Author Topic: SpaceX Falcon 9 : Iridium NEXT Flight 4 : December 22/23, 2017 : Discussion  (Read 27189 times)

Offline gongora

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DISCUSSION THREAD for Flight 4 of the Iridium NEXT missions.

Iridium NEXT launch has been targeted by SpaceX for December 22, 2017 at 5:27 p.m. PT on a Falcon 9 from SLC-4E at Vandenberg.  Landing of first stage on ASDS is expected.

   Flight 4 will launch into plane 2.  One of the satellites will then drift to plane 1.

   NSF Threads for Iridium NEXT Flight 4: Discussion / Updates / L2 Coverage November-December / ASDS / Party
   NSF Articles for Iridium NEXT Flight 4: 




See the Flight 1 Discussion Thread for more information and links to other Iridium Next threads and articles.

General information for Iridium flights 1-5 & 7-8
   Payload Mass: 8600kg for 10 satellites + 1000kg for dispenser = 9600kg
   Launch orbit: 625km, 86.66 degrees
   Operational orbit: 778km, 86.4 degrees

81 Satellites will be built for Iridium NEXT, with 66 being needed for a fully operational constellation.  All of the satellites will carry ADS-B aviation tracking hosted payloads for Aireon, and 60 of the satellites will carry AIS maritime tracking hosted payloads for exactEarth.



Other SpaceX resources on NASASpaceflight:
   SpaceX News Articles (Recent)  /   SpaceX News Articles from 2006 (Including numerous exclusive Elon interviews)
   SpaceX Dragon Articles  /  SpaceX Missions Section (with Launch Manifest and info on past and future missions)
   L2 SpaceX Section
« Last Edit: Today at 03:30 AM by gongora »

Offline gongora

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Quote
Tweet from Thales Alenia Space:
#KeyFigure : 30 #IridiumNEXT #satellites now fully operational in #orbit. 17 ready to be shipped. 17 under integration. @IridiumComm

Offline ChrisGebhardt

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For planning purposes, take note that Iridium said multiple times today that this will be NET early December, not NET late-November.

There are "a couple things being finalized" along with a desire on Iridium's part to deconflict with the Thanksgiving holiday.

That's all I can say right now.

Matt Desch says a target date will be released by Iridium within the next two weeks.

(Edit: fixed grammar)
« Last Edit: 10/09/2017 10:53 PM by ChrisGebhardt »

Offline gongora

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For planning purposes, take note that Iridium said multiple times today that this will be NET early December, not NET late-November.

There are "a couple things being finalized" along with a desire on Iridium's part to deconflict with the Thanksgiving holiday.

That's all I can say right now.

Matt Desch says a target date will be released by Iridium within the next two weeks.

(Edit: fixed grammar)

Matt Desch tweeted this earlier today, maybe his evil twin got his Twitter password  :)
Quote
Nominally late November, but working schedule with SpaceX now.  Will inform world soon.


Offline Steven Pietrobon

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Matt Desch tweeted this earlier today, maybe his evil twin got his Twitter password  :)
Quote
Nominally late November, but working schedule with SpaceX now.  Will inform world soon.

Do you have a link for that tweet? I couldn't find it.
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« Last Edit: 10/13/2017 03:11 PM by gongora »

Quote
Matt Desch‏
@IridiumBoss

Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure we’re not going to be the first RTLS for our launch 4.  Wish it were true, but alas...

Now this has got me confused. What exactly would prevent this flight from being the first RTLS? Is it lack of performance? Regulations?

Offline yokem55

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Quote
Matt Desch‏
@IridiumBoss

Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure we’re not going to be the first RTLS for our launch 4.  Wish it were true, but alas...

Now this has got me confused. What exactly would prevent this flight from being the first RTLS? Is it lack of performance? Regulations?
Performance. Getting 10 mt to polar orbit at 600 km is a bit too much for the current falcon to RTLS. Keep in mind, it needs  a bit more boostback since it won't have the rotation of the Earth bringing the launch site closer as well.

I'm guessing that the news about landing at VAFB has more to do with having the necessary permits to do so once block 5 is flying.
« Last Edit: 10/18/2017 12:04 AM by yokem55 »

Offline 192

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https://twitter.com/IridiumBoss/status/920015420777816065

There's also this ~24 hours earlier, could just be that he asked SpaceX and they said no RTLS, but he does say not the first RTLS rather than simply not RTLS. Is there any possibility SpaceX are planning a November Vandy launch now that Iridium 4 is December. I'd have thought we'd know about it by now if they were, but given we only just found out about Zuma and they still seem to be finalising Iridium 4 details according to Desch, maybe there's been a last minute schedule rearrangement.

Offline gongora

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https://twitter.com/IridiumBoss/status/920015420777816065

There's also this ~24 hours earlier, could just be that he asked SpaceX and they said no RTLS, but he does say not the first RTLS rather than simply not RTLS. Is there any possibility SpaceX are planning a November Vandy launch now that Iridium 4 is December. I'd have thought we'd know about it by now if they were, but given we only just found out about Zuma and they still seem to be finalising Iridium 4 details according to Desch, maybe there's been a last minute schedule rearrangement.

No

Offline Chris Bergin

Need to set up the update thread, will get on that.

Latest round up of upcoming manifest events and some additional details via L2 - by Chris Gebhardt:
https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2017/10/spacex-zuma-iridium-4-aims-vandenberg-landing/

And with that there's been a change on the Iridium situation.

New article!

IR-4 now flight proven booster, the first from the West Coast! But back to Block 3, so can't RTLS as was the plan. Thanks to Iridium for being helpful in updating the status:

https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2017/10/iridium-4-flight-proven-falcon-9-rtls-vandenberg-delayed/

- by Chris Gebhardt again :)

Offline Chris Bergin

And the presser is out:

Iridium Announces Date for Fourth Iridium® NEXT Launch

Agreement Signed with SpaceX to Use Flight-Proven First Stage of Falcon 9 Rocket

MCLEAN, Va. – October 19, 2017 - Iridium Communications Inc. (NASDAQ: IRDM) announced today that the fourth Iridium NEXT launch has been targeted by SpaceX for December 22, 2017 at 5:26 p.m. PT [1:26 a.m. UTC on Dec. 23], from Vandenberg Air Force Base. This launch signifies the mid-way point of the Iridium NEXT launch program and will deliver another 10 satellites to orbit, bringing the total number deployed to 40. Targeted for just over two months after the third Iridium NEXT launch, this December date enables Iridium to maintain its planned cadence of completing all launches by mid-2018, even with SpaceX’s busy launch manifest.

To date, 30 Iridium NEXT satellites have been deployed, many of which are already providing service to customers. The new satellites are also now undergoing on-orbit testing for Iridium CertusSM, a major milestone on the path to introducing the company’s next generation broadband service.  Iridium Certus will feature small form factor, cost-effective terminals and antennas, and ultimately offer the fastest L-band broadband solution available, supported by the world's only truly global network.

In addition to the fourth launch date, Iridium also announced it has reached agreement with SpaceX to utilize flight-proven first stages for the next two Iridium launches.  Iridium conducted extensive due diligence work and is fully confident in the SpaceX booster refurbishment program.

“I believe that reusability is the future for satellite launches, and I think SpaceX has intelligently built their Falcon 9 program around this strategy,” said Iridium CEO Matt Desch. “With three successful flight-proven Falcon 9 launches already this year, we’re excited to show leadership towards the sustainable access to space, while also making sure we maintain our cadence to complete the five remaining Iridium NEXT launches by the middle of next year.”

Iridium confirmed with its insurers that there is no increase in premium for the launch program as a result of the use of flight-proven Falcon 9 rockets, further supporting Iridium’s conclusion that the risk profile is unchanged.

Iridium NEXT is the company’s $3 billion, next-generation, mobile, global satellite network scheduled for completion in 2018. Iridium NEXT will replace the company’s existing global constellation in one of the largest technology upgrades ever completed in space.  It represents the evolution of critical communications infrastructure that governments and organizations worldwide rely upon to drive business, enable connectivity, empower disaster relief efforts and more. Iridium NEXT will enable and introduce new services like the company’s next-generation communications platform, Iridium Certus, and the AireonSM space-based ADS-B aircraft surveillance and flight tracking network.

For more information about Iridium NEXT, please visit www.IridiumNEXT.com.

 

About Iridium Communications Inc.

Iridium is the only mobile voice and data satellite communications network that spans the entire globe. Iridium enables connections between people, organizations and assets to and from anywhere, in real time. Together with its ecosystem of partner companies, Iridium delivers an innovative and rich portfolio of reliable solutions for markets that require truly global communications. The company has a major development program underway for its next-generation network — Iridium NEXT. Iridium Communications Inc. is headquartered in McLean, Va., U.S.A., and its common stock trades on the NASDAQ Global Select Market under the ticker symbol IRDM. For more information about Iridium products, services and partner solutions, visit www.iridium.com.

###

Offline swervin

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No increase in insurance premiums, and seemingly no increase in launch cadence (not an earlier launch date as a result of this contract modification), so what was the incentive to switch to flight-proven first stage? I'm all for it, but just curious on the business case to do so? Any word on discounted launch price or discounted follow-on launches?

This makes available to another customer a new core that would already be in testing, any words on who might be able to utilize this core?

Cheers!

Offline Ben the Space Brit

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Maybe Project Zuma has requested a fresh core. Given the tight schedule, SpaceX had to reallocate the Iridium-N4 core but were able to talk Iridium into accepting a reused core.
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Online FutureSpaceTourist

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No increase in insurance premiums, and seemingly no increase in launch cadence (not an earlier launch date as a result of this contract modification), so what was the incentive to switch to flight-proven first stage?

Martin Halliwell of SES has been clear that their most recent use of a flight-proven booster was due to launch schedule, not price (see here). As Matt Desch says in today's press release:

Quote
[...] while also making sure we maintain our cadence to complete the five remaining Iridium NEXT launches by the middle of next year.

So must have been a risk of schedule slips if they hadn't taken a flight-proven booster.
« Last Edit: 10/19/2017 01:54 PM by FutureSpaceTourist »

Offline swervin

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Maybe Project Zuma has requested a fresh core. Given the tight schedule, SpaceX had to reallocate the Iridium-N4 core but were able to talk Iridium into accepting a reused core.

The 'needs' of the Zuma customer do not make a business case for Iridium, in my opinion. Putting myself in Iridium's shoes: why do this?

Again, I'm all for it, just curious on the business case / motivation to do so.

Online abaddon

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Putting myself in Iridium's shoes: why do this?

Again, I'm all for it, just curious on the business case / motivation to do so.
Iridium is doing this so they can fly sooner than if they waited for new cores.  That saves them money, rather than having birds on the ground longer waiting to go on orbit.  That is the business case and motivation.
« Last Edit: 10/19/2017 02:13 PM by abaddon »

Offline swervin

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So must have been a risk of schedule slips if they hadn't taken a flight-proven booster.

I'm not sure such an assertion can be made. This launch slipped from Oct to Nov, and it would seem the booster/parts and pieces would be well into their testing for a Nov launch date at this point. Now, with the flight-proven booster, the launch is NET 22 Dec, a significant slip from 'late-Nov'. How much more would one expect a new built booster to cause a launch slip further than the NET 22 Dec date? No way to know, just a bunch of spit-balling, so perhaps you're correct!

There was obviously a reason to make this decision and it is likely a combination of factors, just trying to figure it out. :-)

Cheers!

Edit: Fix quotes.
« Last Edit: 10/22/2017 11:20 AM by Lar »

Offline envy887

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Quote
So must have been a risk of schedule slips if they hadn't taken a flight-proven booster.

I'm not sure such an assertion can be made. This launch slipped from Oct to Nov, and it would seem the booster/parts and pieces would be well into their testing for a Nov launch date at this point. Now, with the flight-proven booster, the launch is NET 22 Dec, a significant slip from 'late-Nov'. How much more would one expect a new built booster to cause a launch slip further than the NET 22 Dec date? No way to know, just a bunch of spit-balling, so perhaps you're correct!

There was obviously a reason to make this decision and it is likely a combination of factors, just trying to figure it out. :-)

Cheers!

SpaceX's manufacture rate for boosters is a known limitation on flight rate. Don't forget that Iridium needs 5 more flights, so insisting on a new booster for every flight certainly risks schedule slips down the road.

And SpaceX likely gave them a discount. Pretty sure that's what "has reached agreement" means. Desch has said previously that they wanted a bigger discount that SpaceX was willing to give to fly a used booster. Sounds like they found a middle ground amenable to both parties.

Offline swervin

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Putting myself in Iridium's shoes: why do this?

Again, I'm all for it, just curious on the business case / motivation to do so.
Iridium is doing this so they can fly sooner than if they waited for new cores.  That saves them money, rather than having birds on the ground longer waiting to go on orbit.  That is the business case and motivation.

Valid point. If Iridium has a couple dozen satellites fueled and waiting for launch I think this rings true. I can't find it, but believe Iridium said they have X-number of satellites either ready or in construction?

Thx!

Offline Ben the Space Brit

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Maybe Project Zuma has requested a fresh core. Given the tight schedule, SpaceX had to reallocate the Iridium-N4 core but were able to talk Iridium into accepting a reused core.

The 'needs' of the Zuma customer do not make a business case for Iridium, in my opinion. Putting myself in Iridium's shoes: why do this?

It depends on how... insistent USG were over the timing of Project Zuma's launch. The term 'requestion' may have come into the discussions between Grumman and SpaceX. Basically Iridium may have found themselves choosing a launch on a reconditioned rocket or a schedule delay because of some USG launch priority clause in the launch contract.

I have no special insight as to whether this scenario is possible or likely but I would point out that governments can be somewhat unreasonable with their private-sector suppliers when they want something and want it now.
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Online abaddon

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The other thing to keep in mind is that SpaceX is trying to navigate a (likely unique) transition from being a fully expendable launch provider to a fully reliable launch provider.  They've talked about increasing production capacity for some time beyond what they have now, but it seems clear that they've been slow-rolling that for a while.  And it makes sense: why spend money to increase production capacity only to have to scale it back once their reuse plans reach fruition?  The flip side of that is it constrains their ability to catch up on their backlog and they have lots of customers waiting patiently for their ride to orbit.  The Amos incident really hurt in that regard as it set them back right when they were starting to gain some momentum.

It's hard to say what SpaceX is offering right now, but I think it wouldn't be surprising if they are offering some minor sweeteners (discounts) for those who were on the fence to get them on the reuse train sooner than later, and prevent further slippage in their future launch timelines.  This allows them to catch up on that backlog without having to build out capacity on their production line that they will soon not require.  It is a delicate balancing act to be sure.

The accelerated use of previously flown boosters will also help accelerate the adoption of reused boosters by industry as a normal thing and not exceptional.

Offline meberbs

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The accelerated use of previously flown boosters will also help accelerate the adoption of reused boosters by industry as a normal thing and not exceptional.
This is somewhat circular logic - not wrong, just circular in a way that implies self fueling exponential growth in fraction of reuse missions. Although it has to s-curve and level out somewhere short of 100% since at least some boosters have to be new.

Online abaddon

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The accelerated use of previously flown boosters will also help accelerate the adoption of reused boosters by industry as a normal thing and not exceptional.
This is somewhat circular logic - not wrong, just circular in a way that implies self fueling exponential growth in fraction of reuse missions. Although it has to s-curve and level out somewhere short of 100% since at least some boosters have to be new.
What I was driving at with my statement is first, the combination of a large backlog and insufficient production capacity to meet that backlog in a timely manner is pushing both SpaceX and their customers to accelerate adoption of reused boosters.  Although in reality SpaceX is also driving this, by choosing not to expand their production capacity and offer reused boosters in lieu of doing so.  (My interpretation, but I'm not offering any unique insights here).

Second, there is a very short flight curve due to how the rocket business normally operates, where very few operational flights are required before a rocket is considered to be viable as compared to most other industries.  Historically, three successful flights of a rocket is usually sufficient for it to be considered operational.  A reused booster is a new wrinkle but I think a lot of those benchmarks still apply.  So you can get an avalanche affect here where pretty quickly a lot of customers on the commercial side will become comfortable with reuse very rapidly, as demonstrated just now by Iridium.  We're only eight months since the first orbital reuse!  Quite remarkable really.
« Last Edit: 10/19/2017 04:53 PM by abaddon »

Offline DecoLV

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Still confused about RTLS thing. Wasn't RTLS to the new pad planned up until this booster change? I thought it was ready to go. New mfg v. flight-proven should make no difference.

Would this S1 now go to a drone ship?

Online abaddon

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Still confused about RTLS thing. Wasn't RTLS to the new pad planned up until this booster change? I thought it was ready to go. New mfg v. flight-proven should make no difference.
Block 4 can RTLS given this payload and orbit, Block 3 cannot.  The reused booster is Block 3, so switching to it has taken RTLS off the table.
Quote
Would this S1 now go to a drone ship?
Yes.
« Last Edit: 10/19/2017 04:55 PM by abaddon »

Offline gongora

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Quote
Tweet from Matt Desch:
Comfort that risk <= than new and more schedule certainty to complete 5 more launches over next 8 months.  Cost is better, but not driver.

Offline gongora

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FCC permit applications filed today, mission 1340 with droneship landing, NET Dec 22.  Iridium flights 2-4 are missions 1338-1340.  It will be interesting to see what number is used for flight 6.

Offline Raul

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It's interesting that there will be apparently no boostback burn during the booster landing of this mission.
Planned ASDS recovery position is as far as 513km downrange, similarly like in Cassiope water landing attempt.

Iridium-1 block 3 B1029.1 had landing position 372km downrange. Iridium-2 326km and Iridium-3 244km.

In the Map

Offline ZachS09

It's interesting that there will be apparently no boostback burn during the booster landing of this mission.
Planned ASDS recovery position is as far as 513km downrange, similarly like in Cassiope water landing attempt.

Iridium-1 block 3 B1029.1 had landing position 372km downrange. Iridium-2 326km and Iridium-3 244km.

In the Map

Are you sure there's no boostback burn during Iridium-NEXT F4?

I thought all previous Iridium-NEXT missions used a partial boostback burn.
"Liftoff of Falcon 9: the world's first reflight of an orbital-class rocket."

It's interesting that there will be apparently no boostback burn during the booster landing of this mission.
Planned ASDS recovery position is as far as 513km downrange, similarly like in Cassiope water landing attempt.

Iridium-1 block 3 B1029.1 had landing position 372km downrange. Iridium-2 326km and Iridium-3 244km.

In the Map

Are you sure there's no boostback burn during Iridium-NEXT F4?

I thought all previous Iridium-NEXT missions used a partial boostback burn.

They did, I wonder why there's no boostback.
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Offline MarekCyzio

It's interesting that there will be apparently no boostback burn during the booster landing of this mission.
Planned ASDS recovery position is as far as 513km downrange, similarly like in Cassiope water landing attempt.

Iridium-1 block 3 B1029.1 had landing position 372km downrange. Iridium-2 326km and Iridium-3 244km.

In the Map

My theory  - this is Block 4 - will be reused more than once - reduce unnecessary wear on the rocket.

Offline Barrie

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They decided the fuel they would use for partial boostback is better used for a beefed-up re-entry burn? ie more likely to get a re-usable booster back that way?

Offline ChrisGebhardt

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It's interesting that there will be apparently no boostback burn during the booster landing of this mission.
Planned ASDS recovery position is as far as 513km downrange, similarly like in Cassiope water landing attempt.

Iridium-1 block 3 B1029.1 had landing position 372km downrange. Iridium-2 326km and Iridium-3 244km.

In the Map

My theory  - this is Block 4 - will be reused more than once - reduce unnecessary wear on the rocket.

Iridium-4 is reusing a flight-proven Block 3 at present.  It will likely be the same booster that launched Iridium-2 in June.

Offline SweetWater

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They decided the fuel they would use for partial boostback is better used for a beefed-up re-entry burn? ie more likely to get a re-usable booster back that way?

Hard to say, but it certainly seems like a possibility. I think we're all starting to feel that successful F9 stage 1 landings are, if not routine, certainly becoming expected (provided the landing is attempted at all); however, we should bear in mind that SpaceX has only recovered 18 (by my count) stages at this point. They're likely still learning how the stages fare after different types of missions (LEO vs. GTO) and and recovery locations (downrange vs. on land).

I would expect to see some variety in recovery strategies with the continued use of Block 4 and the introduction of Block 5 vehicles, if only to see how those vehicles (and the materials used on them) compare to SpaceX's expectations for a given mission and type of recovery.

Offline ATPTourFan

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My first thought was that SpaceX is giving Iridium as much margin as possible to get their payload to the proper orbit. Iridium and SpaceX worked out the arrangement to utilize the flight-proven core to help schedule this launch, but SpaceX really doesn't need to be gentle to this core as much as they MUST get Iridium-4 payload where it needs to go - maximum margins to make customer happy.

Offline gth871r

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It's interesting that there will be apparently no boostback burn during the booster landing of this mission.
Planned ASDS recovery position is as far as 513km downrange, similarly like in Cassiope water landing attempt.

Iridium-1 block 3 B1029.1 had landing position 372km downrange. Iridium-2 326km and Iridium-3 244km.

In the Map

Iridium 2 was the flew with the Titanium grid fins.  (I think it's the only booster, to date that has done so.)  They may be interested in pushing those a little harder to see what happens.

Offline ZachS09

It's interesting that there will be apparently no boostback burn during the booster landing of this mission.
Planned ASDS recovery position is as far as 513km downrange, similarly like in Cassiope water landing attempt.

Iridium-1 block 3 B1029.1 had landing position 372km downrange. Iridium-2 326km and Iridium-3 244km.

In the Map

Iridium 2 was the flew with the Titanium grid fins.  (I think it's the only booster, to date that has done so.)  They may be interested in pushing those a little harder to see what happens.

That's if SpaceX decides to keep the titanium fins on B1036. For the past five missions after Iridium-NEXT F2 (excluding Intelsat 35e), they've been using the aluminum fins, so there's a chance that the latter will be used during Iridium-NEXT F4.
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Offline cambrianera

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It's interesting that there will be apparently no boostback burn during the booster landing of this mission.
Planned ASDS recovery position is as far as 513km downrange, similarly like in Cassiope water landing attempt.

Iridium-1 block 3 B1029.1 had landing position 372km downrange. Iridium-2 326km and Iridium-3 244km.

In the Map

Iridium 2 was the flew with the Titanium grid fins.  (I think it's the only booster, to date that has done so.)  They may be interested in pushing those a little harder to see what happens.

May be that the enhanced attitude control and capabilities of Ti grid fins enables Spacex to try a lifting reentry, keeping the stage "afloat" in the upper layers of the atmosphere.
This would reduce the heat rate and the peak heating, avoiding the reentry burn and saving lot of propellant.
Oh to be young again. . .

Offline oiorionsbelt

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however, we should bear in mind that SpaceX has only recovered 18 (by my count) stages at this point.
That this comment was made at all is immensely satisfying. 

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however, we should bear in mind that SpaceX has only recovered 18 (by my count) stages at this point.
That this comment was made at all is immensely satisfying. 
Indeed. But what is much more important is that three of those recovered booster have already been re-flown with several more re-flights coming up in the next few months.

Offline zubenelgenubi

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An interesting possibility FYI cross-posting from the GCOM-C launch thread:

http://global.jaxa.jp/press/2017/10/20171027_h2af37.html

Launch of Global Changing Observation Mission - Climate "SHIKISAI" (GCOM-C)  and Super Low Altitude Test Satellite TSUBAME" (SLATS) aboard H-IIA Vehicle No. 37

October 27, 2017 (JST)

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd.
National Research and Development Agency
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are pleased to announce the launch schedule for Global Changing Observation Mission - Climate "SHIKISAI" (GCOM-C) and Super Low Altitude Test Satellite "TSUBAME" (SLATS) by H-IIA launch vehicle No. 37.

Scheduled date of Launch : December 23 (Sat.), 2017
Launch time                    : 10:26:22 a.m. through 10:48:22 a.m. (JST)
Reserved Launch period   : December 24 (Sun.), 2017 through January 31 (Wed.), 2018
Launch site                     : Yoshinobu Launch Complex at the tanegashima Space Center 

<snip>

And:
Note that as of right now, the start of the launch window for this falls on the exact same minute (!!!) as for the launch of Falcon 9/Iridium NEXT Flight 4 on the opposite side of the Pacific. IF (a very big one) this ultimately happens the two will be <=37 seconds apart, which will be an all time record:o

I very much doubt both will manage to hold on schedule to that point with 57 days left but.....one never knows for sure when will we need split screens.  ;) ;)

Technical info on GCOM-C can be found here, and for SLATS here.
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Offline WizZifnab

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So seems that switching to ASDS landing instead of RTLS on this launch was due to the decision to launch using a previously flown booster.

However, is it possible that it had more to do with taking advantage of the Titanium grid fins for testing an alternate downrange reentry profile, than the fact that it will now be a Block III booster?

Offline IntoTheVoid

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So seems that switching to ASDS landing instead of RTLS on this launch was due to the decision to launch using a previously flown booster.

However, is it possible that it had more to do with taking advantage of the Titanium grid fins for testing an alternate downrange reentry profile, than the fact that it will now be a Block III booster?

During the post-landing processing they remove the grid fins (based on images we've seen in the garage) and the titanium grid fins are mechanically compatible with the mounts for the Al ones, so there's not really any reason to think that this booster will again have the Ti fins, or that if they wanted to test them on a particular re-entry profile that they couldn't have done so already, either on Iridium 3 or one of the east coast launches.

Offline the_other_Doug

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So seems that switching to ASDS landing instead of RTLS on this launch was due to the decision to launch using a previously flown booster.

However, is it possible that it had more to do with taking advantage of the Titanium grid fins for testing an alternate downrange reentry profile, than the fact that it will now be a Block III booster?

During the post-landing processing they remove the grid fins (based on images we've seen in the garage) and the titanium grid fins are mechanically compatible with the mounts for the Al ones, so there's not really any reason to think that this booster will again have the Ti fins, or that if they wanted to test them on a particular re-entry profile that they couldn't have done so already, either on Iridium 3 or one of the east coast launches.

Do the Al and Ti grid fins provide the exact same amounts of control per fin motion?

I could imagine that the Al grids, being closer together and composed of a smaller grid pattern, might provide slightly different pressures to control the rocket than the Ti fins do; their different weights may also impact the control motions.  Neither type of grid fin being "better" or "worse" from a control perspective; just different.

You'd have to program the FCS software running the entry and landing targeting to the type of fin being used, though, no?  Or would you load both sets of response thresholds into the FCS software, and spend a bunch of your processor time selecting between them from menus?

Old-fashioned, "how it's always been done" process would be to tailor the FCS for the specific vehicle's hardware config, I imagine.  I wonder how SpaceX is doing it?
-Doug  (With my shield, not yet upon it)

Offline old_sellsword

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...I could imagine that the Al grids, being closer together and composed of a smaller grid pattern, might provide slightly different pressures to control the rocket than the Ti fins do...

The Titanium fins have the exact same grid pattern and spacing, they just* added an extra row on the end and scalloped the underside.

*Obviously it was more complicated than that

Offline AC in NC

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You'd have to program the FCS software running the entry and landing targeting to the type of fin being used, though, no?  Or would you load both sets of response thresholds into the FCS software, and spend a bunch of your processor time selecting between them from menus?

Old-fashioned, "how it's always been done" process would be to tailor the FCS for the specific vehicle's hardware config, I imagine.  I wonder how SpaceX is doing it?

Putting together a reading of how IIP is handled as well as the unknowns posed by atmospheric conditions and degradation we've seen in AL fins, I'd be surprised if the FCS wasn't written to be able to adapt (as best it can) to whatever control authority is available with the result being no "tailoring" necessary.

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Just noticed something that doesn't appear to have been picked up in the Iridium NEXT flight 3 threads.

A few days before the 3rd launch, the FAA issued a minor revision to the launch license (attached):

Quote
Revision 2 - Issued October 6, 2017
   1.   Paragraph (3)(c) changed from "On a flight azimuth of 179.2 degrees" to "On a flight azimuth between 175 and 180 degress

Offline cscott

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Just noticed something that doesn't appear to have been picked up in the Iridium NEXT flight 3 threads.

A few days before the 3rd launch, the FAA issued a minor revision to the launch license (attached):

Quote
Revision 2 - Issued October 6, 2017
   1.   Paragraph (3)(c) changed from "On a flight azimuth of 179.2 degrees" to "On a flight azimuth between 175 and 180 degress
Caused by switch from RTLS to ASDS landing, perhaps?  Gives additional flexibility to target the ASDS even if there are weather issues forcing a slight relocation of the ASDS? Just a wild guess.

Online FutureSpaceTourist

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First 2 sats for Launch #4 on their way from AZ factory to VAFB!  Only a little more than 6 weeks away - 12/22! (Tracked via Iridium IoT)

https://twitter.com/iridiumboss/status/928002624670101504

Offline Lar

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"I think it would be great to be born on Earth and to die on Mars. Just hopefully not at the point of impact." -Elon Musk
"We're a little bit like the dog who caught the bus" - Musk after CRS-8 S1 successfully landed on ASDS OCISLY

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Launch 4 activities on track for a Dec 22nd launch.  Second two of 10 Iridium NEXT sats just left for VAFB - all there by Thanksgiving weekend.  First stage and dispenser onsite.  2018 schedule firming up too... Halfway home!

https://twitter.com/iridiumboss/status/928987644863959041

Offline gongora

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This guy makes some sweet models.

Tweet from Oli Braun:
Quote
Very honored to have had the opportunity to make these for @IridiumBoss I hope these 4 will be happy at their new home :)

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Those models are... amazing :o

Oliver and friend's website:  http://www.buzz-medialabs.de/
« Last Edit: 11/21/2017 10:03 PM by MATTBLAK »
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Those models are... amazing :o

Oliver and friend's website:  http://www.buzz-medialabs.de/

Well, for the 4th model, he should have just made the top bits, and told them to re-use one of the other first-stages.






Offline stcks

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There is something sneaky hidden behind the third one ;)

Offline cppetrie

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There is something sneaky hidden behind the third one ;)
Well spotted, sir!! I’m seeing the same.

Offline Comga

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There is something sneaky hidden behind the third one ;)
Well spotted, sir!! I’m seeing the same.
Sneaky?
It looks like a fifth Falcon 9.
The clear support is the same as for the three up front.
It may be rotated so only the wiring channel sticks out from behind the third f9.
What kind of wastrels would dump a perfectly good booster in the ocean after just one use?

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There is something sneaky hidden behind the third one ;)
It appears to be a commercial crew block 5 Falcon 9. It has a Dragon 2 capsule and service module, a black interstage and landing legs, and titanium grid fins. Very nice!
« Last Edit: 11/22/2017 06:10 AM by mgeagon »

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There is something sneaky hidden behind the third one ;)
It appears to be a commercial crew block 5 Falcon 9. It has a Dragon 2 capsule and service module, a black interstage and landing legs, and titanium grid fins. Very nice!
Well spotted.
I think it is a safe bet that SpaceX actually commissioned Oli to do those customer-relations models. There is simply too much stuff on those models to have been made without SpaceX input. Particularly the block 5 model given that the information about the black interstage and black landing legs for block 5 only became public information very recently.

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I think SpaceX is really missing an opportunity for marketing - they should be selling spacecraft and rocket models that both kids and adult collectors (me) can get their teeth into. I'd love to see kids whooshing and flying around the house and their yards with Dragons, Falcons and BFRs, instead of X-Wings and TIE fighters all the time! ;)

They could also have launch pad and recovery barge models. There could be two price points: play toys for kids and higher fidelity models for people's display cabinets (such as mine):
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We’re off-topic but I second that. Partner with LEGO and Estes for a line of buildable block toys and a line of flyable model rockets. Perhaps even design the thing in such a fashion that the landing legs open upon decent and it has a decent chance of landing upright. Estes rockets are already reusable. Could be part of the fun seeing if it does land. Probably would prompt more launches and use more Estes motors. Win win win.

Offline cscott

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They've already made and sold two different versions of a flying estes-style model F9: one with dragon capsule on top, and one with fairing.  A number of us rocket modelers have used the F9 kits to bash together flying FH models.

Offline kdhilliard

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Do we know whether or not the same fairing concerns which have delayed Zuma also apply to this Iridium launch?

Edit: Apparently Matt Desch answered just this question yesterday, tweeting:
Quote
Quote
Uwe Häntsch‏ @uwelinchen 1 Nov 25

@IridiumBoss Good afternoon, Mr. Desch. Is the date on December 22nd for the next Iridium flight still up to date? SpaceX has problems with payload fairing. Thanks for the information.
Matt Desch‏ @IridiumBoss 8:11 AM - 26 Nov 2017

Yes, Dec 22nd is still our date.
« Last Edit: 11/28/2017 12:13 AM by kdhilliard »

Offline mn

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Fairing not an issue for this flight...

Iridium NEXT-4 on track for December launch from Vandenberg -
https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2017/11/iridium-next-4-december-launch-vandenberg/

- By Chris Gebhardt

Does this mean it was  never an issue? or that there was enough time to fix/replace and encapsulate and still meet the schedule?

It's not clear to me from the tweet that it was not an issue, he sort of sidestepped the question about the fairing, just confirmed the date.

Offline gongora

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The Iridium Press Release:
Quote
Iridium Nears Launch Campaign Midway Point as All 10 Satellites Arrive at Vandenberg Air Force Base
Iridium-4 to create historic moment, making Iridium the first company to re-use the same rocket booster

MCLEAN, Va., Nov. 28, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Iridium Communications Inc. (NASDAQ:IRDM) announced today that all 10 Iridium® NEXT satellites for its fourth launch are now in processing at SpaceX's west coast launch site at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. This launch will mark the midway point of Iridium's launch campaign with SpaceX, and is the first of two Iridium NEXT launches utilizing "flight-proven" SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets. Iridium-4 is currently scheduled for December 22, 2017 at 5:32 pm PST, with a backup date of December 23rd.

Noteworthy for the fourth launch, the same Falcon 9 rocket first stage that carried 10 Iridium NEXT satellites for the company's second launch in June of 2017, will also carry this payload of 10 satellites. This will make Iridium the first company in history to reuse the same rocket. Upon arrival at the launch site, each Iridium NEXT satellite began a number of pre-launch processing steps, including mating to the dispenser, fueling and encapsulation within the fairing.  The satellites were shipped two at a time, in specially-designed motion and temperature-controlled containers designed to maintain optimal environmental conditions.

"We're approaching our halfway point on this journey, and with each launch, we gain more momentum," said Iridium CEO Matt Desch. "This launch will bring us to 40 Iridium NEXT satellites in space, which is more than half the number required for a full Iridium NEXT operational constellation.  It has been remarkable to witness the increased speed, capacity and throughput of our network as we continue to replace our original satellites with new Iridium NEXT satellites."

The operational Iridium constellation is comprised of 66 satellites divided into six polar orbiting planes with 11 satellites in each plane. Destined for Iridium orbital plane two, nine of the 10 Iridium NEXT satellites deployed during this launch will immediately go into service following rigorous testing and validation. The remaining satellite will undertake a nearly year-long journey to orbital plane one, where it will serve as a spare satellite.  To date, three Iridium NEXT launches carrying 10 satellites each have been completed. The fourth launch will bump the total number of new Iridium NEXT satellites in orbit to 40. Iridium has contracted with SpaceX to deliver 75 Iridium NEXT satellites to orbit, 66 operational and nine on-orbit spares, through a series of eight launches.

Iridium NEXT is the company's $3 billion next-generation mobile, global satellite network scheduled for completion in 2018. Iridium NEXT will replace the Company's existing global constellation in one of the largest technology upgrades ever completed in space.  It represents the evolution of critical communications infrastructure that governments and organizations worldwide rely upon to drive business, enable connectivity, empower disaster relief efforts and more. Iridium NEXT will enable and introduce new services like the Company's next-generation communications platform, Iridium CertusSM, and the AireonSM space-based ADS-B aircraft surveillance and flight tracking network. 

Offline zubenelgenubi

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Kevin Fetter posted about this FCC Public Notice, Report No. SAT-01286, on Seesat-l at http://www.satobs.org/seesat/Dec-2017/0004.html .

http://transition.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2017/db1201/DOC-348023A1.pdf
Quote
Iridium Constellation LLC requests modification of its license for a non-geostationary, mobile-satellite service constellation. Iridium seeks an extension of the license term for its first-generation satellites until July 31, 2019, and authority to maintain up to 18 first-generation satellites as in-orbit spares during the transition to its second-generation satellite system.

(I didn't find a thread discussing the final dispositions of the first generation Iridium satellites.  If there's a better thread to post this to, please make a suggestion.)
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Offline zubenelgenubi

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Will launch processing be suspended if there is a government shutdown when the current funding legislation expires at 12 am December 9?

Parallel questions have been asked on the CRS-13 discussion thread and the NROL-47 thread.
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Will launch processing be suspended if there is a government shutdown when the current funding legislation expires at 12 am December 9?

Parallel questions have been asked on the CRS-13 discussion thread and the NROL-47 thread.

Why would processing be suspended?  The only government interaction for this part of the flow is safety and base security.  Those shouldn't be affected.  Iridium is doing the payload processing and SpaceX the F9 processing in SpaceX's facilities,  SpaceX already has a launch license for this mission, so no regulatory interactions yet.  The only thing I'm not sure about is static fire and launching, where SpaceX will need range support and interaction with other federal agencies.  But, as their involvement should all be classified as ensuring public safety, even if they are initially affected I imagine they'd get waivers pretty quick.
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Offline zubenelgenubi

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Static fire date/time?

(I assume it hasn't been announced yet, or it would already have been posted on NSF!)
« Last Edit: 12/12/2017 05:05 PM by zubenelgenubi »
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Offline whitelancer64

Will launch processing be suspended if there is a government shutdown when the current funding legislation expires at 12 am December 9?

Parallel questions have been asked on the CRS-13 discussion thread and the NROL-47 thread.

When there's a government "shutdown" that doesn't mean all government-run things actually shut down... most of the government is still operating. Military operations (including launch sites) continue to function as though nothing happened. It's just the non-essential, highly-annoying-to-the-public things that get shut down, especially tourist attractions like memorials and national parks. During the 2013 shutdown, about 1/4 of federal employees were furloughed (but they were paid for that time off later). The IRS was particularly hurt by this, but most other agencies functioned fairly normally.
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Offline rockets4life97

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We need some more space reporters out at Vandenberg. The successful static fire attempt wasn't even publicly posted as occurring. Very different than static fires occurring at the Cape.

Offline Chris Bergin

Chris G is going there for NSF....but he's stuck in Atlanta Airport still as of last check.

We also have Philip, Jay and Helo who go to launches there, but today was a perfect mix of it being a Sunday and so many other things going on.

And after all, aren't we "hoping" the launch cadence will get to the point there will be Static Fires and launches every week, meaning the main focus will be on the launch? :)

Offline Michael Baylor

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Part of the problem is that there just aren't that many sources. At the Cape, all the NASA employees are alerted about the static fire. A few of them will let Chris^2 know. Not as many sources at Vandenberg.
« Last Edit: 12/17/2017 11:06 PM by Michael Baylor »

Offline edkyle99

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Also, SLC 40 at Cape Canaveral is visible from publicly accessible areas.  SLC 4E at Vandenberg AFB is, as I understand it, essentially hidden from public view by topography.  VAFB is much more militarily active than the Cape, and thus its goings-on are less discussed by locals.

 - Ed Kyle
« Last Edit: 12/17/2017 11:08 PM by edkyle99 »

Offline Chris Bergin

Yeah, Vandy is tough. We have a few ins, but.....it's a Sunday. People tell us things. We never badger them into giving us info. The second this place becomes a chore for people who can help us....well I'm not going that mass media route. Keeping this place a no pressure cool site means more people end up helping, so that's the long game, but the best game.

Offline Michael Baylor

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Also, SLC 40 at Cape Canaveral is visible from publicly accessible areas.  SLC 4E at Vandenberg AFB is, as I understand it, essentially hidden from public view by topography.  VAFB is much more militarily active than the Cape, and thus its goings-on are less discussed by locals.

 - Ed Kyle
Correct

It is partially visible from far away on a mountain road, but the primary public viewing site is obstructed. Most people aren't going to  go out of their way and drive on some windy road just to get a partial view of the pad (although I totally would if I lived near there).

View of the pad:
« Last Edit: 12/17/2017 11:14 PM by Michael Baylor »

Offline gongora

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Chris G is going there for NSF....but he's stuck in Atlanta Airport still as of last check.

What a mess that is.  Good luck Chris.  If you need extraction there are plenty of NSF'ers around the metro area, just shine the bat shuttle F9 signal  :)

Offline shuttlefan

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We need some more space reporters out at Vandenberg. The successful static fire attempt wasn't even publicly posted as occurring. Very different than static fires occurring at the Cape.

When did the static fire ocurr?

Offline cppetrie

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We need some more space reporters out at Vandenberg. The successful static fire attempt wasn't even publicly posted as occurring. Very different than static fires occurring at the Cape.

When did the static fire ocurr?
Earlier today apparently.

Offline meekGee

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We need some more space reporters out at Vandenberg. The successful static fire attempt wasn't even publicly posted as occurring. Very different than static fires occurring at the Cape.

When did the static fire ocurr?
Earlier today apparently.

Thus proving that things happen even while NSF is not paying attention.
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We need some more space reporters out at Vandenberg. The successful static fire attempt wasn't even publicly posted as occurring. Very different than static fires occurring at the Cape.

When did the static fire ocurr?
Earlier today apparently.

Thus proving that things happen even while NSF is not paying attention.

The launch is happening on the "wrong" coast, thus as with all previous Vandenberg launches, it is virtually ignored in this forum.
I've seen the discussion get started less than 48 hours before the planned launch date.

By comparison, we have launch discussions for Florida that predate the launch by seasons, sometimes years.

I guess Vandy is just the unloved child in the family.
« Last Edit: Today at 07:04 AM by Pete »

Online Galactic Penguin SST

An interesting possibility FYI cross-posting from the GCOM-C launch thread:

http://global.jaxa.jp/press/2017/10/20171027_h2af37.html

Launch of Global Changing Observation Mission - Climate "SHIKISAI" (GCOM-C)  and Super Low Altitude Test Satellite TSUBAME" (SLATS) aboard H-IIA Vehicle No. 37

October 27, 2017 (JST)

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd.
National Research and Development Agency
Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA)

Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, Ltd. (MHI) and the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) are pleased to announce the launch schedule for Global Changing Observation Mission - Climate "SHIKISAI" (GCOM-C) and Super Low Altitude Test Satellite "TSUBAME" (SLATS) by H-IIA launch vehicle No. 37.

Scheduled date of Launch : December 23 (Sat.), 2017
Launch time                    : 10:26:22 a.m. through 10:48:22 a.m. (JST)
Reserved Launch period   : December 24 (Sun.), 2017 through January 31 (Wed.), 2018
Launch site                     : Yoshinobu Launch Complex at the tanegashima Space Center 

<snip>

And:
Note that as of right now, the start of the launch window for this falls on the exact same minute (!!!) as for the launch of Falcon 9/Iridium NEXT Flight 4 on the opposite side of the Pacific. IF (a very big one) this ultimately happens the two will be <=37 seconds apart, which will be an all time record:o

I very much doubt both will manage to hold on schedule to that point with 57 days left but.....one never knows for sure when will we need split screens.  ;) ;)

Technical info on GCOM-C can be found here, and for SLATS here.

Many weeks later and......this is still predicted to happen as of this writing. With the F9 settling on T-0 at 01:27:23 UTC the 2 launches will be 61 seconds apart if everything goes as planned (the H-IIA will launch first).  ;)
Chinese spaceflight is a cosmic riddle wrapped in a galactic mystery inside an orbital enigma... - (not) Winston Churchill

Online woods170

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We need some more space reporters out at Vandenberg. The successful static fire attempt wasn't even publicly posted as occurring. Very different than static fires occurring at the Cape.

When did the static fire ocurr?
Earlier today apparently.

Thus proving that things happen even while NSF is not paying attention.

The launch is happening on the "wrong" coast, thus as with all previous Vandenberg launches, it is virtually ignored in this forum.
I've seen the discussion get started less than 48 hours before the planned launch date.

By comparison, we have launch discussions for Florida that predate the launch by seasons, sometimes years.

I guess Vandy is just the unloved child in the family.

Unloved child?

No, not really. Just relatively far away from easy public viewing, contrary to CCAFS.

Offline Helodriver

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Vandenberg gets plenty of love from a few people in particular. Even then I didn't get a heads up about a static fire today. I also had Star Wars tickets. :)

Online FutureSpaceTourist

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Tweet from Matt Desch:
Quote
My schedule, provided by SpaceX shows it as 5:27:23 PST...

I assume he meant 17:27:23 PST ...?!

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