SpaceX Explains ORBCOMM Satellite Loss

SpaceX has issued a statement providing more details on how its Falcon 9 rocket stranded an ORBCOMM satellite in the wrong orbit:

As a result of shutting down one of its nine engines early shortly after the launch, the Falcon 9 rocket used slightly more fuel and oxygen to reach the target orbit for Dragon. For the protection of the space station mission, NASA had required that a restart of the upper stage only occur if there was a very high probability (over 99%) of fully completing the second burn. While there was sufficient fuel on board to do so, the liquid oxygen on board was only enough to achieve a roughly 95% likelihood of completing the second burn, so Falcon 9 did not attempt a restart. Although the secondary payload, the Orbcomm satellite, was still deployed to orbit by Falcon 9, it was done so at the lower altitude used by Dragon in order to optimize the safety of the space station mission.

SpaceX and NASA are working closely together to review all flight data so that we can understand what happened with the engine, and we will apply those lessons to future flights. We have achieved our goal of repeatedly getting into orbit by creating a careful, methodical and pragmatic approach to the design, testing and launch of our space vehicles. We will approach our analysis in the same manner, with a careful examination of what went wrong and how to best address it.  Additional information will be provided as it is available.

The ORBCOMM satellite re-entered the atmosphere on Wednesday. The company is filing an insurance claim to cover the loss.