SpaceX Falcon Flies Tonight, Dragon Pad Abort Next Week

SpaceX is counting down to an evening launch of TurkmenistanSat, a Geostationary communications satellite for the Central Asian nation of Turkmenistan. Its full name is the tongue numbing  TurkmenÄlem52E/MonacoSat. Liftoff of the spacecraft,  which was built by Thales Alenia Aerospace and will occupy an orbital slot leased from the Principality of Monoco, is scheduled for 6:14 PM EDT, and will be webcast by SpaceX here, with coverage beginning at 6:00 PM EDT.

In exchange for the slot, which is located at the 52 Degrees East position, Monaco has secured the use of 12 of the 38 transponders on the nearly 10,000 lb. spacecraft.  Tonight’s launch also has a somewhat unusual political angle. According to the international watchdog group Human Rights Watch in a story posted April 24th, the government of Turkmenistan is in the process of forcibly removing private satellite dishes from its citizens on the grounds that they present an eyesore.

Unlike Dragon launches to the International Space Station, tonight’s flight has the luxury of a roughly 90 minute launch window. And it may need it.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, the weather forecast calls for 60% favorable conditions, with the odds slipping to 30% if a backup date on Tuesday is required.

Headed for a geostationary transfer orbit, the Turkmenistan launch will not see an effort at first stage recovery, and if you happen to be superstitious, that might be a good thing. This will be the 13th launch of the Falcon 9 V1.1, taking place 13 days after the previous flight, that of the NASA / CRS-6 resupply mission.

Assuming all goes well, SpaceX will quickly turn its attention to the long awaited Pad Abort test of the Commercial Crew Dragon capsule. That test. which is one of two remaining milestones under the CCDev-2 phase of the program, is scheduled for a four hour window on Tuesday, May 5th beginning at 9:30 AM EDT.


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