SpaceX Orbcomm Mission Lifts Off to a Long Awaited Success, First Stage Breaks Up On Landing

Lifting off into a bright blue sky punctuated by intermittent clouds, the SpaceX Falcon 9 / Orbcomm OG-2 mission launched at 11:15 am EDT today from Cape Canaveral’s SLC-40.  After initially pushing the planned launch time back from to 9:21 to 11:44 am in order to investigate a possible ground equipment issue,  it finally came as a good omen when the launch schedule actually advanced to the ultimate liftoff time of 11:15.

This morning’s flight made a noticeably more vertical ascent than most previous missions, with Main Engine Cutoff (MECO) taking place seconds after the launch commentary noted the booster at 51 kilometers downrange.

Following a clean stage separation and second stage ignition, the rocket continued its flight to 743 x 614 orbit inclined at 47 degrees to the equator.  The no-frills SpaceX launch commentary ended at that point, and prior to the deployment of the first of six Orbcomm spacecraft from the Moog adapter ring.

The first words of a full success came from Orbcomm CEO Marc Eisenberg via Twitter saying “6 for 6! Thanks SpaceX! Thanks Moog! We’ll take it from here.”  Elon Musk confirmed moments later stating  “Flight 10 of Falcon 9 was good. All six ORBCOMM satellites deployed on target.”

With the Orbcomm mission finally in space, all eyes turned towards first stage recovery efforts taking place in the Atlantic Ocean northeast of Cape Canaveral where the news showed progress, but also disappointment. According to Elon Musk, again via Twitter:

“Rocket booster reentry, landing burn & leg deploy were good, but lost hull integrity right after splashdown (aka kaboom)” That Tweet was soon followed by another stating  “Detailed review of rocket telemetry needed to tell if due to initial splashdown or subsequent tip over and body slam.”

More updates as details come in.

SpaceX has now completed the 10th consecutive successful flight of the Falcon 9 booster overall (with zero failures) and the fifth of the new Falcon 9 v1.1/F9R.  Today’s flight also marks the fifth mission in less than a year’s time, a number which suggests despite the delays which plagued the Orbcomm flight, the company is making steady progress in advancing its pace of operations,  a necessary accomplishment on the way to achieving its ambitious launch schedule.

Posted in: SpaceX

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