 AM
Falcon 9 doesn't do yaw steering, so launches to a specific plane are instantaneous windows.

We know this simply because they never announced it can do it, or it has been confirmed it cannot? I am not an expert at all, is specific hardware needed that is obviously not present on the Falcon 9?

I second this question. It seems really odd to me that a rocket that can land on a boat in the ocean can't do yaw steering. It has the control authority, so this would have to be a flight computer issue, which also seems like a strange limitation.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: cscott on 05/31/2017 12:35 AM
The yaw steering question has come up in the past and Jim has stated definitively that SpaceX does not do yaw steering during ascent, and that it is an avionics issue.  Take that as you will, I suspect various posters have different theological positions on Jim's infallibility.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: kevin-rf on 05/31/2017 01:24 AM
The yaw steering question has come up in the past and Jim has stated definitively that SpaceX does not do yaw steering during ascent, and that it is an avionics issue.  Take that as you will, I suspect various posters have different theological positions on Jim's infallibility.
I read that not as they can not, but do not do it. Which says nothing for the capability, they may or may not be able to, just they do not feel at present that having and using the capability is worth the cost.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 05/31/2017 07:18 AM
Here is an argument against the ISS spying:

Launch date NET is April 16 with the window opening at 7am local, for around two hours.

If it was planned to chase the ISS, it seems odd to have a 2 hour launch window. Unless you have two ~ 1-min discrete launch windows within 2 hours exactly 92 minutes and 39 seconds apart..

There was also this odd 15 minute delay of the launch, rescheduling it to 7:15 instead of 7:00 local. Might have been done to target the station, might be coincidence.

The ISS position at launch is irrelevant. A tiny orbital maneuver will allow any spacecraft launch in phase to match it. All that is needed is a slight lowering or raising of the orbit, and eventually you'll drift closer to ISS.

You mean any launch in plane, not any launch in phase. Which brings up another point... Falcon 9 doesn't do yaw steering, so launches to a specific plane are instantaneous windows.

Of course, this could have been a de facto instantaneous window even though they announced it as a 2 hour window. Or they could have been targeting a specified range of planes around ISS, which would have allowed a small window instead on an instantaneous one. But not 2 hours.

Yes, I meant plane. And you are correct, the fact that they had a 2hr launch window indicates that the near plane to ISS was a coincidence, not the plan. (unless the secret launch window really was instantaneous) ;)
The fact that it had a supposed 2 hour launch window does not necessarily mean that was the actual launch window when it comes to an NRO launch. I'd think they would deliberately be vague about such stuff.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: 4353 on 05/31/2017 08:48 AM
Regarding the orbital plane target, there is every reason to believe the ISS orbital plane was deliberately targetted.

The launch time needed for launching directly into the ISS orbit plane shifts by 20 minute per day.

Launch of NROL-76 was originally set for 30 April but as we all know, a booster issue at the last minute caused a hold and a 1-day delay.

The Area Warning given before the launch actually has a window opening at 10:55 UT:

NAVAREA IV 342/17

WESTERN NORTH ATLANTIC.
FLORIDA.
1. HAZARDOUS OPERATIONS 301055Z TO 301354Z APR,
ALTERNATE 011055Z TO 011354Z MAY
IN AREA BOUND BY
28-39N 080-39W, 30-34N 078-45W,
31-32N 077-34W, 31-26N 077-13W,
31-06N 077-11W, 30-47N 077-32W,
30-08N 078-26W, 28-29N 080-21W,
28-26N 080-27W, 28-25N 080-35W,
28-25N 080-38W.
2. CANCEL THIS MSG 011454Z MAY 17.//

Authority: EASTERN RANGE 211830Z APR 17.

Date: 271553Z APR 17
Cancel: 01145400 May 17

Launch on May 1, after the 1-day delay was 11:15 UT, which is 20 minutes later than the opening time of the area warning. Which happens to equal the ISS orbital plane shift for a 1-day delay.


EDIT: I take that back. I overlooked that on April 30 they also targetted 11:15. Confusing, confusing...
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: 4353 on 05/31/2017 09:47 AM
I have looked into the effect would NROL-76 have actually been launched at 11:15 UT on April 30, when the launch was scrubbed.

The effects of a fixed launch time at 11:15 UT rather than a daily launch time shift to match the plane crossing time are actually not that large, it turns out. Note that USA 276 is not exactly in the orbital plane of the ISS (there is a 1.6 degree inclination difference anyway).

To investigate the effect, I adjusted the RAAN of the current orbit accordingly to match launch on 30 April, 11:15 UT..

USA 276 actually then would have made even somewhat closer passes to the ISS (to minimum distances less than 15 km on June 3 near 18:44 UT), but with the approach times  some 4 hours shifted compared to those for the actual launch date.

Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Orbiter on 05/31/2017 05:39 PM
Worth a share.

NROL-76 will be within 25 kilometers from the ISS the day before the CRS-11 berthing, assuming there's no course corrections.

https://sattrackcam.blogspot.com/2017/05/usa-276-nrol-76-payload-and-iss-near.html?utm_content=bufferc03ef&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: cppetrie on 06/01/2017 05:02 AM
I have looked into the effect would NROL-76 have actually been launched at 11:15 UT on April 30, when the launch was scrubbed.

The effects of a fixed launch time at 11:15 UT rather than a daily launch time shift to match the plane crossing time are actually not that large, it turns out. Note that USA 276 is not exactly in the orbital plane of the ISS (there is a 1.6 degree inclination difference anyway).

To investigate the effect, I adjusted the RAAN of the current orbit accordingly to match launch on 30 April, 11:15 UT..

USA 276 actually then would have made even somewhat closer passes to the ISS (to minimum distances less than 15 km on June 3 near 18:44 UT), but with the approach times  some 4 hours shifted compared to those for the actual launch date.

This launch was originally scheduled to launch on April 16 at a very similar 7 am window. I am nowhere near knowledgeable enough to figure this out so I'll leave it to somebody else, but what is the implication for it's orbit relative to the ISS had it launched as intended 2 weeks earlier? Could it be that the reason for the "large" delay was because a couple day slide would have screwed up the orbital timing to place the satellite and the ISS in proximity so they delayed for longer to make them sync up again? Sort of a "if it has to slide 3 days, then it has to slide 14 days to make it all work properly, so since the payload is delayed 3 days we launch in 14!" kind of deal?? I'm throwing pasta against the wall here to see if anything sticks so somebody that knows the orbital mechanics see if any of that makes sense.
 :o
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: gosnold on 06/01/2017 06:25 AM
Worth a share.

NROL-76 will be within 25 kilometers from the ISS the day before the CRS-11 berthing, assuming there's no course corrections.

https://sattrackcam.blogspot.com/2017/05/usa-276-nrol-76-payload-and-iss-near.html?utm_content=bufferc03ef&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Hopefully we'll get a photo by Thierry Legault.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: kevinstout on 06/01/2017 09:40 PM
My air force contact tells me it's a kegerator for the astros.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 06/02/2017 08:50 PM
The Plot Thickens (Ball Aerospace, USA 276, RAVEN and the ISS)

Quote
While browsing the website of Ball Aerospace, the company that built USA 276, I found that they also have built RAVEN, an instrument delivered to and installed on the outside of the ISS in February this year.

So, let that sink in: Ball Aerospace, the company that built USA 276, a spacecraft that appears to be secretly moving towards a  series of clandestine very close approaches to the ISS, also built RAVEN, an experiment installed on the ISS to monitor close approaching spacecraft. 

NROL-76 is said to have been part of a "delivery to orbit" contract: e.g. the spacecraft and its launch is the responsibility of the builder (Ball Aerospace, who hired SpaceX for the launch), who hands over the spacecraft to the customer (the NRO) once in operational orbit. The question now is, is USA 276 at this stage still operated by Ball Aerospace, or has it been handed over to the NRO already?

https://sattrackcam.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/the-plot-thickens-ball-aerospace-usa.html?m=1
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Semmel on 06/02/2017 09:58 PM
The Plot Thickens...

Interesting.

A few minutes ago, the ISS had a pass at my position and I waited for USA 276 to come after her. And sure enough it did, on the same path just 1 to 2 minutes (didnt watch a clock, didn't want to ruin my night vision) after the ISS. It was easily visible by naked eye, no gear necessary. Will be fun to look for it tomorrow when it is much closer. A shame that it doesn't form a triplet with Dragon.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: manoweb on 06/02/2017 11:16 PM
The Plot Thickens...

Maybe the lightning strikes that scrubbed CRS-11... it was the Russians???
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Comga on 06/03/2017 04:33 AM
The Plot Thickens (Ball Aerospace, USA 276, RAVEN and the ISS)

Quote
While browsing the website of Ball Aerospace, the company that built USA 276, I found that they also have built RAVEN, an instrument delivered to and installed on the outside of the ISS in February this year.

So, let that sink in: Ball Aerospace, the company that built USA 276, a spacecraft that appears to be secretly moving towards a  series of clandestine very close approaches to the ISS, also built RAVEN, an experiment installed on the ISS to monitor close approaching spacecraft. 

NROL-76 is said to have been part of a "delivery to orbit" contract: e.g. the spacecraft and its launch is the responsibility of the builder (Ball Aerospace, who hired SpaceX for the launch), who hands over the spacecraft to the customer (the NRO) once in operational orbit. The question now is, is USA 276 at this stage still operated by Ball Aerospace, or has it been handed over to the NRO already?

https://sattrackcam.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/the-plot-thickens-ball-aerospace-usa.html?m=1 (https://sattrackcam.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/the-plot-thickens-ball-aerospace-usa.html?m=1)

This seems unlikely.

The Raven lidar is nearly identical to the Orion NSS lidar flown on the STS-134 STORRM mision.  It was designed for >5 km range to a "cooperative" target, but the imaging aspect to the lidar is only useful below a few hundred meters. NASA could be expected object strenuously if NRO brought NROL-76 close enough for Raven to observe in detail. 

Besides, what would be learned?  The Raven mission has shown how to make hardware invisible to lidar.
(Hint: Look for the lidar images of the CRS-10 Dragon.  The shiny solar panels are not visible.)

Plus the Raven program is NASA, and NROL-76 is from the NRO.  (of course)  It is hard to imagine an NRO mission that depended on an instrument owned and run by another agency.  Even different NASA centers have trouble collaborating like that.   I once tried to float a mission concept to do something that would be observed by sensors on a previously launched spacecraft and got major pushback.  You can't control those other instruments, or be assured they will function.

So let that sink..... beneath the waves.  ;)

edit: corrected an error in units
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 06/03/2017 06:32 AM
The Plot Thickens (Ball Aerospace, USA 276, RAVEN and the ISS)

Quote
While browsing the website of Ball Aerospace, the company that built USA 276, I found that they also have built RAVEN, an instrument delivered to and installed on the outside of the ISS in February this year.

So, let that sink in: Ball Aerospace, the company that built USA 276, a spacecraft that appears to be secretly moving towards a  series of clandestine very close approaches to the ISS, also built RAVEN, an experiment installed on the ISS to monitor close approaching spacecraft. 

NROL-76 is said to have been part of a "delivery to orbit" contract: e.g. the spacecraft and its launch is the responsibility of the builder (Ball Aerospace, who hired SpaceX for the launch), who hands over the spacecraft to the customer (the NRO) once in operational orbit. The question now is, is USA 276 at this stage still operated by Ball Aerospace, or has it been handed over to the NRO already?

https://sattrackcam.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/the-plot-thickens-ball-aerospace-usa.html?m=1 (https://sattrackcam.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/the-plot-thickens-ball-aerospace-usa.html?m=1)

This seems unlikely.

The Raven lidar is nearly identical to the Orion NSS lidar flown on the STS-134 STORRM mision.  It was designed for >5 km range to a "cooperative" target, but the imaging aspect to the lidar is only useful below a few hundred meters. NASA could be expected object strenuously if NRO brought NROL-76 close enough for Raven to observe in detail. 

Besides, what would be learned?  The Raven mission has shown how to make hardware invisible to lidar.
(Hint: Look for the lidar images of the CRS-10 Dragon.  The shiny solar panels are not visible.)

Plus the Raven program is NASA, and NROL-76 is from the NRO.  (of course)  It is hard to imagine an NRO mission that depended on an instrument owned and run by another agency.  Even different NASA centers have trouble collaborating like that.   I once tried to float a mission concept to do something that would be observed by sensors on a previously launched spacecraft and got major pushback.  You can't control those other instruments, or be assured they will function.

So let that sink..... beneath the waves.  ;)

edit: corrected an error in units
So you expect the NRO to publicly reveal if they have an interest in Raven, that doesn't seem very likely does it?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: kevin-rf on 06/03/2017 01:23 PM
I think I'm going to go back to occam's razor. 51 degrees, with the exception of Russia, Canada, Northern Europe, and Southern Argentina/Chile provides coverage of the entire world, and all the hot spots in the modern world. No, I think we can ignore Putin. I am beginning to suspect that it's special relationship with ISS is nothing more than a red herring.

I do wonder is someone thought, the special relationship would make it difficult for people to find and track post launch. But that would be silly, it's very hard to hide in low Earth orbit.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 06/03/2017 05:24 PM
I think I'm going to go back to occam's razor. 51 degrees, with the exception of Russia, Canada, Northern Europe, and Southern Argentina/Chile provides coverage of the entire world, and all the hot spots in the modern world. No, I think we can ignore Putin. I am beginning to suspect that it's special relationship with ISS is nothing more than a red herring.

I do wonder is someone thought, the special relationship would make it difficult for people to find and track post launch. But that would be silly, it's very hard to hide in low Earth orbit.

What are you going to say if it manoeuvres to keep in step with ISS?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: gosnold on 06/03/2017 05:34 PM
The Plot Thickens (Ball Aerospace, USA 276, RAVEN and the ISS)

Quote
While browsing the website of Ball Aerospace, the company that built USA 276, I found that they also have built RAVEN, an instrument delivered to and installed on the outside of the ISS in February this year.

So, let that sink in: Ball Aerospace, the company that built USA 276, a spacecraft that appears to be secretly moving towards a  series of clandestine very close approaches to the ISS, also built RAVEN, an experiment installed on the ISS to monitor close approaching spacecraft. 

NROL-76 is said to have been part of a "delivery to orbit" contract: e.g. the spacecraft and its launch is the responsibility of the builder (Ball Aerospace, who hired SpaceX for the launch), who hands over the spacecraft to the customer (the NRO) once in operational orbit. The question now is, is USA 276 at this stage still operated by Ball Aerospace, or has it been handed over to the NRO already?

https://sattrackcam.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/the-plot-thickens-ball-aerospace-usa.html?m=1

I have an alternate theory: if USA 276 being on the same orbit as the ISS is not coincidental, it's not because it's using the ISS as a target, but because it is using the ISS as cover.

Think about it:
* The NRO has concentrated its capabilities on a few satellites. In low orbit, there's something like 3 KH-11s, 4 Topaz radar sats, and maybe 3 operational Intruder emitter-location pairs.
* Russia and China have demonstrated, and probably operational, ASAT capabilities.
* As an opening move in a large conflict, they could use them against an US constellation to gain a military advantage: if they destroy one Intruder in each pair, the US loses its overhead emitter location capability (if high-orbit satellites cannot pick up the job).
* Because those satellites are on unusual orbits, and because they are unmanned, the political cost of shooting them down is limited: There will be no US soldiers killed, and it will generate a lot of orbital debris, but not on the most crowded orbits, so the consequences might be far away.
* The NRO knows this, and has been looking at ways to counter it, such as disaggregation. The problem is there is no way to split up a large instrument on many cubesats, so big, expensive birds are here to stay.
* So the NRO is looking for ways to make its satellites harder to shoot down. Stealth is an option, but it makes the satellites extremely expensive. The other option is to put the satellites behind cover, but there's no cover in space.
* Enter the ISS. A 100 billion $, multinational, manned space station. If the USA puts a satellite in a close orbit, and if this satellite is shot down, the resulting debris have a high chance of impacting and maybe destroying the ISS. If Russia is the shooter, it is putting its own investment at risk. If it is China, it is destroying the property of parties external to the conflict (Russia and European states are unlikely to be directly involved in an US-China war). In both cases, astronauts lives are at risk if they do not evacuate quickly, and the debris cloud keeps the station at risk, making it too risky for further use. This massively increases the political cost of shooting the satellite.
* So the adversary does not shoot the ISS-coorbital satellite. It can still provide intelligence throughout the conflict, even if the handful of other NRO satellites are shot down.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: kevin-rf on 06/03/2017 05:52 PM

What are you going to say if it manoeuvres to keep in step with ISS?
I will admit I was wrong and reevaluate. Until then I would like to see actual proof.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: sewebster on 06/03/2017 06:26 PM
I think I'm going to go back to occam's razor. 51 degrees, with the exception of Russia, Canada, Northern Europe, and Southern Argentina/Chile provides coverage of the entire world, and all the hot spots in the modern world. No, I think we can ignore Putin. I am beginning to suspect that it's special relationship with ISS is nothing more than a red herring.

I do wonder is someone thought, the special relationship would make it difficult for people to find and track post launch. But that would be silly, it's very hard to hide in low Earth orbit.

What are you going to say if it manoeuvres to keep in step with ISS?

Staying with ISS to maintain the confusion while keeping actual mission unclear? Or what gosnold said :)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: kevin-rf on 06/03/2017 06:31 PM
Let's get back to basics.

It's bright, so it must have some sort of deployed structure. Antenna, solar panels, or radiators. Optical satellites beyond solar array usually do not deploy large structures.

It's bright and orbit is easily tracked, so it cannot be to secret.

It's orbit covers the majority of the world's population center's.

It's orbit indicates they really do not care about the sun angle (that does not rule out optical).

It's orbit does not have much dwell time over any one area (not a good signit orbit).

It's orbit is very similar to ISS. If intentional, why?

To observe ISS?
To observe the same things ISS observes (sensor cross calibration)?
To hide behind ISS (ASAT protection)?
To observe things that leave ISS, maybe capsule re-entries or thruster firings?
To screw with tracking using ISS as a decoy? That failed.

I will make some observation.

It's at the same height as ISS, if it has large deployed structure, sooner or later one of the people that takes high res. pictures of ISS will take a picture and provide rough dimensions.

If it's a radar satellite. Someone will sooner or later pick up the radar emissions.

Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Johnnyhinbos on 06/03/2017 06:39 PM
I highly doubt the "human shield" theory  holds much credibility. That's a bit out of fashion these days politically...
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jim on 06/03/2017 07:56 PM

I have an alternate theory: if USA 276 being on the same orbit as the ISS is not coincidental, it's not because it's using the ISS as a target, but because it is using the ISS as cover.

Think about it:
* The NRO has concentrated its capabilities on a few satellites. In low orbit, there's something like 3 KH-11s, 4 Topaz radar sats, and maybe 3 operational Intruder emitter-location pairs.
* Russia and China have demonstrated, and probably operational, ASAT capabilities.
* As an opening move in a large conflict, they could use them against an US constellation to gain a military advantage: if they destroy one Intruder in each pair, the US loses its overhead emitter location capability (if high-orbit satellites cannot pick up the job).
* Because those satellites are on unusual orbits, and because they are unmanned, the political cost of shooting them down is limited: There will be no US soldiers killed, and it will generate a lot of orbital debris, but not on the most crowded orbits, so the consequences might be far away.
* The NRO knows this, and has been looking at ways to counter it, such as disaggregation. The problem is there is no way to split up a large instrument on many cubesats, so big, expensive birds are here to stay.
* So the NRO is looking for ways to make its satellites harder to shoot down. Stealth is an option, but it makes the satellites extremely expensive. The other option is to put the satellites behind cover, but there's no cover in space.
* Enter the ISS. A 100 billion $, multinational, manned space station. If the USA puts a satellite in a close orbit, and if this satellite is shot down, the resulting debris have a high chance of impacting and maybe destroying the ISS. If Russia is the shooter, it is putting its own investment at risk. If it is China, it is destroying the property of parties external to the conflict (Russia and European states are unlikely to be directly involved in an US-China war). In both cases, astronauts lives are at risk if they do not evacuate quickly, and the debris cloud keeps the station at risk, making it too risky for further use. This massively increases the political cost of shooting the satellite.
* So the adversary does not shoot the ISS-coorbital satellite. It can still provide intelligence throughout the conflict, even if the handful of other NRO satellites are shot down.

Nah, it couldn't be a high value asset.  It was a small spacecraft
and it was not put an a useful orbit to provide the information that high value assets provide
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: gosnold on 06/03/2017 08:19 PM
Nah, it couldn't be a high value asset.  It was a small spacecraft
and it was not put an a useful orbit to provide the information that high value assets provide

How about a worldview-3 copy, to provide resilience in case KH-11s and the Digital Globe birds are shot down?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Dao Angkan on 06/03/2017 11:32 PM
At such a low orbit does it need to expend much propellant to stay up?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Johnnyhinbos on 06/06/2017 02:34 PM
Any updates on the orbit of this bird with respect to the CRS-11 actual launch?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: tvg98 on 06/06/2017 06:22 PM
Any updates on the orbit of this bird with respect to the CRS-11 actual launch?
Close Encounters of the Classified Kind: a post-event analysis of the close approach of USA 276 to the ISS on June 3

https://sattrackcam.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/close-encounters-of-classified-kinda.html (https://sattrackcam.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/close-encounters-of-classified-kinda.html)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 06/06/2017 07:12 PM
Any updates on the orbit of this bird with respect to the CRS-11 actual launch?
Close Encounters of the Classified Kind: a post-event analysis of the close approach of USA 276 to the ISS on June 3

https://sattrackcam.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/close-encounters-of-classified-kinda.html (https://sattrackcam.blogspot.co.uk/2017/06/close-encounters-of-classified-kinda.html)

Complete with political commentary at the end.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: kevin-rf on 06/08/2017 11:38 AM
Marco Langbroek has a new post encounter analysis up:

http://sattrackcam.blogspot.com/2017/06/close-encounters-of-classified-kinda.html

I will say, I think this has been in the planning stages longer than the current admin has been in office so I doubt it had anything to do with NROL-76 and ISS's dance.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jim on 06/08/2017 01:48 PM

How about a worldview-3 copy, to provide resilience in case KH-11s and the Digital Globe birds are shot down?

Worldview-3 weighed more than 6000lbs.  The sensor package was a significant portion of that.  Much more that the 500lb that X-37 can carry.

Plus it has not flown in the same orbits as the others so it couldn't provide any resilience.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: ugordan on 06/08/2017 01:51 PM

How about a worldview-3 copy, to provide resilience in case KH-11s and the Digital Globe birds are shot down?

Worldview-3 weighed more than 6000lbs.  The sensor package was a significant portion of that.  Much more that the 500lb that X-37 can carry.

Maybe I missed something, but what does X-37 have to do with NROL-76?
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: kevin-rf on 06/08/2017 02:15 PM

Plus it has not flown in the same orbits as the others so it couldn't provide any resilience.

The 51 degree orbit for countries with an alleged capability to shoot down a satellite will result in several good sequential orbital passes over the launch site allowing much better refinement of the orbit shortly before an intercept is attempted.  Not really a win for countering the threat.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Ben the Space Brit on 06/08/2017 02:15 PM
Maybe I missed something, but what does X-37 have to do with NROL-76?

As far as anyone knows for certain? Nothing at all.

It's mostly just wild speculation, the reading of tea leaves and an attempt to guess what manner of strange mission could lead such a lightweight spacecraft to going into a 51° orbit and also what manner of missions X37 could carry out to support NRO operations.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Jim on 06/08/2017 02:33 PM

How about a worldview-3 copy, to provide resilience in case KH-11s and the Digital Globe birds are shot down?

Worldview-3 weighed more than 6000lbs.  The sensor package was a significant portion of that.  Much more that the 500lb that X-37 can carry.

Plus it has in not flown in the same orbits as the others so it couldn't provide any resilience.

Sorry, mixed up threads
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 06/08/2017 03:49 PM
Marco Langbroek has a new post encounter analysis up:

http://sattrackcam.blogspot.com/2017/06/close-encounters-of-classified-kinda.html

I will say, I think this has been in the planning stages longer than the current admin has been in office so I doubt it had anything to do with NROL-76 and ISS's dance.

The thing to see now is if NROL-76 manoeuvres to keep check with ISS.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Star One on 06/14/2017 10:41 PM
Someone has been doing some follow up on this whole business.

Quote
In recent days, Ars has run these observations by several officials and informed sources. They are credible, these officials say, and curious indeed. "This is strange," said one astronaut who has commanded the International Space Station. "I don't really believe in coincidences. But I can't really think of anything that would be worth highlighting a close approach."

Deliberate or not?

One expert in satellite launches and tracking, Jonathan McDowell, said of the satellite's close approach to the station, "It is not normal." While it remains possible that the near-miss was a coincidence due to the satellite being launched into similar orbit, that would represent "gross incompetence" on the part of the National Reconnaissance Office, he said. Like the astronaut, McDowell downplayed the likelihood of a coincidence.

Another option is that of a deliberate close flyby, perhaps to test or calibrate an onboard sensor to observe something or some kind of activity on the International Space Station. "The deliberate explanation seems more likely, except that I would have expected the satellite to maneuver after the encounter," McDowell said. "But it seems to have stayed in the same orbit."

Another question, if the maneuver was deliberate, is whether the US government informed Russia or other international partners on the space station. The Russian segment of the station controls the thrusters that generally are used to maneuver the station away from orbital debris, so such coordination might seem prudent.

In regard to these questions, so far the US government has declined to provide answers. A NASA spokesman offered to look into the matter on Monday but as of Wednesday afternoon had nothing to say. A query sent to public affairs at the National Reconnaissance Office went unanswered. We will update this story if we receive any official responses.

https://arstechnica.com/science/2017/06/a-spy-satellite-buzzed-the-space-station-this-month-and-no-one-knows-why/
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: gosnold on 07/03/2017 07:27 PM
Marco Langbroek has published an article about USA 276 in the Space Review:
http://www.thespacereview.com/article/3277/1 (http://www.thespacereview.com/article/3277/1)

Quote
My own take on this all is that I think it is possible, but not certain, that the close approach was deliberate and meant to test space-based technologies to monitor grapplings and berthings of third-party objects. If this is correct, I tend to see the coincidence of the flyby with the originally planned Dragon arrival, but also the sudden undocking of Cygnus OA-7 when Dragon CRS-11 was postponed, as related to the technology demonstration. The relevance of the other coincidences is more conjectural: I tend to see the rescheduling of astronaut Jack Fischer as likely unrelated, for example.

Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 07/13/2017 02:38 PM
Quote
Dr Marco Langbroek‏ @Marco_Langbroek

What goes around comes around: spysat USA 276 will make another series of close approaches to the #ISS tomorrow: http://satobs.org/seesat/Jul-2017/0053.html

https://twitter.com/Marco_Langbroek/status/885178884265824257 (https://twitter.com/Marco_Langbroek/status/885178884265824257)
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Thomas Dorman on 07/22/2017 09:25 AM
Pass of USA 276 (SPC#42689) near the bright star Vega. Did not get any occultation of Vega by USA 276  as hoped, updated track pushed the satellite track south and east of Vega. Did get a very nice flare off USA 276 on this pass as a booby prize. Distance 418.4 Kms with a phase angle of 62.4 degrees. DSO 1 astrovideo camera, 1/30th of a second, zoom lens setting 60 mm ,F/2.5 ,captures to a DVD recorder.

https://vimeo.com/226544417

Some may find these link of interest about USA 276.

https://sattrackcam.blogspot.com/2017/06/close-encounters-of-classified-kinda.html

http://spaceflight101.com/falcon-9-nrol-76/secret-nrol-76-iss-flyby/


 Enjoy! Regards Thomas
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: ionzide on 08/20/2017 04:27 AM
Quote
The Army has launched 10 small satellites since 2010 including three experimental communications satellites for the Army’s Space and Missile Defense Command that launched in October as part of a National Reconnaissance Office mission. In addition, a small electro-optical imaging satellite known as Kestrel Eye, is expected to launch later this year or early next year from the International Space Station after it arrives via a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.
http://spacenews.com/army-hoping-for-new-smallsat-imaging-and-space-situational-sensors/

So now that the ISS is equipped with a Kestrel Eye I find it interesting nrol 76 has the ISS speculation... Not saying there is any connection now but I think the nro patch for the mission kind of resonates the kestrel program.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: edkyle99 on 09/22/2017 09:21 PM
This first stage (B1032) appears to have been mothballed behind Hangar AM, presumably headed toward scrapping.  This would be the first LEO mission recovered stage to be scrapped.  Does anyone have insight that could explain why this stage suffered presumable damage?  It landed safely at LZ-1. 

 - Ed Kyle
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: ZachS09 on 09/23/2017 01:47 AM
This first stage (B1032) appears to have been mothballed behind Hangar AM, presumably headed toward scrapping.  This would be the first LEO mission recovered stage to be scrapped.  Does anyone have insight that could explain why this stage suffered presumable damage?  It landed safely at LZ-1. 

 - Ed Kyle

I agree with your objection, Ed. According to this "General SpaceX Map" on Google Maps, part of the caption for the NROL-76 landing states that Core B1032 would be readied for a second mission. I have no clue why SpaceX changed their mind.

https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1wvgFIPuOmI8da9EIB88tHo9vamo&hl=en_US&ll=28.48566780000001%2C-80.5429709&z=8
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: Herb Schaltegger on 09/23/2017 02:10 AM
This first stage (B1032) appears to have been mothballed behind Hangar AM, presumably headed toward scrapping.  This would be the first LEO mission recovered stage to be scrapped. Does anyone have insight that could explain why this stage suffered presumable damage? It landed safely at LZ-1. 

 - Ed Kyle

Did I miss something? Why do you think it suffered "presumable damage"?

If inedeed it is being scrapped, perhaps it's because this is an earlier-Block stage, there are more refined (Block 5?) stages coming soon enough to render earlier configurations surplus and of course the engines, legs, avionics, grid fins, interstage hydraulics and everything of value can be salvaged and re-used.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: jg on 09/23/2017 02:11 AM
This first stage (B1032) appears to have been mothballed behind Hangar AM, presumably headed toward scrapping.  This would be the first LEO mission recovered stage to be scrapped.  Does anyone have insight that could explain why this stage suffered presumable damage?  It landed safely at LZ-1. 

 - Ed Kyle

I agree with your objection, Ed. According to this "General SpaceX Map" on Google Maps, part of the caption for the NROL-76 landing states that Core B1032 would be readied for a second mission. I have no clue why SpaceX changed their mind.

https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer?mid=1wvgFIPuOmI8da9EIB88tHo9vamo&hl=en_US&ll=28.48566780000001%2C-80.5429709&z=8

Heh.  Probably because they've been spectacularly successful at retrieving first stages in general, and can no longer foresee using that particular stage.

In general, expect SpaceX to reuse the stages that cost least to refurbish, for how ever long they need to do significant refurbishing (which they hope Block 5 may mostly address).  They have lots of stages to choose among, and Block 5 isn't far off now.

Breaking down the stages that won't be reflown may still free up a lot of valuable parts (e.g. engines) for reuse in new stages.
Title: Re: SpaceX Falcon 9 - NROL-76 - May 1, 2017 - DISCUSSION
Post by: FutureSpaceTourist on 09/23/2017 09:02 AM
Yes, as Jim said elsewhere:

Spacex has more flown boosters than it knows what to do with them and has been breaking them apart and scrapping them.