Why Rocket Science is Amazing (SpaceX Rocket Landing)
First of all, I'd like to apologize for my hiatus. My last post was on August 1, 2015 and I was heading into a busy semester with my academics. The good news is I've made it through another semester at school and I inch closer and closer on finishing my degree. If you don't know, I'm studying Aerospace Engineering and Physics and I have less than 12 more courses left in both majors so I'm in the most academically challenging part of my two majors. Hence, my lack of YouTube videos on the PhoneDog channel this past quarter has been down to my real job of being a full-time student.
Though this is not the reason why I wanted to post back on here. I actually have reminders telling me to write something because I feel obligated to tell my story and future adventures with every one of you who want to hear it. Today is December 21st, 2015; and the reason I said that is I want you to remember this date. As you may of remembered, I was down at the Kennedy Space Center in June for SpaceX CRS-7, the ill-fated mission that brought SpaceX operations to a halt. Well I'm glad to report that today, SpaceX has reopened their doors and have lit their rockets' candles because they are back to active spaceflight.
At 8:28PM ET, a new Falcon 9 vehicle, probably titled Falcon 9 v 1.2 (not verified) launched and began its 9 minute journey into low earth orbit. The Falcon 9 has been improved by enlarging the second stage (the single vacuum rocket thruster) and using even cooler and more dense liquid oxygen. Liquid oxygen is pretty cold stuff, usually about -280 to -320 degrees. SpaceX is using an even more dense and cooler version at -340 degrees. This allows even more oxygen which means longer burn time and more power can be extracted from their engines. If you don't know what any of this means, let me give you a quick science lecture.
(Lecture about Rocket Engines, read at your own will)
Rockets are actually very simple things. They are usually tower shaped objects filled with chemical fuels. The Falcon 9, for example, is a Kerosene and Oxygen burning rocket. Kerosene is a basic fossil fuel, it was used to light candles and such back in the day. Today kerosene is used primarily as jet fuel... and rocket fuel. RP-1 is a liquid form Kerosene that is used in most rockets. So imagine two tanks, one filled with Kerosene and the other with liquid oxygen. Now, just because the oxygen is in liquid state doesn't mean its special. The reason why we put oxygen in a liquid state is we can compress liquid more safely and better all together than leaving the oxygen in gas form. So basically, we fit more oxygen in liquid form rather than gas. So now, what do you know about fire? If you take a match and throw it into pure fuel (no fumes), its inert. Nothing happens. However, if you have the correct fuel to OXYGEN ratio, it goes KABOOM. Same idea with the rocket engine. Mixing RP-1 (rocket fuel) with liquid oxygen to the correct ratio and lighting it equals rocket thrust.
Back to today. The good news is the Falcon 9 successful delivered Dragon and its 11 OrbComm satellites into low earth orbit. The deployment went off beautifully too. Though, the really exciting news is today marks the first successful mission return of the first stage. Unlike the Grasshopper test vehicle in McGregor, Texas, today was the real deal. After first stage separation, the first stage conducted a series of maneuvers. The first was a 'boostback burn' which turned the rocket around and boosted it back towards KSC. The second was the entry burn, which is a continuous rocket burn to get it safely back on the ground. And today, SpaceX landed their Falcon 9 first stage on the grounds of Kennedy Space Center. It was a picture perfect touchdown and you could really feel and hear all the joy spewing from the engineers who made it all possible.
2015 was definitely a rollercoaster for SpaceX but here is to all the engineers, scientists, physicists, and everyone else involved in the SpaceX team. You guys just made history.