Next Falcon 9 Launch Slips into June

50 Comments
OG2 satellite (Credit: SNC)

OG2 satellite (Credit: SNC)

OBCOMM says that the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch with six advanced OG2 satellites has now slipped to June 11, with a June 12 backup date.

“We will be sending the satellite launch teams from both ORBCOMM and Sierra Nevada Corporation to the Cape the first week of June for fairing encapsulation followed by a static fire test to be conducted two to three days prior to launch,” OBCOMM said in an update posted on its website on Monday.

SpaceX had earlier set a May 27 date after the launch had slipped from earlier in May. The latest delay indicates that SpaceX was overly ambitious when it set out to launch 10 Falcon 9s this year. To date, it has only managed two flights, one on Jan. 13 and another three months later on April 18.

The OG2 launch will be the 10th flight of a Falcon 9 booster in four years. The first launch occurred on June 4, 2010.

ORBCOMM is running years behind its original schedule in launching its constellation of advanced OG2 communications satellites, which are designed to supplement and eventually replace the earlier OG1 spacecraft.

The original plan was to launch a group of 18 satellites between 2010 and 2014 on SpaceX’s much smaller Falcon 1e rocket. However, SpaceX elected not to develop that booster, so the satellites were shifted to the Falcon 9, which has significant schedule slippages over the years.

SpaceX launched an OG2 prototype as a secondary payload aboard a Falcon 9 rocket on Oct. 7, 2012. The satellite ended up in a lower than expected orbit due to an in-flight failure of one of the launch vehicle’s nine engines. ORBCOMM was able to conduct tests on the spacecraft before it burned up in the atmosphere two days after launch.

  • Glorfindel

    I’m as big a SpaceX fan as they come, but they’re not inspiring confidence with all these delays.

    What was the problem that caused the OG2 launch delay in the first place? I’ve heard a bunch of different reports.

  • Hug Doug

    delays are the nature of the space launch industry. the ULA delays launches all the time, we just don’t hear about it because there’s far less general interest in their launches.

    examples:

    http://www.spaceflightinsider.com/space-flight-news/commercial-spaceflight-space-flight-news/ula-delays-upcoming-delta-iv-launch-with-gps-iif-5-satellite/

    http://www.mynews13.com/content/news/cfnews13/news/article.html/content/news/articles/cfn/2014/3/26/atlas_v_delayed.html

  • Chief Galen Tyrol

    Launch delays are the nature of the industry SpaceX claims to be revolutionizing. You’re not really shifting the paradigm if you result to “It happens to ULA, too”.

  • Hug Doug

    Yep. Some of the delays SpaceX has encountered are not of its own making, you know. the Canaveral launch schedule is extremely busy and even a small delay can have a big ripple effect to launches which were scheduled later.

    the true test of SpaceX’s abilities will come when they open their own private launch facility and do all of their own scheduling and etc.

  • Chief Galen Tyrol

    I agree. I believe one of the delays this year was due loss of an Air Force tracking asset – nothing SpaceX can do about that.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    “The latest delay indicates that SpaceX was overly ambitious when it set out to launch 10 Falcon 9s this year.”
    Might be a tad early to make such a clear-cut conclusion. Can’t find the reference, but I read a SpaceX quote that said production is going great with rockets “piling up”. There’s plenty of time yet to shoot off their planned 2014 target quota.
    However, echoing the comments of others, I do hope that they are able optimise their production quality control, testing and launch procedures. It would be great to see some progress in hitting launch dates more reliably rather than this frequent fire-fighting.

  • Douglas Messier

    ULA is able to launch its rockets frequently and on a regular schedule. It also has to deal with the same range and schedule issues as everyone else. They’re more vulnerable on these issues because they launch more. But, they still manage to keep to a regular schedule.

  • Douglas Messier

    Yes, rockets are piling up. But, the bottleneck appears to be launching them.

    They haven’t explained the cause of the latest delay. I had hear it was a major problem with the launch vehicle. The longer the delay goes on, the more convincing the story appears.

  • Guy Rovella

    Source?

  • Guy Rovella

    Let’s look at the launch delays and failures when Atlas and Delta were 4 years old. Any system needs time to mature. The present delay came from a ground facilities fire and had nothing to do with the rocket. What’s becoming clear is that SpaceX needs there own dedicated launch pads.

  • windbourne

    Was it not the helium system? Or was that disproven?

  • windbourne

    they do NOW.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Pad 40 at the Cape is theirs alone.
    What they need is more launches to refine and mature the launcher design and refine and mature the pad design and procedures.
    I am impatient for progress, but I choose to be optimistic.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    I don’t believe that “convincing” is very useful. Facts via explicit and open explanations would be. That said, SpaceX owe us nothing, so if they choose to be secretive we can only wait and whinge.

  • Douglas Messier

    I heard it was a problem with the helium tank. I can’t name the source, but it has been accurate in the past. We’ll see if they reveal the problem or not.

  • Douglas Messier

    Then perhaps the Air Force is correct in wanting to give SpaceX the time
    to do these things and perfect these aspects before loading up their
    already crowded manifest with more launches. When full competition for launches is opened in 2017, SpaceX should have all these matters ironed out. In the meantime, why rush it?

  • windbourne

    Would that be the fired SpaceX HR person, or somebody else?

  • Douglas Messier

    What fired SpaceX HR person? What you talkin’ ’bout, fake Willis?

  • SilveradoCyn

    Is it normal to pull the payload off of the launch vehicle? This seems to imply the issue was fairly significant, and/or they were ready to swap out to another F9.

  • BeanCounterFromDownUnder

    F9v1.1 is a lot less than 4 years old. By all accounts it was virtually a new vehicle. It flew for the first time in 2013. Just saying.
    Cheers.

  • BeanCounterFromDownUnder

    Yes it can be and no they aren’t swapping out the launch vehicle.

  • BeanCounterFromDownUnder

    By the time the AF manages to ‘certify’ the F9 launch vehicle, SpaceX will have these issues worked and sorted just as they have with other issues. Whether they obtain the judgement that allows them to compete is an entirely different matter.
    Cheers.

  • windbourne

    google for ‘Doreen Gaydoon’.
    She was fired and is running around with more venom than an ex-wife.

  • windbourne

    No, the present slip does NOT come from facilities fire.
    There is something going on with the F9.

  • Douglas Messier

    As opposed to…when exactly?

  • windbourne

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlas_V#Atlas_V_launches

    In their first 4 years, they launched 8 times.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delta_IV#Delta_IV_launches
    In their first 4 years, they launched 7 times.

    In both cases above, that was from companies that had DECADES of experience.

    OTOH, SpaceX, with less than 10 years of existence,
    launched 9-10 times in 4 years:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Falcon_9_launches

    And 4-5 of those flights came in the last 9 months and from basically, a new version of the F9.

  • Douglas Messier

    The statistics for the first few years of Delta IV and Atlas V are an incomplete picture in that the companies involved were continuing to fly Delta II, Atlas II and Atlas III rockets during that period. So the companies were able to incorporate new vehicles into their launch manifests.

    I looked at all these launch stats a while back and have them in table form. I just reviewed them again. The records show an extremely high level of reliability for these vehicles. There is also a regularity in launches.

    There have been four SpaceX launches (not 4-5) since September, so the pace has begun to pick up.

    As for it being a new vehicle, this is why the USAF didn’t count any of the previous launches of the first Falcon 9 variant toward certification.

  • Douglas Messier

    Thanks, Willis wannabe!

  • Douglas Messier

    Peter B. de Selding of Space News just reported that a helium leak caused the latest delay. It was in a different location from earlier leak.

    This might be a different tank than used on previous vehicles, one that SpaceX built itself rather than obtaining from outside vendor.

  • Guy Rovella

    If they had not had the weeks long hold up because of the tracking radar fire the launch schedule wouldn’t have gotten backed and they probably would have had time to fix it before being bumped. bumped.

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Twitter:
    “SpaceX: Helium leak, in diff location from earlier, caused May 9 Falcon 9 static fire scrub. Targeting June 11/12 Orbcomm launch.”

  • Michael Vaicaitis

    Twitter:
    “SpaceX: Helium leak, in diff location from earlier, caused May 9 Falcon 9 static fire scrub. Targeting June 11/12 Orbcomm launch.”

  • OdiousJack

    SpaceX will prove to be no different to government funded company’s because the technology of chemical rocketry is still not failproof (and with failproof I mean a launch rate of 90%) after sixty years of experience. And it isn’t getting any better. Ain’t that a fact we can all agree upon.

  • windbourne

    Thanx

  • Hug Doug

    the Shuttle had a success rate of 98.2%

    the Atlas V, Delta IV, and Falcon 9 all have success rates of 100%

  • windbourne

    If they launch in June, it will be 5x in the last 9 months. Likewise, that will make the 4 years.
    Also, they had other launchers, but I know that atlas v was delayed multiple x to fix issues. I assume the same is true of boeing, since that is true of just about every new launch system.

  • windbourne

    ???

  • Douglas Messier

    You’re making assumptions about Delta IV that may or may not be backed up by evidence.

    However, if what you say is true, the USAF has been through this before. Which is why they are reluctant to open up a lot of new launches to SpaceX until the company has consistently launched on a regular schedule. The Air Force’s position on this is far more rational than SpaceX and its supporters would have you believe. It’s not like SpaceX doesn’t already have enough payloads to launch. Or that some of them are U.S. government payloads they were awarded outside normal bidding. Or that the manifest SpaceX has isn’t behind badly behind schedule already.

    You’ve pretty much supported the Air Force’s position here, whether you realized it or not.

  • mattmcc80

    Ariane V’s also at 95%, H-IIA 95%, the various Soyuz variants flown in recent decades all above 95% (Soyuz-FG, 100%, Soyuz-U 97%)..

    Thanks to their recent spate of issues, Proton’s sitting at 89%, which is also where SeaLaunch is at.

    So yeah, I think we can safely put “it isn’t getting any better” down as “not a fact”.

  • OdiousJack

    That’s not what I meant. I meant being able to lauch without having delay after delay because of soft- or hardware problems. So if nine in ten go up as planned and not days, weeks or even months later, that would mean being failproof to me.

  • Hug Doug

    so you’re changing the meaning of the word “fail” to suit you? ok, better alert all dictionary makers. seriously, if you meant to say that, then why did you say something else entirely?

    delays are in the nature of the launch business. they happen for so many reasons, it would be impossible to prevent them all. even if your rocket is in perfect working order, the weather might be bad. a downrange radar tracking station might catch on fire and halt all launches (as happened recently), etc. etc.

    that said, if you encounter a problem (such as a helium leak), you work on it. you don’t launch a rocket with a known problem just because you said you’d launch that day. there is (almost) always another launch window. nobody really cares if there’s a delay. what matters is getting the payload launched.

  • OdiousJack

    I figured it easy to understand. If rockets are failproof – never a 100% but 90% is okay – they could get launched in time, as planned. Tornado’s or radar tracking stations that can’t perform beside, this is what ought to be the case after sixty years of rocketry development. Most of what is used is fifties or sixties technology, resulting in similar problems occurring over and over again, which have to be addressed, But until now never in a fashion that proved to be of some merit in that it resulted in rockets that are almost fail safe. Nuff said.

  • Hug Doug

    the trouble is that a rocket “failure” means they exploded. or otherwise did not deliver their payload to orbit.

    you are talking about a DELAY. this is not a failure of the rocket.

  • OdiousJack

    Last reply. In my opinion rockets are failsafe-failproof when they perform as requested at the time planned without any issues (concerning the rocket itself) that result in delay, At present this is mostly not the case.

  • Hug Doug

    your opinion is wrong. it mangles the definition of the world “fail”

    delays are not failures.

  • Mercy2000

    I guess you had to be watching bad 70s television to get it.

  • windbourne

    which show?
    I was born in 59.

  • Mercy2000
  • windbourne

    LOL.
    Yeah, that was a big hit, but we did not get that channel out in the rural areas (1.2 hours northwest of Chicago).
    Besides, what bit I watched of it, I did not find that funny.

  • SilveradoCyn

    From Orbcomm website:
    http://www.orbcomm.com/networks/og2-launch

    OG2 Mission 1 Update: June 10, 2014

    The OG2 Mission 1 Launch is scheduled for Sunday, June 15 at 8:00 pm ET with Monday, June 16 as the back-up launch date.

    During final integration on one of the OG2 spacecraft, we encountered a minor issue resulting in a few extra days of delay to perform precautionary steps to ensure there are no operational concerns with the satellite.

    We intend to re-encapsulate the satellites this evening, with static test firing of the rocket scheduled for Thursday or Friday this week.