SpaceX successfully launched first polar orbit mission in 50 years

Falcon9 launching SAOCOM-1B satellite
SpaceX successfully launched first polar orbit

On Sunday evening, SpaceX successfully launched another Falcon 9 rocket with a payload of three satellites from Cape Canaveral, Florida. After the launch, the SpaceX rocket took an exceptional path to South, rather headed towards eastward. This mission originally planned to head for the polar orbit, which is a path from Earth’s North Pole to South Pole. Now, this is very unusual to see a rocket lift off from East Coast, Florida and head towards South, but SpaceX’s Falcon 9 made it possible. Since 1969, most of the rockets normally launched from East Coast, Florida, head eastward towards the equator. That way, rockets covers most of the ocean areas to get to the space.

US polar rockets also have taken lift off from the Southern coast of California to fly over Open Ocean while heading towards southward. The main reason is to keep rockets away from populated area. On November 30, 1960, a Thor DM-21 rocket exploded before getting into the Stratosphere and a part of its fuselage killed a Cuban cow. Because of that the rockets fly over ocean, far away from the land, until SpaceX’s Falcon 9, carrying an Argentinean Satellite headed south after crossing over Florida’s Southeast Coast and Cuba. In 2016, wildfires got close to the Vandenberg Air Force Base, in California, which was US’s main polar launch site at that time to launch all Polar rockets. The fire caused severe damage around the Launchpad resulted delaying a launch for two months. After that US Air Force started planning to shift their polar launches to Cape Canaveral in Florida. The 45th Space Wing of Cape Canaveral then decided to cut down the number of launches and allow minimum number of rockets to fly polar missions with some restrictions. Officials of Cape Canaveral Space Wing permitted those polar launches, which has an in-built automated flight terminating system (AFTS) that allows a rocket to terminate itself depending on the situation. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 offers this special AFTS feature as per that requirement Falcon 9 is the only rocket that can fly from Florida, to southward coast.

SpaceX said, Falcon 9 has designed with this self-destructing feature for safety purposes, if the rocket move away from its path for some reason or something goes wrong then the rocket could self-destruct itself without any contact from the ground. After a successful launch, the rocket will be flying close to populated land, keeping that in mind; any issues from the rocket must be handled immediately. There is a possibility that gasses coming from rocket’s engine could interfere with signals that are sent to self-destruct the rocket, in that case, Falcon 9 must blow itself. It is the feature that allows SpaceX to take polar launches from Florida’s ground. The community assures SpaceX’s future flights will also have this Autonomous flight terminating system. SpaceX planned a double Falcon 9 launch last weekend, one with polar mission and another one carrying 60 SpaceX starling satellite broadband. SpaceX starling launch originally scheduled to Sunday morning from NASA’s 39A, Kennedy Space Center.

After finishing all the launch preparations, SpaceX’s team finally shut down the launch because of incompatible weather conditions. According to the latest updates, the community decided to reschedule the launch for Thursday, September 3 In Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, weather conditions were also poor with medium rainfall and lightning. After cancelling the previous SpaceX Starlink launch, SpaceX was focused for its Falcon 9 polar launch. At 7:18 p.m. weather showed slight improvements, which was enough to launch SpaceX’s Falcon 9. The rocket took its final countdown and at the exact moment, it lifted off from Florida’s ground. Falcon 9 was carrying SAOCOM-1B, an Argentinean satellite as the main payload along with two other satellites, GNOMES-1 and TYVAK-0172. SAOCOM-1B satellite deployed 14 minutes after the rocket has launched, while exactly one hour for other two satellites after the launch. The SAOCOM (Satellites for Observation and Communications) is a two-satellite program worth of $600 million including launches. This mission previously scheduled to March2020, had been delayed due to the global pandemic. Two years ago, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 also launched previous SAOCOM satellite (SAOCOM-1A), from Vandenberg Air force Station (SLC-4E). Both of the satellites launched into a polar orbital trajectory to fly over the Earth’s poles but SAOCOM-1B is the only satellite that launched into the polar orbital trajectory from Cape Canaveral Space Launch Complex while first stage of Falcon 9 landed safely on ground. SpaceX completed its 15 launch of 2020 as the two-staged reusable rocket took off the ground.

After successfully deploying all three satellites, first stage of the rocket touched the Landing Zone-1 in Cape Canaveral. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 previously completed two dragon cargo missions. These two missions launched the Dragon 1 resupply capsule for International Space Station. Including this mission, B1059, the first stage rocket booster completes a second trip as this booster previously landed to the same place after delivering CRS-20 mission into orbit. For landing on the firm ground, the booster detached from its upper stage, managing its position while floating on the sky. Finally, a series of three engine burns gently landed it on the ground. SpaceX uses two drone ships named “Of Course I Still love You” and “Just Read The Instructions”, to recover most of its rocket boosters. When the boosters are back in Florida’s Port, SpaceX send to the main facility for inspection and reuse again.

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