SpaceX’s latest Falcon Heavy launch captured from rare perspective NASA cameras installed aboard the International Space Station happened to be in the right place and at the right time to capture SpaceX’s latest Falcon Heavy launch from orbit.
Thanks to its timing, the January 15 launch was already one of SpaceX’s most spectacular launches. A twilight liftoff thrust and lit up the rocket’s mile-long exhaust fin against a dark sky, creating a show that – while familiar – was still extraordinary. Somehow, the timing of Falcon Heavy’s USSF-67 launch allowed the ISS to watch the show hundreds of miles above Earth’s surface and away from the launch pad.
This isn’t the first time a rocket launch has made a show for the astronauts (or at least, the cameras) living on the ISS. But this is the first time the rare launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket has been viewed from orbit. Similar in concept to the contrails produced by aircraft at high altitude, the Falcon Heavy produced a giant exhaust plume as it exited Earth’s atmosphere, and a small amount of water vapor in that exhaust formed artificial clouds.
This view from the station shows the launch plume of the @SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket after its liftoff on Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023, from @NASAKennedy in Florida. pic.twitter.com/TRWNggsGas
— International Space Station (@Space_Station) January 19, 2023
Pilot friend of mine captured the Falcon Heavy launch from 35,000ft 500 miles off the coast! What an insane shot! 📸: Ryan Walker pic.twitter.com/sZyBScfpJh
— Taylor 🇺🇦 (@TaylorHose) January 16, 2023
Those contrails are especially noticeable at the boundaries of Earth’s atmosphere up to about 50 miles (80 km), where they can capture sunlight before or after the Sun has set or risen on the surface. Falcon Heavy’s artificial nocturnal clouds lasted for several minutes, allowing cameras on the NASA side of the space station to photograph the clouds as it flew low over the Atlantic Ocean. Physically, the Falcon Heavy was approaching the ISS as it flew east and both were traveling with Earth’s rotation, slightly increasing the rare window of opportunity.
Had the Falcon Heavy been launched a few minutes later, the ISS would have disappeared from sight. The photos of the launch station were taken about seven minutes after the Falcon Heavy lifted off, shortly before the upper stage reached low Earth orbit (LEO) and the rocket’s twin side boosters returned to Florida. By then, the rocket’s sacrificial center booster was falling toward the ocean and likely to be destroyed by atmospheric re-entry.
B1064 and B1065 at the Landing Zones after launching the Falcon Heavy, USSF-67, two days ago.
📷: Me for @SuperclusterHQ pic.twitter.com/o67O2pjVgT
— Jenny Hautmann (@JennyHPhoto) January 17, 2023
The Falcon Heavy’s upper stage will carry two US military spacecraft – several satellites and payloads – to a geosynchronous orbit (GSO) of approximately 35,250 km (~21,900 mi), before deployment approximately 21,650 mi from the ISS. The first will operate in orbit for six or so hours. classes. The extremely challenging mission was ultimately a complete success and SpaceX’s second such Falcon Heavy launch for the US military in less than three months.
The Falcon Heavy has won several NASA launch contracts since its successful February 2018 launch debut, including the agency’s Gateway to the Lunar Space Station, the Europa Clipper mission to Jupiter, and the Psyche mission to a metallic asteroid base. Originally scheduled to launch in the second half of 2022, Psyche will be the first dedicated Falcon Heavy launch for NASA and could begin as early as October 2023.
We enter the next arguably big one in the form of the Starship Project. The historic first launch of the Electron rocket in the United States signaled the unprecedented advances to come in nuclear thermal rocket engines. This week is packed with action so let’s jump straight into it. Well, there’s no doubt about it we’re starting this video off with SpaceX’s first full stack wet dress rehearsal. It was a huge test and although there was no exciting fire for this milestone, it was arguably even more important.
The day began at about 4 p.m. when the last SpaceX employees closed the main entrance, indicating the pad was almost completely cleaned up and ready to go. However this time the residents of the village were also asked to evacuate, which we haven’t seen since the days of the Starship flight test. We also had an indication that the evacuation was not limited to the residents of the village. Even the manufacturing site of SpaceX came to a complete standstill. Transport was also arranged here for those who still needed to move out.
The road was further back than the place I had mentioned weeks earlier for testing. Now back here on the Sanchez site. This exam was being taken very seriously. Soon after, this R44 helicopter took off in the sky and was seen flying back and forth several times. The four-seat helicopter remained on stand-by throughout the day to take off again if needed. Now shortly after the closure of the road, the Tower Arms abandoned Ship 24. Just looking at them out there in the open, we can safely assume that’s what condition I think they’ll be in at launch! After a very long series of preparation steps, the excitement of the wet dress rehearsal was finally here.
The orbital launch mount began to rise. The subchillers roared once again, lowering the temperature of the fluid in the passage of the gigantic 120-meter-long monster. And in true SpaceX fashion they were loading both liquid oxygen and liquid methane at once. Climbing frostline continuously on both tanks on boosters! Suddenly the exhaust of the tower became very thick. The signal to stand on ship 24 was also about to be loaded. Propellant is now being loaded into all four main tanks.
As we’d expect during a true wet dress rehearsal countdown, the ship’s engine chill venting began as well. Yes, almost everything had to be tested on this day except actually starting those engines. Now even if propellant loading was still in progress at this stage, I’m pretty sure that at this point, SpaceX had already broken the record for heaviest rocket ever loaded, previously held by NASA’s Saturn V rocket at about 3,000 tons. SpaceX was flying straight past that specific periodic venting occurred to keep the tank pressure optimal.
At this point the ship’s propellant loading was nearly complete, indicated by small vents near the forward flaps. At the same time, two header tanks are choking the nose. is also being filled. A few minutes later the ship’s loading was complete, signaling the re-emergence of the tower. Large amounts of liquid methane are coming out of the booster tanks! A few minutes later it happened again. I’m hoping there was a slight unexpected pressure build-up or something in this case, as it looks like a bad situation if this is standard venting procedure for a fully loaded vehicle.
One tiny spark and that vent can become a giant flamethrower. During that second big vent the Orbital Launch Mount started venting again. A good indication that propellant loading was now terminated on the booster as well! Check out this awesome stack fully loaded with propellant! Just to show that everything was still progressing according to plan with the wet dress rehearsal countdown, fire suppression was also activated. Surely at this point we would have seen the Raptors ignite for flight here.
But due to a wet dress rehearsal, it was time to disassemble and secure the vehicle. The tower arms closed back, and we could see Frost outside the booster sinks on all four tanks. At this point, we were all curious. Did this massive test go as planned? Well, while this was still going on, SpaceX announced here that it actually had a completely successful wet dress rehearsal at Starbase. It’s also worth noting that it was loaded with “over 10 million pounds of propellant”.
I was so thrilled that they awarded us this amazing drone shot that showed the entire stack completely full. Likewise a beauty right here with NASASpaceFlight by Nick. Now coming back to that £10 million. It is estimated in many places that the full weight of the propellant is about 5,000 tonnes, but which tonnes? You have metric tons, but converting 10 million pounds equals a little over 4,500 of those, so I’m assuming we’ve been talking about US tons this whole time because it will add up to those numbers.
Also remember that there are also Imperial tones which are again slightly different. Don’t you just love units like this? Anyway, that wrapped up on Monday with both rocket stages. In fact, it’s interesting to see these shots comparing the full stack before load and once it’s fully loaded. check that out. You can see that the whole heap has shrunk a lot? All this is due to the fact that stainless steel shrinks when loaded with a propellant.
But part of these tests is to make sure it does whatever it needs to flex and nothing starts buckling. This would affect all other rockets with cryogenic propellants, but the bigger the rocket, the bigger the effect. It will be just as big. See an amazing comparison of the shrinking of the SLS core stage here! More fun details were shared the next day, with SpaceX tweeting what the future plans were for Booster 7 and Ship 24! The ship was to be separated from Booster 7 in preparation for the next big exciting milestone.
This is not the thrust power achieved by SpaceX, and I doubt they will exceed any other in history, assuming they are well above the minimum. I really hope they share the total forces after this happens because it could definitely break the N1’s historical record. As always many thanks to both LabPadre and NASASpaceFlight for streaming these events in their entirety. It’s been a huge week and it doesn’t end there. Preparations soon began with teams moving closer to the tower to destroy the shipping stand.
On Wednesday the entire launching site was crawling and activity was in full swing preparing to lift off the ship from the booster. After a few low pressure incidents that were quickly resolved, the first ship’s quick disconnect was withdrawn, with teams removing electrical connections shortly thereafter. Rotates the quick disconnect arm and there we go, the whole stack is no longer there. Preparations are now underway for that elusive Engine 33 stationary fire, expected in a week or two, and in the meantime, Ship 24 needed a new home.
Some rumors floating around suggested that it was moved to the Rocket Garden to be retired. Now, don’t panic because where else could they have put it? Ship 25 is on Pad B at the launch site. Pad A has hydraulic thrust puck simulators installed, making lift off with the Raptor engines installed there impossible. The cryostation stands very close, right next to the tower, and the high bays at the construction site are full of ships and boosters being dismantled or destroyed. So the next best place is to take Rocket Garden and get all the equipment needed to keep it safe and pressurized.
I think a pretty safe bet is that Ship24 is A-OK. Just needed to remove those lift points and patch a handful of tiles in the area. So how’s the scraping process going? Last week we saw Ship 22 disintegrate in Highbay. Well, SpaceX has made great short work of this vehicle, starting by ripping its thrust section from the bottom up. In just 24 hours the ship went from its full length to the individual pieces cut apart! Booster 8 was not spared either.
The first methane tank was completely cut into sections, ending with a forward dome. Then it was time for the aft tank to go inside the megabay and get its thrust section out of here. Notice how they cut out the simple sugar too! As with most things in life. It is very difficult and time consuming to make, but it only takes a few moments to destroy. It’s certainly been an incredible week of Starship insights. Remember to save a copy of these images by SpaceX.
It was a very historic milestone. Contingency plans are in progress with respect to the Soyuz MS-22 spacecraft. NASA flight engineers Josh Cassada and Nicole Mann were hard at work inside the SpaceX Crew Dragon Endurance on the space station just recently. Doing what you might ask? Well they have moved the seat liner from the Soyuz to the Dragon. This is because the crew cannot reliably return to the space station on MS-22 due to coolant leak issues.
With plans to return three NASA astronauts Frank Rubio and two cosmonauts Sergei and Dmitri on the next MS-23 vehicle, a plan still needs to be put in place in case of an emergency evacuation before that time. Each seat liner on the Soyuz is individually scored with M.