Launch Viewing Guide: SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 with SpX-7 Dragon
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX ) is preparing to launch one of the company’s Falcon 9 v1.1 rockets from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 at 10:21 a.m. EDT (14:21 GMT) on Sunday, June 28. This particular F9 will launch the seventh operational Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-7) mission to the International Space Station. The Falcon will fly in the v1.1 configuration (that’s rocket scientist speak for a version of the booster with extended fuels tanks, nine Merlin engines in the “Octaweb” configuration and other upgrades). For those wanting to watch one of these powerful rockets take to the skies – Sunday could be a very good day.
But where do you go to watch it from? Which spots provide the best viewing opportunities? Which ones are horrible? What if you’re on a budget? Not all locations are ideal. While one spot might be perfect to view a Delta IV launch, that same spot could be terrible when viewing a launch of a Falcon 9. This is due to the sheer geographical footprint of Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Here is SpaceFlight Insider’s recommendations for where to view this launch from:
While it might seem counter-intuitive, the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex itself is not the best spot to view the launch. From the Visitor Complex proper, the view is restricted with the many landmarks located there – which makes getting a clear view difficult at best. However, if you want to get the full space “experience”– you can’t go wrong. You get to wander among the spacecraft and launch vehicles of days gone by. Or you can visit the Space Shuttle Atlantis in her $100 million exhibit and even meet an astronaut and then cap all that off by seeing a rocket launch! To find out more, click here: Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex or call: 877.572.6401
Port Canaveral: This is definitely one of the better viewing locations to watch the launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket. Even better? It is totally free, incredibly easy to find, as well as being filled with locations from which to park (so long as you arrive early). All you need to do is park along SR-528 in the Port/Cape Canaveral area. One needs only to look for the cars parked along the side of the road. Okay, so you have figured out where you want to watch the launch from – how do you get there?
Directions to Port Canaveral: Take SR-528, “The Beachline” toward Titusville. After you reach the Port Canaveral area, take “Exit A North Terminals”. Once you’ve done that you will cross over a small drawbridge, go around the curve in the road – this will take you right behind the port. If you are coming from the opposite direction (the east) you will travel from A1A (this will eventually become SR-528). Click here for directions to the Port Canaveral area: Port Canaveral
Now what? Simple. Enjoy the experience, take loads of pictures and video – this is a once-in-a-lifetime event! Want to hear the iconic countdown procedure for yourself? No problem! Tune into 146.940 MHz and imagine that you are in launch control.
The Falcon 9 v1.1 booster is a relatively new addition to the U.S. fleet of launch vehicles. Produced by Hawthorne, California-based Space Exploration Technologies, or “SpaceX”, the Falcon 9 is, in essence, the foundation for the firm’s launch service efforts which has and currently consists of the Falcon 9 v1.1 booster and other test articles. The F9 is a two-stage rocket that is fueled by RP-1, a highly-refined form of kerosene, and liquid oxygen (LOX) – which serves as the oxidizer. The Falcon 9 is considered to be in the medium-lift range of launch vehicles.
The Falcon 9 v1.1 is capable of sending payloads weighing 28,990 lbs (13,150 kilograms) to a geostationary orbit.
SpaceX uses the Falcon 9, along with the company’s Dragon spacecraft, under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract (which brought the company some $1.6 billion) and was also used under the prior Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract. The first flight of Dragon to the International Space Station was carried out in October of 2012.
The v1.0 version of the Falcon 9 made a total of five flights before being taken out of service in 2013. The rationale behind its retirement become clear when one considers its successor.
The Falcon 9 v1.1 is an up-rated version of the v1.0 and is an estimated 60 percent heavier than the first version of the design. The v1.1 has stretched fuel tanks and the nine Merlin 1D rocket engines in its first stage have been arranged in what is known as the “Octaweb” configuration. The v1.1 Falcon 9 was first used to launch the CASSIOPE mission on behalf of the Canadian Space Agency (CSA). It also marked the first launch from SpaceX’s facilities at Vandenberg Air Force Base’s Launch Complex 4E located in California.
All other launches have been carried out from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) located in Florida.
The growth of the Falcon 9 is ongoing, with the heavy version of the booster currently scheduled to be launched from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A in Florida in late 2015.
SpaceX utilized its own funding in the development of the Falcon 1 rocket – this was not the case with the Falcon 9. To produce the booster, SpaceX used funds it had received from NASA’s COTS contract. SpaceX got these funds under a funded Space Act Agreement that it received from the U.S. space agency.
The company stated in 2011 that it cost an estimated $300 million to develop the Falcon 9. However, it has also been estimated that NASA invested $396 million to help produce the Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft combination that has been used on both CRS and COTS, whereas SpaceX spent some $450 million of its own funds.
This particular mission, the flight of a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, could see the start of a new age of space flight – the age of the reusable booster. While NASA and Blue Origin have conducted flights of similar technology on test articles – SpaceX is the only company to carry out tests after the F9’s first stage has completed its job of ferrying cargo and satellites to orbit. The CRS-7, or “SpX-7”, mission will mark the third time that SpaceX has attempted to land one of their rocket’s first stages on a platform placed some 300 miles off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida.
Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.