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The SpaceX Falcon Rocket


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You know when SpaceX first announced they intended to land their first stage on a barge bobbing up and down in the ocean... I remember laughing to myself thinking; "right!... your not only going to return the first stage to earth, your going to land it on a moving target".


I was very pleasantly surprised when they did it. Then they impressed the hell out of me when they began repeating that landing.... getting better with each one.

Although initially I thought I was witnessing a missile test because of it coming from the direction of Vandenberg AFB after learning it was SpaceX I went and did some research on what I had witnessed because the thrust

capabilities I saw were... impressive.


The engines on this rocket are quite amazing. Although the current version is the "Merlin 1D" this is not affiliated with Merlin Engine Company. The Merlin rocket engines are designed and built by SpaceX

The first stage has nine of the Merlin 1D engines. Each produces roughly 360 kN (81,000 lbf) of thrust a minimum throttle and approx. 825 kN (185,500 lbf) at maximum throttle.

So stage one of the Falcon is very powerful producing a max thrust of 1,665,000 lbf at sea level.


Another feature these engines have that most rocket engines do not have is they can be shut off and re-ignited at will if necessary.


Stage two has only one engine, the "Merlin 1D Vacuum" which is a bit more powerful and designed to operate exclusively in the vacuum of space.

It produces a maximum thrust of 934 kN (210,000 lbf) and can also be throttled down to approx. 39% of max thrust.

The original picture I took and posted on Dec. 22 is the second stage with this Merlin 1D Vacuum engine blazing across the sky.


Picture above is Stage 2 of Falcon rocket with Merlin 1D Vacuum at or near full throttle.


I took a short video (28 seconds) of it as it disappeared over the horizon to my southwest. As it went out of view, I panned the video camera back to where it launched from. Although the picture quality is not great I created a composite photo from the vid of the launch below:


SpaceX Falcon Rocket launch from Vandenberg AFB on Dec. 22, 2017. Payload of 10 new generation Iridium Satellites.



I have to say, SpaceX continues to impress me. Vandenberg is over 600 miles from where I shot these photos, I would never have expected to get such a great view of the launch from here. I feel lucky to have witnessed it.


Musk is going to see more problems as they try to go to Mars. It is a very dangerous & difficult journey, but he has obviously assembled a great engineering team that will work their way through those problems.

I think he has demonstrated amazing capabilities with SpaceX so far... I look forward to the next time he impresses us all.


The Falcon Heavy is essentially three first stages strapped together, current engineering calculations say it can put a 37,040 pound payload in Mars orbit. It is currently being assembled.



While a target of being on Mars in the next 5 to 8 years may seem very aggressive to some, I think he probably has an engineering team capable of doing it, and he has the cash flow to finance it.

So look out solar system... here we come.

Edited by Zathrus~SPARTA~
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Been following the exploits of Musk for almost 20 years now - first saw him on a Discovery channel show developing a rocket to win a NASA funded X-Prize (first private company to launch to orbit and return a 200kg payload). Sadly Musk lost out because he ran out of funding.


But what impressed me most was the fact that he was designing and testing this rocket from his home! He set himself a goal and went for it.


When they ran out of money he sold his house, borrowed money from the family and begged borrowed and promised every friend he knew to raise the capital to finish development.

He managed to put together enough capital to build and launch 3 rockets - the Falcon 1.

The first failed due to 1st stage engine early shut down

Same with the second

The 3rd worked perfectly up to separation with the 2nd stage when they collided and the 2nd stage failed to start.


And that was it! out of money and out of time. But Musk being Musk, he got the team together and they realized they had enough spare parts and redundancy items form the first three launches to build one more Falcon 1.


The built it - it worked flawlessly and the rest as they say is history.

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Musk is doing today, what NASA did for the world during the Apollo program in the 1960's.

While the majority of folks believed it was impossible to go to the moon, engineering teams at NASA told the world they were going to figure it out and go to the moon.... and they did.


Musk is doing the same thing with SpaceX, but he is also doing it to NASA and other space programs which is very impressive in that when everyone is saying "no we do not think that possible in a practical manner"

SpaceX seems to say; "Impossible to do in a practical manner? Well we are going to look this over, figure it out and do it."


He is doing that so well... he has other space programs buying his launches capabilities. This is because SpaceX doesn't bother worrying about whether they can do something or not. They intend to do it, if something does

not exist that makes what they want to do possible, they invent it or take a similar technology and modify it to their needs.


In my book, this is the calling card of all great engineering teams. "Impossible? No that is not impossible. It seems that way because nobody has taken the time to sit down and figure it out."

The above defines most space program or defense industry engineering teams, but SpaceX is setting the bar very high.


Prepare for amazing advances in several technologies.... and humans walking on Mars.

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BTW... Apparently Musk is expecting growing pains with the Falcon Heavy... One article quoted him as saying something along the lines; "I will consider it a success if it clears far enough to not damage the launch pad."


Musk is being realistic in yes when you up the power like this the potential for an explosive failure on the launch pad rises exponentially.....it will be somewhere close to 5,200,000 lbf of thrust on the launch pad... and that thrust can be sustained for several minutes.... I don't think any space programs have avoided this unpleasant growing pain as all have experienced a failure during a launch or shortly after launch during maximum pressure..... it happens. Mathematically it is impossible to avoid something going wrong at least once in awhile with this many parts, that much fuel, etc. sitting together where a single failure in the wrong part or system at the wrong time will be explosive .. eventually even the best experience catastrophic failure.


Redundancy in systems helps greatly reduce the frequency of such things, but redundancy does not guarantee prevention of catastrophic failures.... Redundancy helps make sure problems that are not catastrophic never become catastrophic.



Just saw this article come up on space.com https://www.space.com/39227-spacex-s-1st-falcon-heavy-rocket-now-at-launchpad-ahead-of-maiden-flight.html

Edited by Zathrus~SPARTA~
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