Next Falcon Heavy and thinks of the crew Dragons for Bigelow

RADARSAT Constellation Mission (Image: Canadian Space Agency)

RADARSAT Constellation Mission (Image: Canadian Space Agency)

SpaceX has made a second landing of Falcon 9 in its Vandenberg Landing Zone 4, after beating the Californian fog to send a trio of Canadian satellites into orbit.

The booster that launched RADARSAT had previously been in operation in Florida, sending the Crew Dragon demonstrator to the International Space Station before landing on a drone ship based in the Atlantic.

The Falcon 9 started at 14:17 UTC, the first stage burned just over two minutes before separating from the second stage and performing a boostback burn to return to landing zone 4 (LZ-4). The booster landed just under eight minutes after taking off successfully.

The RADARSAT constellation, created by the MDA of Maxar Technologies, is the third in Canada's series of earth observation satellites. RADARSAT-1, which was launched by Vandenberg on a Delta II in 1995, died in 2013 after its lifetime had been exceeded by more than 12 years. RADARSAT-2 rose in 2007 and remains active.

The third mission, called the RADARSAT Constellation Mission (RCM), increases deployment by sending three satellites simultaneously. The new C-band Earth observation aircraft are about half the size of their predecessors. They are about 3.6 m high, 1.1 m wide and 1.7 m deep. Each satellite weighs 1,430 kg and has a 6.98 m wide antenna.

A constellation means that RCM can display every point over 90 percent of the Earth's surface every 24 hours except for the South Pole. While the satellites are expected to be used for ecosystem monitoring, agriculture and disaster relief, the inclusion of an automatic identification system (AIS) for ships will also enhance the tracking of ships of interest.

With an orbit of 600 km, RCM is expected to last for seven years, though Canada hopes for the longevity of its predecessors.

Boffins at SpaceX now have less than two weeks to roll the third Falcon Heavy from the previous Shuttle Launchpad LC39A in Florida. On June 24, the launch of Musk's Monster Missile will transport the Space Test Program-2 (STP-2) of the US Air Force Space and Missile Systems Center under multiple payloads.

The Side Boosters are expected to land in Landing Zone 2 and Landing Zone 1. The latter are freed from the remnants of SpaceX's unfortunate Crew Dragon.

The restart of the Crew Dragon is becoming more and more important not only for the commercial ambitions of NASA: Bigelow Space Operations intends to send up to 16 people over four take-offs to the ISS. ®