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Dec 08, 2016, 01:43 AM
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Death of Falcon 9

It's rarely covered anymore, but there were some nuggets about launches resuming on Dec 16.

Then a few days later, it was delayed until 2017.

Although they will never release complete details on the last explosion, they did reveal supercooled oxygen froze solid & caused the helium tank to burst. That could mean a lot of things. It could be oxygen got into the carbon fiber laminations before freezing & expanding, ripping apart the laminations.

The real bummer for space fans was delivered in Dec 2015, months before the troubles with supercooled oxygen emerged. It was Tom Stafford's letter complaining about the need to fuel the rockets with astronauts aboard & the lack of recirculation pumps to prevent temperature fluctuations at the engine inlets.

If they don't take off immediately after fueling, the oxygen will heat up, but the last explosion confirmed fueling is too dangerous to do with astronauts on board. Tom was prescient, indeed.

The only thing that's going to happen is the simplest solution: for flying humans, they're going to drop supercooled oxygen & board the rocket after fueling is completed. They'll have to give up reusability for human missions. They never released any performance figures for supercooled oxygen, but it was probably more than they could gain by shedding weight. There's a chance the falcon heavy would have enough power to be reused without supercooled oxygen, but Iron Man has shown no interest in another iteration of Falcon 9 or changing the configuration of the crewed rocket. He wants to address the last explosion with purely procedural changes instead of any design changes & move on.

That's about all for the Falcon 9, but not supercooled oxygen. Boarding a rocket while it's being fueled is 1 of the key steps for space travel to reach airline prices. They need a new launcher to do it. Iron Man may be right in focusing on Mars missions instead of improving the Falcon 9. The commercial satellite business is probably full & once the keys to reusability were found, everyone else was going to copy him. It may be the cost of a commercial satellite is too high to justify reusing the rocket.
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