(Note: this article has been edited to correct a previous version which incorrectly identified the next NASA mission as CRS-5. It will be CRS-4.)
SpaceX has moved the impending launch of the AsiaSat 6 satellite from Cape Canaveral back one day, from Tuesday to Wednesday. The precautionary move comes in the wake of Friday’s F9R mishap in Texas.
According to SpaceX:
“While Friday’s F9R three engine, single stage test article and our launch site in McGregor, Texas, are very different from the planned Cape Canaveral, Florida, launch of the AsiaSat 6 satellite on the Falcon 9 rocket, we are taking some additional time to review the circumstances that caused the test vehicle to auto terminate to confirm that there is not a risk to orbital flight,” adding “SpaceX prizes mission assurance above all,” “This action is consistent with that philosophy.”
Liftoff of what will be the 12th flight of the Falcon 9, and the 7th for the Falcon 9 V1.1 is now scheduled for 12:50 AM EDT, with a window which extends to 4:05 AM.
If the result is a successful mission, SpaceX will have passed something of a milestone, having passed the Aerospace Corporation’s 7 launch threshold which suggests that any launch failure of a new or significantly different version of a booster is likely to show up in the first seven flights. According to the guideline, a failure in the first three flights is likely due to an issue in design, whereas a failure in flights 4-7 are most likely due to a problem in manufacturing.
It won’t take long to test a different sort of milestone. The 13th overall flight of the Falcon 9 family is scheduled for September 19th, with the launch of NASA’s CRS-4 resupply mission to the International Space Station. SpaceX has previously suggested that the CRS-4 flight may be the final attempt at an ocean landing for the Falcon 9 first stage before moving on to a targeted touchdown on a barge or on land. It will prove interesting to see if Friday’s test accident will alter that calculus.