Know When to Hold’em: SpaceX Scrubs Again (Update)

Foilld again

Foiled again


After considering a Tuesday evening launch, SpaceX has now reset SES-9 to Friday due to wind shear at high altitudes.

Original story:

Sometimes, it just isn’t your day. Kenny Rogers knew that, and thanks to him, we all know the words that some members of the SpaceX launch team at Cape Canaveral may be singing about now.

Three days after SpaceX scrubbed the SES-9 launch after encountering propellant loading problems, the company was ready to try again, with a planned liftoff at 6:46 pm ET, the beginning of a 96 minute launch window.

Things went smoothly at first, right up until T-1:33, when those three dreaded, but painfully familiar words rang out, “hold, hold, hold.” Echoing an incident that took place during the original Falcon rocket’s first flight on June 4th, 2010, a vessel had strayed into keep-out zone in the Atlantic Ocean, established to prevent mariners from being struck by falling debris from expendable rockets, or any rocket behaving badly.

Screen capture of possible offending vessel Credit:

Screen capture of possible offending vessel

Unfortunately, that would not be the night’s only throwback moment. After recycling the countdown once the offending vessel was warned away and a new liftoff was set at 7:21, events took a somewhat more ominous twist when the Falcon 9 progressed to T-0 and the unmistakable green flash of Tea-Tab ignition fluid, only to be followed by the even more unmistakable image of the booster still sitting on the pad when it should have been clawing its way off Planet Earth.

It was distinctly reminiscent of the Falcon 9’s 3rd launch as part of the COTS 2/3 mission in 2012, when the after-midnight liftoff was dramatically cancelled at the last second due to a pressure spike in the number 5, Merlin 1-C engine. In that case, fixing the problem meant a trip back to the hanger and replacing the engine. If initial reactions were any indication, the latest scrub may not require such drastic action.  In a bit of surprise, SpaceX did not immediately cancel tonight’s flight, but instead elected to continue analyzing data for several more minutes in hopes there would be an opportunity for a third attempt. While time ultimately ran out, the answer wasn’t long in coming.

As usual, Twitter tells the tale.

Apparently it just wasn’t in the cards, or perhaps it was simply a matter of chemistry, but either way, managers called the launch, delaying until at least tomorrow, a flight which could really benefit from drawing an ace the next round.

This page will be updated when a new launch day/time is set.


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