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SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying supplies to International Space Station explodes after launch

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photo: www.spacex.com
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Washington: The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket-propelling Dragon spacecraft laden with crucial supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) exploded shortly after lift-off in Florida on Sunday.

Two virtual reality headsets to empower astronauts aboard the ISS were part of the supplies on board the SpaceX’s seventh commercial re-supply mission.

“We are disappointed in the loss of the latest SpaceX cargo re-supply mission to the International Space Station. However, the astronauts are safe aboard the station and have sufficient supplies for the next several months,” NASA administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement.

photo courtesy: www.spacex.com
photo courtesy: www.spacex.com

The cargo included food, systems hardware, research materials, computer resources and spacewalking equipment.

It also carried a docking adaptor to prepare the ISS for future commercial missions.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 launch failure marks three cargo failures from three different launch providers in the past few months.

In April, the Russian space agency lost control of its cargo ship en route to the ISS and were forced to abandon it.

In October 2014, an Orbital-ATK Antares rocket exploded on the launch pad, preventing supplies from reaching the ISS.

“We will work closely with SpaceX to understand what happened, fix the problem and return to flight,” Bolden added.

The commercial cargo programme was designed to accommodate loss of cargo vehicles.

“We will continue operation of the station in a safe and effective way as we continue to use it as our test bed for preparing for longer duration missions farther into the solar system.”

The failure, however, does not deter the space agency from further cargo missions.

A Russian “Progress” cargo vehicle will launch from Kazakhstan on July 3 to the ISS.

“Orbital ATK, our other commercial cargo partner, is moving ahead with plans for its next launch later this year,” Bolden said.

“We will work with and support SpaceX to assess what happened, understand the specifics of the failure and correct it to move forward,” he said.

This is a reminder that spaceflight is an incredible challenge. (IANS)

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SpaceX to Launch Twin NASA Water Cycle Tracker Satellites

The satellites are scheduled to launch at 3.47 p.m. EDT from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Central California

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SpaceX to Launch Twin NASA Water Cycle Tracker Satellites
SpaceX to Launch Twin NASA Water Cycle Tracker Satellites. Pixabay

On its way to deploy five Iridium Next communications satellites on Tuesday, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will also launch twin NASA satellites that will monitor Earth’s water cycle, marking a unique rideshare arrangement.

The satellites are scheduled to launch at 3.47 p.m. EDT from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Central California. (This corresponds to 1.17 a.m. Wednesday India time), NASA said.

The two Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment Follow-On mission (GRACE-FO) spacecraft will follow each other in orbit around Earth, separated by about 220 km.

On liftoff, the Falcon 9 first-stage engines will burn for approximately two minutes and 45 seconds before shutting down at main engine cutoff (MECO).

The Falcon 9’s first and second stages will separate seconds later. Then, the second-stage engine will ignite for the first time (SES1) and burn until the vehicle reaches the altitude of the injection orbit, 490 km.

NASA
Representational Image, VOA

While this burn is going on, the payload fairing — the launch vehicle’s nose cone — will separate into two halves like a clamshell and fall away.

When the rocket’s second stage has completed its ascent to the injection orbit altitude, it will pitch down (its nose points down) 30 degrees and roll so that one of the twin GRACE-FO satellites is facing down, toward Earth, and the other is facing up, toward space.

Then the second stage engine will cut off (SECO).

About 10 minutes after liftoff, a separation system on the second stage will deploy the GRACE-FO satellites.

Separation will occur over the Pacific Ocean at about 17.5 degrees North latitude, 122.6 degrees West longitude.

The first opportunity to receive data from the spacecraft will occur at NASA’s tracking station at McMurdo, Antarctica, about 23 minutes after separation, NASA said.

Also Read: A Study by NASA Shows Freshwater Decline in India

After the GRACE-FO satellites are deployed, the Falcon 9 second stage will coast for half an orbit before reigniting its engine (SES2) to take the Iridium Next satellites to a higher orbit for deployment.

GRACE-FO, a collaborative mission of NASA and the German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ), continues the work of the original GRACE mission in observing the movement of water and other mass around our planet by tracking the changing pull of gravity very precisely. (IANS)