Image credit: SpaceX
Beginning the first of a series of closely packed launches to round out the second half of 2014, a SpaceX Falcon 9 booster lifted off from Cape Canaveral at 4:00 am EDT this morning, carrying the AsiaSat 8 comsat to geostationary transfer orbit. For a while it looked like this launch might have been yet another case of SSDD, as the initial launch attempt, scheduled for 1:25 am was scrubbed with less than one minute to go. The problem was not disclosed by SpaceX, other than to note it was with the first stage.
Taking full advantage of a comparatively long launch window which closed at 4:11 am EDT, engineers worked the issue, and after briefly setting then bypassing another launch effort which would have taken place at 3:00 am, the next attempt was set at 4:00 am. This time, without any drama, the Falcon 9, flying in its basic configuration without landing legs due to the demands of the launch, lifted off in the pre-dawn hours on its way to 200 x 176 kilometer parking orbit inclined at 27.7 degrees to the equator.
In conducting today’s lifttoff just 22 days after the Orbcomm 2 launch on July 14, SpaceX has shattered rival United Launch Alliance’s best launch turnaround time. In doing so, SpaceX has, at least for now, effectively muted one of the last remaining credible criticisms leveled against it, emphatically underscoring yet again why it should be included in EELV launch opportunities sooner rather than later.
SpaceX will have the chance to make its case again, at least in the court of practical opinion, very quickly. If all goes as planned, the company will further cut into its launch turnaround time before the month is out, with the flight of sister spacecraft AsiaSat 6, currently scheduled for August 25th.