Update: SpaceX (Not) Ready to Launch Thaicom 8, Recover First Stage

Thaicom-8 Credit: SpaceX

Credit: SpaceX

Update: Today’s launch has been scrubbed due to “a tiny glitch in the motion of an upper stage engine actuator.”

Original story:

Following a successful static fire on Tuesday, SpaceX is getting set for an early evening launch of the Thaicom 8 communications satellite out of Cape Canaveral.

Liftoff is scheduled for 5:40 PM EDT, at the beginning of a 2 hour launch window, with a backup date reserved for tomorrow, May 27th at the same time.

Built by Orbital ATK on its popular Geostar-2 platform, the 3,100 kg satellite will be lofted on a supersynchronous transfer orbit, and deployed from the Falcon 9’s second stage approximately 32 minutes after liftoff. The final orbital destination of 78.5 degrees East will be achieved through a series of orbital reduction maneuvers to begin what is expected to be a 15 year lifespan providing Ku band services to Asia.

This evening’s launch will feature another “experimental” ocean landing attempt aboard the automated spaceport drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You,” stationed off the Bahamas. Compared to the last landing, which was a surprising success given the launch conditions, but nevertheless resulted in excessive heat damage to the Falcon 9 first stage for the same reasons, today’s effort will take place in daylight, and with increased available propellant margin due to the lower payload mass.

As a result, if a recovery is achieved, it might help delineate the current line between when a stage can be recovered with the expectation of re-use, and when it cannot.

Overall the weather forecast for toady’s launch is excellent, with only a 10% chance of n0-go conditions, but varying winds and cumulus clouds do impose a 30% chance of a temporary launch delay. Marine weather in the landing zone is generally favorable as well, with winds at 15-20 kt and seas running a placid 4 ft.


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2 Comments on "Update: SpaceX (Not) Ready to Launch Thaicom 8, Recover First Stage"

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  1. Keith Pickering says:

    It would be interesting to know how much of the damage to JSAT-14 was due to (a) not enough fuel for a really strong re-entry burn; or (b) not enough fuel for a boostback burn at all.

    The advantage of the boostback burn is that it makes the stage fall more nearly vertically, so it spends less time in the heating zone of the mesosphere.

    Looks like this time the fall will be nearly vertical, so perhaps SpaceX is trying to answer the same question. Hence the “experimental” label.

  2. Keith Pickering says:

    Rather interesing (odd) behavior at scheduled launch time. Livestreams gave countdown to 5:40 PM scheduled launch time as being countdown to *start* of livefeed, implying launch would be at least 30 minutes later than that. Time passed with no livefeed. At 5:20 PM EDT SpaceX tweeted “Launch team finalizing review of vehicle data and check outs. Will move T-0 into the 2 hour window”. At about 6 PM livefeed countdown was reset to indicate livefeed would begin at 7:35, just 5 minutes before close of 2-hour launch window.

    All of which implies a no-go issue being worked, and IMO launch today looking doubtful.

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