AsiaSat 8 Streaks into the Night Sky: Image Credit: SpaceX
“Fly By Night Away from Here!” belted out Rush’s Geddy Lee, and SpaceX is hoping its Falcon 9 booster will do just that on a launch scheduled for 50 minutes after midnight out of Cape Canaveral’s SLC-40.
After a 10 day interlude to check for any possibly commonality in failure modes between the booster at the Cape and the first stage test article which self destructed spectacularly above McGregor Texas on August 22, SpaceX is now counting down to launch in a window which opens at 12:50 AM EDT and closes at 4:04.
Encapsulated aboard the two stage, all keralox booster and bound for Geostationary Transfer Orbit is the AsiaSat 6 ComSat, built on a Space Systems/Loral 1300 platform and a near twin to the AsiaSat 8 bird which SpaceX lofted to orbit on August 5th.
AsiaSat 6 is equipped with 28 C-band transponders, two beams, one global and one regional, and is headed for a slot at 120 degrees East where it will provide video and broadband service to the Asia-Pacific region.
For SpaceX, tonight’s launch comes at a unique time, as it is possibly the company’s last launch prior to an announcement of the winners in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, providing it an opportunity to make a final statement on behalf of the all U.S. booster. NASA continues to list September 19th as the No Earlier Than Date for the SpaceX-4 resupply mission to the International Space Station, but a 12 day turnaround between launches at the same pad would be a significant surprise, even for SpaceX.
In addition to anticipation regarding the Commercial Crew announcement, as a commercial GTO launch, its fourth to date in what would be the seventh flight of the Falcon 9 V1.1, SpaceX also has the opportunity to further bolster its argument that the Falcon 9 system is fully qualified to replace the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket as the Department of Defense seeks a solution to its self inflicted dependence on Russian rocket engines. SpaceX has repeatedly stressed that the Falcon family should join the ULA Delta IV series as the second part of DOD’s need to maintain a redundant U.S. launch capability.
One thing to watch out for in tonight’s launch is the continuing nagging problems SpaceX is having with the helium pressurization system on the Falcon 9, a condition which led founder Elon Musk to characterize it as “a pernicious little molecule” earlier this year.
Weather conditions call for a 70% chance of favorable conditions during the launch window.
A live webcast will be provided at www.asiasat.com or www.spacex.com/webcast, and is scheduled to begin approximately 20 minutes before liftoff, at either 12:30 PM Hong Kong Time or 12:30 AM EDT, depending on your point of view.