Falcon 9 Launch, Orbcomm Satellite Deployment Pushed Back Until July
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
UPDATE: June 24, 2014 (6:30 a.m.)
In order to allow more time to fix ongoing technical issues, SpaceX announced that it would push back Tuesday’s scheduled Falcon 9 launch by at least a week.
In an online flight update, the space transportation company said that it would be “taking a closer look at a potential issue identified while conducting pre-flight checkouts” prior to Sunday’s aborted launch, and would use the extra time to allow “our engineering teams evaluate further” and to complete “previously scheduled maintenance.”
The launch, which will be carrying a payload of six Orbcomm commercial communications satellites, is now tentatively scheduled for early July, according to Florida Today. An exact date has not been set.
“SpaceX on Sunday said it would keep its 224-foot Falcon 9 rocket vertical at Launch Complex 40 in hopes of being ready to launch as soon as Tuesday,” reporter James Dean explained. “However, the Air Force had planned to close the Eastern Range this week for scheduled maintenance, work that has been rescheduled multiple times.”
The launch will be the 10th Falcon 9 mission for the Elon Musk-owned company, and will ferry six of 17 Orbcomm Generation 2 (OG2) satellites that will join the communication company’s existing 25 member network. The $200 million project is designed to improve the Orbcomm’s network speeds and to allow longer messages to be transmitted.
UPDATE: June 23, 2014 (5:00 a.m.)
For the third straight day, SpaceX was forced to postpone the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying a payload of six commercial communications satellites, as the company called off a scheduled Sunday evening launch due to an unidentified issue discovered prior to liftoff.
“Today’s ORBCOMM launch attempt has been scrubbed to address a potential concern identified during pre-flight checks,” the space transport services company explained in a statement posted to its website. “The vehicle and payload are in good condition, and engineering teams will take the extra time to ensure the highest possible level of mission assurance prior to flight.”
According to Irene Klotz of Reuters, it was not immediately known if this technical issue was linked to the upper-stage engine problem that forced Friday’s scheduled launch to be pushed back. Tuesday is the next potential launch date.
For the second straight day, SpaceX had to cancel the scheduled launch of a Falcon 9 rocket on Saturday evening, further pushing back the planned deployment of six Orbcomm communications satellites.
Shortly after 6:30pm EDT on Saturday, the Hawthorne, California-based space transport services company announced via its website that the liftoff had been scrubbed due to weather and that it was in the process of reviewing the next available opportunity for the oft-delayed launch to take place.
The Falcon 9 launch had been scheduled to take place at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 6:39pm Saturday night, according to James Dean of Florida Today. At 5:45pm, both rocket stages were filled with kerosene and liquid oxygen at Launch Complex 40, but despite a 60 percent chance of favorable weather to start the day, the launch was a no-go.
On Friday, SpaceX was forced to postpone the launch due to a possible issue with its upper-stage engine, Falcon 9 product director John Insprucker told Reuters and other members of the media during a webcast. Up until then, the rocket appeared to be good to go for a 6:08pm Friday evening liftoff, but after resetting countdown clocks to the end of its 53-minute launch window, engineers were unable to fix the problem in time.
According to Dean, the mission was originally supposed to take place in May, but was bumped back due to a helium leak on the rocket. If the mission, which is transporting the first of 17 small satellites for the New Jersey-based machine-to-machine communications provider into orbit, fails to launch this weekend, it could have to wait an additional week while the Air Force’s Eastern Range performs scheduled maintenance, he added.
The launch, the 10th Falcon 9 mission for Elon Musk’s space transportation firm, will place the Orbcomm satellites into orbit approximately 500 miles above the Earth’s surface, according to Irene Klotz of Reuters. The satellites are part of the company’s $200 million, 17-satellite Orbcomm Generation 2 (OG2) mission that will join its existing 25-member network, improving network speeds and allowing for transmission of longer messages.
“We’re launching directly into that hole in the sky so the network is going to get dramatically quicker,” Orbcomm Chief Executive Marc Eisenberg told Klotz in an interview. “We’ve got a great base of customers and we need to show them that there are years of service that Orbcomm is going to continue to supply.”
“Machine-to-machine communications – or the ‘Internet of things’ – has really picked up over time. It’s just kind of hitting its stride now,” he continued, adding that as things turned out, SpaceX “kind of took it on the chin financially to make sure we had a path to space.”
Orbcomm originally purchased space on SpaceX’s smaller Falcon 1 boosters, Reuters explained, but those rockets were retired five years ago. The satellites were moved to the larger Falcon 9 rockets at no extra charge. In total, Orbcomm is paying $47 million for a pair of flights, the second of which is scheduled to take place later this year. If bought today, those flights would have cost nearly three times more — a cool $120 million, claims Eisenberg.