SpaceX and ORBCOMM Aiming for June 15 Launch with Next Generation OG2 Satellites
Speculation has been plentiful this past week regarding a new target launch date for the next SpaceX Falcon 9 mission, one which will (hopefully) deliver the first six of seventeen next-generation commercial telecommunications satellites (identified as OG2) to an elliptical 750 x 615 km low-Earth orbit for customer ORBCOMM. Today, ORBCOMM announced the new target launch date and time is now Sunday, June 15 at 8:00 p.m. EDT, with a backup launch opportunity open for June 16.
From ORBCOMM today:
An OG2 satellite preparing for testing ahead of launch. Photo Credit: Sierra Nevada Corp.
“During final integration on one of the OG2 spacecraft, we encountered a minor issue resulting in a few extra days of delay to perform precautionary steps to ensure there are no operational concerns with the satellite. We intend to re-encapsulate the satellites this evening, with static test firing of the rocket scheduled for Thursday or Friday this week.”
The launch, which will take place from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida, has been delayed several times over the last couple months, for various reasons.
An ORBCOMM prototype satellite which launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 as a secondary payload on October 7, 2012 failed to reach its intended orbit due to a a pre-imposed safety check required by NASA when the rocket’s #1 Merlin engine suddenly lost pressure in flight. An engine shutdown command occurred as a result, preventing the rocket from performing a second burn to properly deliver the satellite. As a result the satellite eventually fell back to Earth.
Neither SpaceX or the 45th Space Wing have confirmed a June 15 launch date, yet.
AmericaSpace will be on-site to provide full coverage of the launch when it occurs. Check back for updates throughout the week.
SpaceX has completed a key pre-launch objective with the Static Fire of their Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket at Cape Canaveral’s SLC-40. However, the vehicle’s mission has been delayed from its Sunday launch to a TBD (To Be Decided) target, after the customer noted they wished to conduct additional testing on their six ORBCOMM satellites.
Falcon 9 v1.1 Static Fire:
Delays for rocket launches are commonplace, with SpaceX not immune from having to reschedule their missions.
Many factors come into play during a pre-launch flow, such as the availability of the Range, weather – even before the launch, such as rollout constraints – along with the requirement to ensure the rocket and payload are in good health.
Everything needs to be right to provide the vehicle and payload the best possible chance of a successful launch, given there are no second chances once the rocket rises off the pad.
One of the primary elements to ensure the rocket is ready to go in a Falcon 9 flow is the Static Fire.
Also known as the Hot Fire test, the effort relates to ensuring that the pad’s fueling systems – and the launch vehicle – function properly in a fully operational environment, with numerous requirements to be successfully proven via such a test, such as the engine ignition and shut down commands, which have to operate as designed, and that the Merlin 1D engines perform properly during start-up.
Tasks also include a full propellant loading sequence, launch countdown operations, engine ignition operations and testing of the pad’s high volume water deluge system.
The Static Fire was set to take place on Thursday. However, the flow was delayed by “weather” surrounding the rocket’s departure from the hanger on to the launch pad - per L2′s coverage of the mission’s flow to launch.
The Static Test provides a dress rehearsal for the actual launch, with controllers first conducting a poll to allow for the loading of Falcon 9′s RP-1 propellant with liquid oxygen oxidizer two hours and thirty five minutes before T-0.
This was followed with fuel and Thrust Vector Control (TVC) bleeding on the second stage, performed at T-1 hour.
At T-13 minutes, a final flight readiness poll was required, with a final hold point at T-11 minutes.
Per the countdown procedures, the tasks then entered the terminal count ten minutes before ignition, followed by the launch vehicle being transferred to internal power at four minutes and forty six seconds before T-0.
The Flight Termination System (FTS), used to destroy the rocket in the event of a problem during an actual launch, was armed three minutes and eleven seconds before launch, and seven seconds later oxidizer topping was concluded.
Pressurization of the propellant tanks followed, and while a Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR) – which are no longer required for the Falcon 9 – would have concluded the test at around T-5 seconds, the Static Fire continued the count through to ignition.
A short burst of the Merlin ID engines on the core stage of the F9 then took place – noted per L2 coverage as a few seconds prior to 15:30 local time – which allows for validation data to be gained on the health of the vehicle and pad systems.
With the required engine and vehicle data collected, detanking operations follows for the rest of the day, followed by the lowering on to the Transporter Erector and rollback to the hanger.
Sources note the test was successful, with a smooth flow to ignition – bar some initial weather constraints – with the firing also proving engineers have fixed the problem surrounding the rocket’s helium pressurization system that scrubbed Static Fire last month.
A Launch Readiness Review (LRR) is expected to still take place in the coming days, as much as there is no firm launch date following the decision – taken on Friday – not to press ahead with Sunday’s launch.
While there are Eastern Range considerations, due to a maintenance window that is about to begin, the latest delay was attributed to the payload – six ORBCOMM OG-2 satellites.
“ORBCOMM’s 6 OG2 satellites were re-encapsulated on Wednesday (ahead of) proceeding toward a static test fire of the rocket on Friday, June 13,” noted the customer. Their previous issue with the satellites caused the initial delay of the launch to Sunday.
“All six satellites have completed additional testing and are functioning as expected. In an effort to be as cautious as possible, it was decided to perform further analysis to verify that the issue observed on one satellite during final integration has been fully addressed.
“The additional time to complete this analysis required us to postpone the OG2 Mission 1 Launch. We are working with SpaceX to identify the next available launch opportunity, and we will update the schedule shortly.”
As of the time of the Static Fire, L2 information noted the latest NET (No Earlier Than) launch date is now June 20. However, it is not yet known if that target has received Range approval.
(Images: SpaceX, NASA, Jacques van Oene/Spacepatches.nl and via L2′s Special Sections. L2 SpaceX section now includes thousands of unreleased images from all Dragon ISS missions – including CRS-3)
SpaceX launch set for Friday evening
SpaceX and Orbcomm today confirmed they are now targeting a 6:08 pm ET Friday launch of a Falcon 9 rocket and six commercial satellites from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The launch was delayed from this past Sunday to allow more time to test one of the satellites.
An update posted on Orbcomm's Web site did not specify the mission's entire launch window, but the window for the most recent planned attempt was just under an hour.
Saturday is available as a backup launch date
SpaceX and Orbcomm plan to announce a new date soon for the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket and six commercial satellites from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, possibly late this week.
Orbcomm says its satellites are encapsulated in a payload fairing in "ready-to-launch condition."
It was additional tests on one of the six spacecraft that delayed a planned launch Sunday or today.
"SpaceX is in the process of finalizing the launch schedule with the Range at the Cape, and we expect to announce a new launch date shortly," Orbcomm said in an update posted on its Web site.
SpaceX on Friday briefly fired the Falcon 9 booster's nine Merlin engines, in what a spokeswoman called a "successful" test.
The Air Force's Eastern Range had scheduled a two-week maintenance period to start this week, but that could be rescheduled to allow a launch attempt to proceed.
Quelle: Florida Today
Overnight, Falcon 9 went vertical in preparation for today's launch.
Fri Jun, 20 2014 11:30 PM CEST — Sat Jun, 21 2014 1:00 AM CEST
SpaceX is targeted to launch ORBCOMM OG2 Mission 1 on Friday, June 20, 2014. The launch window opens at 6:08pm EDT. Live launch webcast will begin here at about 5:35pm EDT!
0d 7h 10m 33s
Weather has improved to 40% favorability for today's launch. Go Falcon 9!
0d 1h 29m 06s
Update: 23.10 MESZ
Live launch webcast will begin here in 30 min. T-1 hour to launch!
Update: 23.55 MESZ
The launch team has reset liftoff for the end of the launch window- now targeting 7:01pm ET. Enjoy the live feed of F9, we'll be back shortly!
CAPE CANAVERAL --
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket will have another launch attempt on Saturday, according to Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
The launch was scrubbed Friday because of a technical issue.
Crews worked to determine what caused spurious leak readings in the run-up to launch. We do not, however, know what caused the final scrub.
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station announced a new launch window for Saturday, from 5:46 p.m. to 6:39 p.m. No word from SpaceX though on whether the rocket will be ready.
UPDATE: A SpaceX team trying to evaluate readings of decreased pressure on the Falcon 9 rocket's second stage ran out of time Friday evening and called a halt to the planned Florida launch of six satellites for machine-to-machine communications.
The readings were detected shortly before the planned launch time of 5:08 pm CDT, but SpaceX held open the possibility of launching at 6:01 pm, the time when the launch window closed, while engineers tried to work out where the problems were. About 8 minutes before the new launch time, the second-stage team called the abort.
SpaceX has a backup launch opportunity Saturday, but whether it will be used depends on further investigation of the problem.
ORIGINAL POST: If the weather cooperates — which, right now, looks unlikely — SpaceX is set to launch six Orbcomm satellites from Florida this afternoon.
The launch window opens at 5:08 p.m. CDT; if they're not able to launch it immediately, they still have until 6:02 p.m. to seek sufficiently clear skies.
US Air Force forecasters give only a 40 percent chance of acceptable weather for launch, although that chance rises to 60 percent if launch is delayed until Saturday.
SPACEX LAUNCH DELAYED AGAIN, 3RD TRY SUNDAY
Sen—Cloudy skies, rain and lightning over Central Florida Saturday nixed Space Exploration Technologies' second attempt to launch a Falcon 9 rocket and six communications satellites for Orbcomm.
It was the second postponment in as many days. Friday's launch was called off for a technical problem. SpaceX said it detected unexpected pressure readings in the rocket's upper-stage engine.
The California-based firm, owned and operated by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, has provided no additional information about the glitch.
SpaceX conducted Saturday's launch countdown in private, with no audio or video feeds available to the public or the press.
"Today SpaceX let their community down. Let's hope they rethink their PR strategy till next launch," a SpaceX Twitter follower wrote.
"NASA spoiled us. Required by law to conduct ops in public. Not so SpaceX," tweeted another.
SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A spokeswoman with Orbcomm said the next launch attempt would be at 5:30 p.m. EDT/2130 GMT Sunday.
Launch Update 7.00 MESZ
Today's ORBCOMM launch attempt has been scrubbed to address a potential concern identified during pre-flight checks. 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. The rocket will remain vertical on the launch pad with the next available launch opportunity targeting Tuesday, June 24th.
Update: 22.35 MESZ
SpaceX is taking a closer look at a potential issue identified while conducting pre-flight checkouts during yesterday's countdown. SpaceX will stand down Tuesday while our engineering teams evaluate further, which will also allow the Range to move forward with previously scheduled maintenance. We are currently targeting the first week of July and will work with the Range to confirm the next available launch opportunities.
Third SpaceX launch try scrubbed, flight delayed to early July
A third attempt to launch a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying six ORBCOMM data relay satellites was called off Sunday because of an unspecified technical problem. While Tuesday was the next available launch opportunity, the company announced Monday that the flight would be delayed until the first week of July at the earliest to give engineers more time to evaluate the issue and to allow the Air Force to carry out already planned maintenance of Eastern Range tracking and telemetry systems.
"SpaceX is taking a closer look at a potential issue identified while conducting pre-flight checkouts during yesterday's countdown," the company said in a statement. "SpaceX will stand down Tuesday while our engineering teams evaluate further, which will also allow the Range to move forward with previously scheduled maintenance. We are currently targeting the first week of July and will work with the Range to confirm the next available launch opportunities."
SpaceX originally planned to launch the ORBCOMM OG2 mission in late May, but the flight was delayed, first by problems with a helium leak in the rocket's first-stage pressurization system and then because of concern about one of the six ORBCOMM satellites.
The rocket and payload eventually were cleared for launch Friday, but an apparent propellant pressurization problem with the rocket's second stage forced another delay. SpaceX did not say what, if anything, was done to resolve the issue but the rocket was cleared for a second launch attempt Saturday.
The second time around, bad weather was the issue and while conditions were improving toward the end of the launch window, a lightning strike near the pad prompted a second straight delay.
Weather was expected to be an issue again on Sunday, with late afternoon showers and thunderstorms in the area contributing to an 80 percent "no-go" forecast. SpaceX engineers nonetheless were pressing ahead for a third launch try when they ran into an unspecified problem that apparently could not be resolved before the end of the launch window.
"Today's ORBCOMM launch attempt has been scrubbed to address a potential concern identified during pre-flight checks," SpaceX said in a statement. "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."
A source said the problem may have involved a component in the system used to move engine nozzles for steering during the climb to space. The Falcon 9 is equipped with nine Merlin 1D first stage engines with a single engine powering the second stage.
But a SpaceX spokeswoman said earlier Sunday she was not aware of any such problem. No other details were immediately available.
SpaceX to launch Orbcomm on Falcon 9 July 14
After two months of delays, SpaceX says it will launch six second-generation Orbcomm communications satellites July 14 atop a Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket from Cape Canaveral AFS, Florida.
The launch of New Jersey-based Orbcomm's six OG2 satellites has been repeatedly delayed due to technical and weather-related setbacks, beginning with a Falcon 9 first-stage helium leak that pushed the initial May 10 launch date to early June.
In a June 22 statement, the Hawthorne, Calif.-based company said it would postpone a launch attempt planned for that day until July 24 due to a technical issue that SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell later said involved a thrust vector control actuator on the Falcon 9's first stage. On June 23, the company said it would postpone the launch until the first week of July.
“We saw during some preflight checkouts on Sunday morning some issues with the thrust vector control actuator on the first stage,” Shotwell told The John Batchelor Show, a radio program that was co-hosted by David Livingston of The Space Show June 25. “It's likely something we could have flown through during flight, but what we wanted to do was basically just be super careful and we actually wanted to go in and check the second-stage actuator as well.”
Shotwell did not indicate whether the issue had been resolved, but said the company is now targeting mid-July for the launch.
“July 14 and 15, I think, are the dates we requested from the range,” she said, adding that the U.S. Air Force's eastern range had not confirmed the dates.
“The range does want to go on a two-week maintenance shutdown,” she said. “We couldn't guarantee that we'd be able to fly in the next few days or so so we said look, you shut down, you do your maintenance, we don't want to put that off, and in the meantime we'll obviously spend more time examining the rocket and doing everything we possibly can to make sure this flight is successful.”
After SpaceX fans and journalists publicly berated the company for failing to webcast a June 21 launch attempt that was scrubbed due to poor weather, Shotwell suggested the practice of live-streaming Falcon 9 launches would continue.
“I don't think we're changing our plan. We were moving away from the webcast format that we had before, to get to kind of a higher-tech feel,” she said. “We were just going to transition away. Saturday's launch, even though we obviously attempted it, the weather looked like we would not be able to fly Saturday. So we thought, of the one day we could take to transition, maybe we can take that time and transition on that Saturday.”
However, the day of the launch, SpaceX spokeswoman Emily Shanklin wrote in an email to spaceflightnow.com:
"We've actually been ready to move away from the webcasts for awhile. It takes a lot of resources but the main reason is these launches are becoming more routine and the full webcast isn't really appropriate anymore."
Just to be clear, Shanklin was referring to SpaceX's status as a new entrant to the global commercial launch market. But after just two commercial missions – the SES-8 communications satellite launched in December 2013, followed by Thaicom-6 for Bangkok-based Thaicom in January – SpaceX launches are anything but routine.
In addition, journalists at the Cape for the June 21 launch attempt reported that SpaceX media representatives were not available to answer questions regarding the June 21 launch attempt, and that U.S. Air Force officials with the 45th Space Wing handled media.
As a result, in response to a barrage of criticism that followed on social media, Shotwell said, “public opinion was pretty strong on that point. They like the webcast, or they certainly like us to live-stream.”
Nonetheless, while Shotwell said the company was prepared to live-stream the June 22 attempt – the one that was scrubbed owing to a balky thrust vector control actuator – she did not say whether SpaceX plans to webcast the July 14 launch.
“You know, it's always easy to jump to some nefarious plot for any circumstance that looks odd, but in this case it was simply we were moving away from that specific format anyhow,” she said.