SpaceX Changes Batting Order For Return to Flight

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Spacex Falcon 9 Awaiting Orcomm Launch

SpaceX has announced that it is making a change in the batting order as it prepares to return to flight following the June 28th failure of a Falcon 9 on the NASA/CRS-7 mission.

Rather than loft the SES-9 satellite to geostationary transfer orbit on what will be a challenging assignment for a rocket featuring numerous upgrades, SpaceX will instead launch a long delayed mission for Orbcomm to LEO.

Here is the statement from SpaceX

“As we prepare for return to flight, SpaceX together with its customers SES and Orbcomm have evaluated opportunities to optimize the readiness of the upcoming Falcon 9 return-to-flight mission.  All parties have mutually agreed that SpaceX will now fly the Orbcomm-2 mission on the return-to-flight Falcon 9 vehicle.

“The Orbcomm-2 mission does not require a relight of the second stage engine following orbital insertion. Flying the Orbcomm-2 mission first will therefore allow SpaceX to conduct an on-orbit test of the second stage relight system after the Orbcomm-2 satellites have been safely deployed. This on-orbit test, combined with the current qualification program to be completed prior to launch, will further validate the second stage relight system and allow for optimization of the upcoming SES-9 mission and following missions to  geosynchronous transfer orbit.

“This change does not affect the timeline for SpaceX’s return-to-flight mission which is still targeted to take place in the next 6-8 weeks. The SES-9 launch is currently targeted for late December 2015.”

Orbcomm released a statement as well, saying in part:

“We are excited to launch our eleven OG2 satellites aboard SpaceX’s newly upgraded Falcon 9 rocket and have full confidence in SpaceX and their dedication to this launch,” said Marc Eisenberg, ORBCOMM’s Chief Executive Officer. “We look forward to completing the deployment of our next generation constellation and delivering a higher level of performance, coverage and reliability through our modernized and upgraded OG2 network to our customers around the world.”

The new edition Falcon 9 booster, which is being labelled V1.2, includes a number of significant changes intended to increase performance and reliability as the company sets its sights on achieving first stage reusability. Foremost among them is an upgrade to the Merlin 1D engines which will be now be operating at their full design potential, offering approximately a 30% increase in power. Both the upper stage and the interstage have been lengthened, while the first stage sports redesigned grid fins and strengthened landing legs. In order to wring even more performance out of the rocket, the fuel load will be enhanced by deeper chilling the propellants to gain the benefits of increased density.

With a great deal on the line just to achieve a successful return to flight, SpaceX is still expected to attempt a first stage landing, and with the change in flight order, the odds of success have likely increased quite a bit. Massing just 380 lbs. each, and destined for a 450 mile average orbit, the 11 Orbcomm OG2 satellites will constitute a very light load for the Falcon 9, increasing the fuel margin available for a landing campaign which has seen a series of progressively closer “near misses.”

 

Posted in: SpaceX

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1 Comment on "SpaceX Changes Batting Order For Return to Flight"

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  1. My guess Falcon will not launch this year but we can still keep our fingers crossed.

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