August 17, 2018

Falcon 9 launch timeline with TESS


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EDITOR’S NOTE: Updated April 18 with new launch date.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is set for liftoff from Cape Canaveral on Wednesday, heading east over the Atlantic Ocean to deliver NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite into orbit approximately 49 minutes after launch.

The 229-foot-tall (70-meter) rocket is poised for launch from pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 6:51:31 p.m. EDT (2251:31 GMT) Wednesday at the opening of a 30-second launch window.

NASA’s 798-pound (362-kilogram) Transiting Exoplanet Survey satellite is perched atop the rocket to begin a two-year all-sky survey in search of planets around bright stars in our solar neighborhood.

SpaceX will attempt to recover the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage booster on a drone ship parked in the Atlantic Ocean downrange from Cape Canaveral.

The timeline below outlines the launch sequence for the Falcon 9 flight with TESS, which will be injected into an elliptical transfer orbit ranging in altitude between roughly 120 miles (200 kilometers) and 168,000 miles (270,000 kilometers). TESS will use its own propulsion system, and a lunar flyby maneuver May 16, to steer into an observing orbit in resonance with the moon.

The timeline does not show first stage landing on the drone ship, which is expected at T+plus 7 minutes, 56 seconds.

Data source: SpaceX

T-0:00:00: Liftoff

After the rocket’s nine Merlin engines pass an automated health check, hold-down clamps will release the Falcon 9 booster for liftoff from Complex 40.
After the rocket’s nine Merlin engines pass an automated health check, hold-down clamps will release the Falcon 9 booster for liftoff from pad 40.

T+0:01:08: Mach 1

The Falcon 9 rocket reaches Mach 1, the speed of sound.
The Falcon 9 rocket reaches Mach 1, the speed of sound, as the nine Merlin 1D engines provide more than 1.7 million pounds of thrust.

T+0:01:16: Max Q

The Falcon 9 rocket reaches Max Q, the point of maximum aerodynamic pressure.
The Falcon 9 rocket reaches Max Q, the point of maximum aerodynamic pressure.

T+0:02:29: MECO

The Falcon 9’s nine Merlin 1D engines shut down.
The Falcon 9’s nine Merlin 1D engines shut down.

T+0:02:32: Stage 1 Separation

The Falcon 9’s first stage separates from the second stage moments after MECO.
The Falcon 9’s first stage separates from the second stage moments after MECO.

T+0:02:39: First Ignition of Second Stage

The second stage Merlin 1D vacuum engine ignites for an approximately 6-minute burn to put the rocket and SES 9 into a preliminary parking orbit.
The second stage Merlin 1D vacuum engine ignites for a six-minute burn to put the rocket and TESS into a preliminary parking orbit.

T+0:03:01: Fairing Jettison

The 5.2-meter (17.1-foot) diameter payload fairing jettisons once the Falcon 9 rocket ascends through the dense lower atmosphere. The 43-foot-tall fairing is made of two clamshell-like halves composed of carbon fiber with an aluminum honeycomb core.
The 5.2-meter (17.1-foot) diameter payload fairing jettisons once the Falcon 9 rocket ascends through the dense lower atmosphere. The 43-foot-tall fairing is made of two clamshell-like halves composed of carbon fiber with an aluminum honeycomb core.

T+0:08:20: SECO 1

The second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket shuts down after reaching a preliminary low-altitude orbit. The upper stage and SES 9 begin a coast phase scheduled to last more than 18 minutes before the second stage Merlin vacuum engine reignites.
The second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket shuts down after reaching a preliminary low-altitude orbit. The upper stage and TESS begin a coast phase scheduled to last nearly 35 minutes before the second stage Merlin vacuum engine reignites.

T+0:43:10: Second Ignition of Second Stage

The Falcon 9's second stage Merlin engine restarts to propel the SES 9 communications satellite into a supersynchronous transfer orbit.
The Falcon 9’s second stage Merlin engine restarts to propel the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite into an elliptical high Earth orbit ranging between roughly 120 miles (200 kilometers) and 168,000 miles (270,000 kilometers) above Earth.

T+0:44:03: SECO 2

The Merlin engine shuts down after a short burn to put the SES 10 satellite in the proper orbit for deployment.
The Merlin engine shuts down after a short burn to put the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite in the proper orbit for deployment.

T+0:49:35: TESS Separation

The SES 9 satellite separates from the Falcon 9 rocket in an orbit with a predicted high point of about 39,300 kilometers (24,400 miles), a low point of 290 kilometers (180 miles) and an inclination of 28 degrees. Due to the decision to burn the second stage nearly to depletion, there is some slight uncertainty on the orbital parameters based on the exact performance of the launcher.
The Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite separates from the Falcon 9 rocket in its elliptical high Earth transfer orbit.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.


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