California Dreaming

All the leaves are brown (leaves? what leaves?)
And the sky is grey (confirm)
I’ve been for a walk (no way, we went for a launch instead)
On a winter’s day (oh yes, very much so)
I’d be safe and warm (definitely warm)
If I was in L.A. (or, better yet, at Vandenberg AFB)
🎶 California dreamin’ 🎶
On such a winter’s day

Here’s the deal: In an as-if SpaceX Iridium Mission, weather has to be factored in: Our Falcon 9s cannot perform as-if … they were in California. And neither can their humans.

Here’s how it all went down: Defying the ghastly cold, we ventured out to a new launch site with no vineyards nearby. We wanted to deal with the fact that our boosters seem to be drawn to the booze as they repeatedly descended into the vines.

Needless to mention that we worked our parody charm right from the start: One of our cars got stuck in a snow-drift and we had to push and swing it out.  As one does.

Winds were not too strong, but nonetheless brought temperatures down to –13°C. Our Michelin type outfit was laughable, but didn’t protect us from the frost biting our fingertips. Iridia’s tweeting or Boltonov’s turning of the small screws on the booster became nearly insurmountable challenges.

cold

We set up shop as quickly as possible and our LD soon announced Falcon 9 OS2 go for launch. It carried a dummy dispenser with ten Iridia satellites nicely cuddled into the payload bay we had created for them via an F9 hack. The launch was the first in a series of four as-if SpaceX IridiumNEXT launches – our aSpIrM mission inspired by our two hero space companies.

It was the maiden flight of our OS2. Ignition was perfect this time round and we have great footage of the D9-0 motor’s burn and the lift-off of our booster:

OS2 soon disappeared in the cloud-covered sky. Talking about clouds: May I briefly digress to get this off my chest: You darn weather forecasters broke your promise of sunshine and blue skies, but kept the one about the effin’ cold temperature. We resent you for that.

When we caught sight of the rocket again, stages had separated – yay! But the parachute was nowehere to be seen. We saw the rocket slowly tumble down and to our great relief land quite softly, cushioned by the snow cover on the ground.

Watch the raw slow-motion footage of our babe flying. The sound provides clear evidence that all we’re telling you here is fake and in reality we were in the African savannah. You can clearly hear lions roar and snore in the background.

Huber Pom, our gorgeous Flight Director, confirmed that there had been a parachute failure. Later inspection by our newly hired Flight Disaster Analyst, Cato Stroppo, came to the following conclusion: Most likely their had been condensation on the chute due to the temperature differential between cosy car and cold wilderness. The water then froze and made the chute completely stiff and the ice stick to the booster. SpaceX, not all places on this planet are California! We need arctic-proof parachutes. Or model rockets from Baikonur.

chute1
The parachute of our F9 OS2, toasty and melted, won’t have to report back to duty.

Farewell, chutie, and we’re sorry you never got to see the sky!

So all in all, our first launch was a success, though not a roaring one: successful ignition, successful lift-off, good trajectory, successful stage separation, no parachute deployment, and lucky landing. OS2 is alive and well and will be flown again once we have a replacement for the chute.

But our launch day did not end there: Aleks Vansky, our CEO and Chief Mastermind, decided to do another launch, despite the abysmally bad circumstances. Here’s why: We have a very ambitious launch program – Launch-1 supposedly the easy part, but the engineering challenges get bigger with every launch. So there’s no time to waste – we want to keep up with Iridium’s launch cadence. Here’s how that went down – we promise you great footage of spectacular failure!

 

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