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SpaceX Update - November 3rd, 2016 Written Thursday 3rd of November 2016 at 10:00am by Nehkara

Greetings fellow Citizens!  Today I'm going to update you on the status of a real-world space exploration company, SpaceX.

As many of you know, on September 1st, 2016 a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket exploded on the pad during fueling 8 minutes prior to a planned static fire test at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 40.  SLC 40 was badly damaged in the explosion, as seen below:

SpaceX has narrowed the cause of the accident to a fueling procedure which they believe caused the 2nd stage helium tank to rupture.  They have been able to replicate this failure.  The exact cause of the failure is still being worked on.  For more information on the investigation you can visit SpaceX's regularly-updated blog about the incident.

Despite the precise cause not being identified, the company is proceeding with preparations to return to flight.  Currently the biggest roadblock actually appears to be that SpaceX has no operational launch facilities currently:

  1. Vandenberg Air Force Base, Space Launch Complex 4 East - Under inspection after recent wildfire. Expected return to operation: November/December 2016
  2. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Space Launch Complex 40 - Under repair after significant damage due to September 1, 2016 Falcon 9 explosion. Expected return to operation: Q2 2017
  3. Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Space Launch Complex 39A - Under renovation and construction to adapt the facility for Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy launches. Expected return to operation: November/December 2016
  4. South Texas Launch Facility - Under construction.  Will be a fully commercial launch facility. Expected start of operation: Q4 2018

We do know that SpaceX has a Falcon 9 rocket at their launch facility at Vandenberg Air Force Base, awaiting readiness of that facility and wrap-up of the investigation.

At their McGregor test facility in Texas, SpaceX has also just completed a static fire test for another new Falcon 9 rocket.  This rocket is now bound for Cape Canaveral for a late 2016 launch from pad 39A.  When the Falcon 9 launches from pad 39A, it will be the first launch since 2011 from this pad that was once host to Space Shuttle and Apollo launches.

SpaceX will use the two cores (Vandenberg and Cape Canaveral 39A) to return to flight. They are hoping to launch both missions (Echostar-23 and Iridium NEXT-1, respectively) by the end of the year.

In 2017 we expect to see the first launches of the Falcon Heavy rocket:

SpaceX has completed structural testing of the center core of the Falcon Heavy at their McGregor facility. A side core is now undergoing the same testing.

In other news JCSAT-14, a landed core, has been successfully test-fired 8 times since it's landing.  This first stage was deemed to have endured the most damage a Falcon 9 could endure while still landing successfully.  This made the JCSAT-14 core a perfect candidate for extensive ground-based testing of the rocket to determine the durability of components and engines.

JCSAT-14 landing:

Obviously no SpaceX update would be complete without mentioning the recently-unveiled Interplanetary Transport System or ITS.  SpaceX is working on this gigantic rocket and spacecraft to enable the colonization of Mars.  I could talk a huge amount about this but I will instead let some images and video talk for me:

Credit to Reddit user dante80: https://www.reddit.com/user/da...
Credit to Reddit user zlsa: https://www.reddit.com/user/zl...
Credit to Reddit user zlsa: https://www.reddit.com/user/zl...
Credit to Reddit user zlsa: https://www.reddit.com/user/zl...
Credit to Reddit user zlsa: https://www.reddit.com/user/zl...
Credit to Reddit user zlsa: https://www.reddit.com/user/zl...
Massive carbon fiber test tank to hold liquid oxygen for the ITS. This tank is actually not quite as large as the one that will present on the rocket and spacecraft.

Nehkara

Founder

Writer and inhabitant of the Star Citizen subreddit.