Falcon 9 soft landing video – work in progress

F9-waterlanding-2014-0418-partial-reconstruct-frame By releasing the raw MPEG stream of the April 18 water landing of the Falcon 9, SpaceX asked for assistance from computing video imaging hacker/expert community to restore stream.  It had been plagued by choppy transmission through bad weather conditions.

Now, the hackers/experts have a partially restored result.  The sequence begins just before ignition of the engine, and continues as the exhaust plume hits the water.  Throughout the landing sequence, the legs are already deployed.

The next landing sequence test should occur after the next launch.  A Falcon 9 is expected to launch an ORBCOMM OG2 satellite into low Earth orbit.  This launch was originally scheduled for May 10, but was scrubbed due to problems with static fire tests on May 8 and 9.  The earliest launch opportunity at the busy Cape Canaveral is June 11.

More info:

KickSat race to deploy

[Note: This article was originally published in the May 5 edition of the RocketSciRick Update. KickSat unfortunately was not able to deploy its sprites before re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere on May 14.]

kicksat_spriteAlthough KickSat was successfully deployed into orbit during the SpaceX CRS-3 launchon April 18, 2014, a glitch happened on the satellite. A hard reset that affects the master clock happened on the morning of Wednesday, April 30. Since other parts of the satellite seem to be operating normally, the likely cause is some form of space radiation.

From the time the clock starts, it counts 16 days to deployment of the 104 sprite spacecraft that KickSat houses. If the reset had not happened, deployment would have happened on May 4. However, with the reset, the date was moved back to May 16.

“Unfortunately,” says project lead Zac Manchester, “it looks like KickSat will most likely reenter and burn up before the 16th. We’ve spent the last couple of days here at Cornell trying to think of every possible contingency, but it seems there aren’t very many options right now. KickSat’s uplink radio, which we could use to command the deployment, can’t turn on unless the batteries reach 8 volts, and it doesn’t look like they’ll reach that level in time.”

There is a small chance that the batteries will recharge before then or KickSat might survive beyond May 16. For now, it is still alive, and ham radio operators are still reporting packets to the KickSat Ground Station in Google Groups.

More info on KickSat:

What happened to that e-journal?

What e-journal?

You know, the one that started a couple of months ago?

Oh, you mean that one. The RocketSciRick Update was a victim of a hectic schedule for late April and early May 2014, along with urgent tasks on my day job. The Silicon Valley Space Center was running the Space Entrepreneurship Series, a set of four meetings, mostly in May. (I wrote an open invitation inviting aspiring space entrepreneurs to join us.) Then there were the meetings with a couple of proposed start-up projects. And then there was the office move of my day job. My attempts to squeeze out time for the e-journal fell flat.

The e-journal depends on a regular publication cycle and an editorial process.  Because I cannot fix articles after they are sent out, I spent a lot of time on content, layout, distribution testing, etc. It is more intense than a blog.  In fact, I was writing a lot of original content in the e-journal and then posting later to this site.  Really, it should be other way around.

For now, it is on temporary hiatus. I plan to first get this site back up to date. In fact, I plan to move it from its current hosting service and consolidate it with other on-line resources I utilize. The plan now is to resume either (1) once the consolidation is under control, or perhaps (2) on at monthly basis during the consolidation.

Falcon 9 soft landing now with video (almost)

[This article is taken from the (not yet posted) May 5 issue of the RocketSciRick Update, but with additional references.]

F9-waterlanding-2014-0418[At left: part of frame from partially repaired video stream of Falcon 9 first stage landing. April 18, 2014]

Following its part in the launch to the International Space Station on April 18, the first stage of Falcon 9 rocket turned around and performed a retro burn. Killing its horizontal velocity, its objective was a decelerated re-entry path back to the surface of the Atlantic. Specific location was not a priority, but SpaceX wanted it to reach zero velocity just above the water before shutting down.

The weather was particularly bad. The launch was almost cancelled. But it stayed clear long enough for the launch to happen. However, where the stage came down is where the bad weather had gone, with tall stormy waves on the ocean. No ships could be hired to go out to retrieve the stage. Even the Coast Guard refused to go out.

Telemetry from accelerometers on the rocket confirmed that the legs had deployed, and it hovered for a few seconds. Then the engine shut down, the stage dropped into the water. A few seconds later, telemetry stopped. The stage was subsequently ripped apart by the stormy wave action. An aircraft overhead received the telemetry and video. However, at the data rate required for the real-time video stream, there was too much interference from the weather. The result is that the video stream has a lot of holes in the data.

If you know what you are looking for, you realize that the camera is looking downward from somewhere on the first stage. You can sometimes make out the exhaust plume or the legs of the rocket as it nears the surface of the ocean. A couple of frames give a decent view of the deployed legs and the rocket exhaust blasting against the ocean. SpaceX attempted to do some in-house repair of other frames, but has now posted the raw MPEG data to its website. The company hopes that an interested and capable video expert will take notice, and take on the challenge of filling in the missing pieces. And in so doing, we will get a much more watchable video of the rocket, and perhaps even the legs in the process of deployment.

More info:

Rick on Mars Pirate Radio (round 2)

Well, it’s finally happened.  Again.

A year after being on the inaugural episode of Mars Pirate Radio, I was invited back to do an update.  (Here‘s what I wrote about the original.)

As I get people’s reactions, I’ll post some notes next week to elaborate on what I was trying to say.  I will admit, this was a bit more stream-of-consciousness than the first interview.  The most amazing thing about the last year is how much has happened.  I’m still stunned.