This giant space catapult launches satellites into space

This giant space catapult launches satellites into space

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying NASA’s Small X-ray Telescope IXPE was recently deployed on Pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center (KSC) ahead of a scheduled launch Thursday, Dec. 9.

The Falcon 9 is expected to take off at the start of a 90-minute window that opens at 1:00 AM EST (06:00 UTC). The only payload: a unique 330 kg (~730 lb) spacecraft known as the Explorer X-ray Imaging (IXPE) hoping to analyze X-ray polarizations to explore mysterious and mysterious black holes. Dead lighthouse-like stars called pulsars in unprecedented detail. The mission is also interesting due to the slight discrepancy between the size of the payload and the missile that will launch it.

As mentioned, the IXPE will weigh about a third of a ton at launch. Meanwhile, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 will weigh about 550 tons (1.2 million pounds) on liftoff, resulting in an unusual payload ratio of about 1:1700, or 0.06%. However, Falcon 9 still has to work hard to get IXPE into the right orbit. This is because IXPE is designed to operate in a nearly equatorial orbit with a zero degree tilt.

The launch from Cape Canaveral, located 28.5 degrees above the true equator, involves a physical launch directly into a 0.2 degree equatorial orbit. Instead, the rocket should blast off into a parking orbit to the east, then perform what’s called a plane switch or tilt once in space. Aircraft exchanges are notorious for being often (in terms of missile performance) one of the most expensive maneuvers that can be performed in orbit. This is certainly the case for the IXPE, which will require a 28.5-degree level change soon after takeoff.

NASA’s DSCOVR, TESS, and DART spacecraft prior to the launch of Falcon 9. (NASA)

For the Falcon 9, this means that even a small 330 kg IXPE missile is probably still about 20-30% of its maximum theoretical performance (1.5-2 tons) for such a mission profile, while the missile itself is capable of launching itself. 15 tons (33,000 lb) in the same 600 km (373 mi) orbit that IXPE targets when it is not necessary to change aircraft. For example, for NASA Calculator With access to official performance data, Blue Origin claims that its giant New Glenn rocket, designed to launch more than 40 tons (~90,000 lb) into Low Earth Orbit (LEO), can launch only about 2 tons (about 4,500 lb) than planned. for him. . IXPE. orbiting

SpaceX’s launch is no stranger to launches of small NASA spacecraft, including the nearly 700 kg (1,500 lb) Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) last month, but IXPE, about 10% more. Lightweight than TESS, the smallest will be customized. The payload launched by the Falcon 9. After launch, the Falcon 9 B1061 missile with its fifth drone will attempt to land more than 650 kilometers (400 mi) downstream. To demonstrate how changing the IXPE aircraft leads to an easy launch to 600 km, the older, less capable Falcon 9 rocket landed 300 km (185 miles) downstream after launching TESS into orbit and up to 375,000 km (233,000 mi), roughly the same distance between Earth and Moon.

The weather is currently 90% suitable for the launch of SpaceX’s IXPE on December 9.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is deployed on the launch pad using NASA’s X-ray Telescope

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