Artist's illustration of Spaceflight's free flyer and payload on the Falcon 9 rocket's second stage. Spaceflight SpaceX has commissioned further…
Artist’s illustration of Spaceflight’s free flyer and payload on the Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage. Spaceflight
SpaceX has commissioned further inspections on a Falcon 9 rocket at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, which launches 64 small satellites, a decision to keep the starter landed for several days until after the Thanksgiving vacation, officials said Saturday.
Falcon 9 would remove Monday from Vandenberg – a military base around 140 miles northwest of Los Angeles – but SpaceX announced the launch in a tweet saturday.
“Standing from Monday’s launch of Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express to carry out further inspections before the flight,” SpaceX tweeted. “When we’re done, we’ll confirm a new launch date.”
The Falcon 9 rocket launches 64 satellites on a rideshare mission organized by Spaceflight, a launcher for small bets in Seattle. The 64 payloads, ranging in size from a Rubik’s cube to a refrigerator, are owned by a host of US and international operators, including the US government, research institutes and commercial companies.
The launch will make a record for the most satellites ever put in circulation on an American rocket, but it will fall under the global 104 spacecraft market launched on an Indian rocket last year.
The forthcoming launch is also remarkable as it will be SpaceX’s first flight to reuse the same Falcon 9 first-stage booster third time.
Booster awarded Spaceflight’s SSO-A rideshare mission flew twice from Florida: May 11th from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center with Bangladesh’s Bangabandhu 1 communications satellite and again August 7th from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station with Indonesia’s Merah Putih Telecom payload.
On both occasions, the first stage landed on SpaceX’s navy ship in the Atlantic and returned to the port for inspections, some limited refurbishment and reuse.
File photo of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on the launcher plate at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, prior to a previous mission. Credit: SpaceX
SpaceX has launched a former flute first-step booster 17 times, most recently on Thursday’s launch from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida with Qatar’s Esplanade 2 communications satellite. But all the first stages so far have just flown twice.
It changes with SpaceX’s next mission because the company aims to reuse Falcon 9 boosters up to 10 times without rebuilding and up to 100 times with periodic reviews. The latest iteration of the Falcon 9 design, commonly known as the “Block 5” version, contains upgrades of previous designs to make it easier to reuse the rockets.
SpaceX plans to restore the first step back onboard its West Coast drone ship in the Pacific after space flight multitatel solution.
Several people who work with the ranshare payroll charges said that the delay was ordered by SpaceX to solve the rocket concern.
An employee of a company that owns payloads to run on the Falcon 9 rocket said the launch will be delayed after Thanksgiving and another customer on the SSO-A launch said in a tweet that the flight will be delayed by five or six days.
“Unfortunately, Spaceflight SSO-A) the launch is delayed by 5-6 days due to some further inspections of the SpaceX rocket,” officials tweeted from an account associated with the MinXSS 2 CubeSat mission that flies to orbit on Falcon 9.
T He rides on the airplane with 15 microsatellites and 49 CubeSats. Seven CubeSats were not ready in time for a November launch, and technicians replaced them with ballast that will stay aboard Spaceflight’s dual installation modules, which makes mass and balance calculations for launch unaffected, “said Jeff Roberts, Spaceflight Head of Mission for SSO – A mission.
Microsatellites and CubeSats come from 17 countries: USA, Australia, Italy, Netherlands, Finland, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Great Britain, Germany, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Poland, Canada, Brazil and India.
Rockets are usually launched with one or two primary satellites and sometimes carry additional secondary payload to fill unused capacity, but the SSO-A launch follows another model.
There is no primary payload on the SSO-A mission. Spaceflight bought full capacity for the Falcon 9 launch in 2015, and satellite owners booked their launch with Spaceflight, not with SpaceX.
Spaceflight has provided rideshare launches on rockets before, including India’s PSLV and Russia’s Soyuz, but these missions flew on launches that transport larger satellites in the primary payload spot.
The rideshare arrangement allows satellite owners to share the cost of a rocket launch instead of paying for the entire mission.
SpaceX tested the Falcon 9 rocket on Thursday night at Vandenberg in a regular countdown test before flying at Space Launch Complex 4-East. Techniques planned to return the rocket to a nearby hangar for attachment with the SSO-A load bundle, already encapsulated inside Falcon 9’s nest facility.
Spaceflight’s unique spacecraft modules, called the upper and lower free airplanes, will separate from Falcon 9’s top scene for about 357 miles (575km) bypass after lifting from Vandenberg.
“We refer to them as free airplanes because they are exactly what they are. There are no propulsion systems on board. They only contain all avionics and dispensers for the command to distribute,” said Roberts.
The top free plane is based on a commonly used secondary payload adapter, called an ESPA ring – built by Moog. The lower free aircraft is Spaceflight’s own design, according to Roberts.
Four of the microsatellites launched on the SSO-A mission will separate directly from the adapter plates on Falcon 9 second leg after it has been circulated. The other 60 will distribute from the free flight sheets in a timed sequence over the next five hours.
The free airplane modules will unveil sail after satellite expansion to help bring the dispensers back to earth’s atmosphere.
“All is integrated, the entire structure has been encapsulated, and SpaceX has broken (reversed) the encapsulated structure horizontally to match the rocket,” said Roberts Spaceflight Now.
With all the satellites now aboard the free airplane modules There are no plans to delay the launch if engineers detect a problem with one of the payloads. It is a hands-off approach designed to ensure that a satellite problem does not affect the others.
“At this time, the train still leaves the station,” said Roberts in an interview.
“I’m very excited, and it’s pretty much how the team feels,” said Roberts. “This is the culmination of almost three years of work of this team, and in the last 60 days, many people have worked 12 to 16 hours a day, seven days a week, so they make a lot of effort to make this successful for us and for all our customers.
“We’re excited to see this go on orbiting and be successful.”
Email the author.
Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1 .