Friday, March 24, 2006

Curses! Failed Again!

Unfortunately SpaceX's attempt to launch its Falcon 1 failed today. The reason is not yet determined but a likely culprit appears to be a insulating blanket that was supposed to tear off the rocket during liftoff but apparently didn't. The blanket was a makeshift fix used to prevent the excessive loss of LOX encountered in SpaceX's two aborted launches last year.
"To keep the liquid oxygen from warming up and naturally boiling away while the rocket sat on its tropical launch pad before launch, a "thermal coat" had been wrapped around the first stage. Problems running out of liquid oxygen on the remote island have bedeviled SpaceX over the past few months.

'A glaring deficiency that we had in the November and December attempts was the fact that we were basically boiling LOX at an unacceptably high rate. It is hard to get LOX on the island. So what we did was put a blanket scheme together to cover the first stage LOX tank,' Gwynne Shotwell, SpaceX vice president of business development, told reporters during Friday's countdown.

'It is held to the rocket by Velcro and and we've got lanyards that hold it down to the ground. So basically the lanyards will pull a zipper as the vehicle lifts up, a Velcro zipper, and that LOX tank insulation will stay on the ground as the vehicle flies through it.'"
(Here.)

Foam on the shuttle and an insulating blanket on the Falcon. What is it with thermal protection of fuel tanks that causes such problems with launchers?

We wish SpaceX success in the future and hope it will be able to launch its next mission from Vandenberg on schedule in three to six months.

-tdr

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