Tag: Falcon 9

SpaceX Loses Inmarsat Launch to Arianespace Due to Delays

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Arianespace_logoLONDON, 8 December 2016 (Inmarsat PR) — Inmarsat (LSE:ISAT.L), the world’s leading provider of global mobile satellite communications, has today signed a contract with Arianespace to launch its S-band satellite for the European Aviation Network (EAN) on an Ariane 5 heavy lift launch vehicle.  The EAN payload is part of a ‘condosat’ constructed by Thales Alenia Space, which incorporates a second payload for Hellas-Sat.  The condosat is scheduled to be launched from the Guiana Space Center in Kourou, French Guiana in mid-2017.

The condosat was originally scheduled for launch with SpaceX.  However, following the delay in SpaceX’s launch schedule, Inmarsat and Hellas-Sat took the decision to move the condosat to an Arianespace launch.

Inmarsat will launch Inmarsat-5 F4, a Global Xpress (GX) satellite, with SpaceX.  This launch is planned for H1 2017 and Inmarsat is looking forward to continuing to work with SpaceX going forward.

“We are delighted with flexibility that Arianespace has shown in being able to provide a launch slot that enables us to place our European Aviation Network S-band satellite in orbit by mid-2017,” said Michele Franci, CTO, Inmarsat. “This launch schedule supports the introduction of our ground-breaking integrated satellite and air-to-ground network, developed by Inmarsat and Deutsche Telekom, which will deliver a very high capacity broadband Wi-Fi experience for passengers flying throughout Europe.”

SpaceX Slips Falcon 9 Return to Flight into January

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Credit: USLaunchReport.com

Credit: USLaunchReport.com

SpaceX provided the following update on the Falcon 9 return to flight this morning:

We are finalizing the investigation into our September 1 anomaly and are working to complete the final steps necessary to safely and reliably return to flight, now in early January with the launch of Iridium-1. This allows for additional time to close-out vehicle preparations and complete extended testing to help ensure the highest possible level of mission assurance prior to launch.

You will undoubtedly recall that the second stage of a Falcon 9 caught fire and exploded on the launch pad three months ago as it was being fueled for a pre-flight engine test. A Spacecom communications satellite valued at $195 million was destroyed in the accident.

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SpaceX Targets Dec. 16 for Falcon 9 Return to Flight

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Falcon 9 is scheduled to launch 10 Iridium satellites from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. it will be the first flight of the booster since one blew up on the launch pad while being fueled for a test on Sept. 1. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) would need to sign off on the flight before it could occur. That approval would come after the FAA reviews the results of SpaceX’s investigation into the September accident.

SpaceX Wins NASA Launch

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Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

Falcon 9 launch (Credit: SpaceX)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA has selected Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, California, to provide launch services for the agency’s Surface Water and Ocean Topography (SWOT) mission. Launch is targeted for April 2021 on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Space Launch Complex 4E at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

The total cost for NASA to launch SWOT is approximately $112 million, which includes the launch service; spacecraft processing; payload integration; and tracking, data and telemetry support.

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Musk Predicts Falcon 9 Return to Flight in Mid-December

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Credit: USLaunchReport.com

Credit: USLaunchReport.com

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk told CNBC on Friday that investigators have found the root cause of the fire and explosion that destroyed a Falcon 9 booster on Sept. 1. The company expects to resume launches by the middle of December.

Musk, confirming earlier discussion about the investigation, said the failure involved liquid helium being loaded into bottles made of carbon composite materials within the liquid oxygen tank in the rocket’s upper stage. This created solid oxygen, which Musk previously said could have ignited with the carbon composite materials. However, he did not go into that level of detail in his CNBC comments.
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Tom Stafford’s Letter to NASA About SpaceX Falcon 9 Safety Concerns

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Credit: USLaunchReport.com

Credit: USLaunchReport.com

NASA has released a copy of a December 2015 letter from Tom Stafford, chairman of the NASA International Space Station Advisory Committee, to Associate Administrator William Gerstenmaier expressing concerns about the safety of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket.

Stafford wrote that the committee unanimously believes SpaceX’s plan to load astronauts aboard the Crew Dragon before fueling the Falcon 9 booster is counter to safe practices that have been in place for more than 50 years.

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Inmarsat Looking at Alternatives to Falcon 9

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Members of the 45th Space Wing’s Incident Management Team responded to an explosion Sept. 1, 2016, on Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. (Credit: 45th Space Wing)

Members of the 45th Space Wing’s Incident Management Team responded to an explosion Sept. 1, 2016, on Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. (Credit: 45th Space Wing)

The Wall Street Journal reports that Inmarsat could shift one of its satellites to another launch vehicle due to the problems with SpaceX’s Falcon 9.

Inmarsat Chief Executive Rupert Pearce said Thursday the launch of its fourth Global Xpress satellite due this year on a SpaceX rocket would be delayed until next year and that the company may shift a spacecraft due for launch next year to another rocket.

“We are actively looking at alternatives,” Mr. Pearce said in an interview.

The satellite that may be shifted to another rocket is a critical element of Inmarsat’s plan to provide high-speed in-flight Wi-Fi to airline customers flying in Europe. British Airways parent International Consolidated Airlines Group SA on Wednesday announced it would be the launch customer for the service, which is due to commence next year.

Inmarsat is worried that even after SpaceX resumes launches with the Falcon booster, it may not be able to make up lost time to assure its satellite is placed on orbit as scheduled. Alternatives the London-based company is considering include flying the spacecraft on the European Ariane 5 rocket, Lockheed Martin Corp.’s Atlas V, or the Russian Proton booster. Mr. Pearce said Inmarsat could stick with SpaceX if it can get an earlier launch slot.

NASA Advisory Committee Concerned About SpaceX Fueling Plans

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Credit: USLaunchReport.com

Credit: USLaunchReport.com

SpaceX says it has ” a reliable fueling and launch process”

The Wall Street Journal reports that NASA’s International Space Station Advisory Committee has deep concerns about SpaceX’s plans to load astronauts aboard the Crew Dragon prior to fueling the Falcon 9 booster.

On Monday, the committee met and issued further strong warnings about the potential safety hazards of the way entrepreneur Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp. plans to fuel rockets before they are slated to transport U.S. crews into orbit….

The concerns were expressed in a December 2015 letter to NASA headquarters by former astronaut and retired Air Force Lt. General Thomas Stafford, the panel’s chairman. Gen. Stafford wrote that such practices—which envision pumping in fuel with astronauts already strapped into a capsule on top of the rocket—go against decades of international space-launch policy. The committee was unanimous last year in opposing SpaceX’s fueling plans….

A NASA official assigned to Monday’s meeting said the committee could expect a briefing in December.

After the meeting, a SpaceX spokesman said the company “has designed a reliable fueling and launch process that minimizes the duration and number of personnel exposed to the hazards of launching a rocket.”

 

SpaceX Accident Investigation Team Narrows Cause of Falcon 9 Firexplanomaly

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Credit: USLaunchReport.com

Credit: USLaunchReport.com

SpaceX Update
October 28, 4:00 pm EDT

The Accident Investigation Team continues to make progress in examining the anomaly on September 1 that led to the loss of a Falcon 9 and its payload at Launch Complex 40 (LC-40), Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

Continue reading ‘SpaceX Accident Investigation Team Narrows Cause of Falcon 9 Firexplanomaly’

Musk Talks About Mars Plans, Upgraded Falcon 9 During Reddit AMA

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Interplanetary Transport System (Credit: SpaceX)

Interplanetary Transport System (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk did an Ask Me Anything session on Reddit on Sunday afternoon about his Interplanetary Transport System (ITS) and plans to colonize Mars. Musk also provided an update on upgraded Falcon 9 Block 5 booster which SpaceX expects to launch for the first time next year.

Below are some key excerpts. You can find the full session here.

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NASA Still Working on Releasing Report 16 Months After Falcon 9 Failure

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Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

Dragon capsule separated from Falcon 9 launch vehicle.

I checked in again this week with NASA to see how they were coming on releasing the results of an the space agency’s independent investigation into the Falcon 9 in-flight failure in June 2015. I received the following reply:

NASA completed an independent analysis of the SpaceX CRS-7 mishap in support of high-value payload launches planned under the NASA Launch Services II contract. In accordance with the NLS II contract, the NASA Launch Services Program reviewed SpaceX’s readiness to launch the Jason-3 mission and led an independent investigation of the incident as part of the Flight Readiness Review process. The Launch Services Program independent investigation yielded an in-depth understanding of the mishap event; consequently, NASA’s final report on its investigation into the SpaceX CRS-7 mission is still in work. The official report of the independent review team contains information restricted by U.S. International Traffic in Arms Regulations and company-sensitive proprietary information. As a result, NASA will provide a summary of publicly releasable information when the final report is completed.

Musk: SpaceX Has Theory on Falcon 9 Firexplanomaly; Sabotage Unlikely

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Credit: USLaunchReport.com

Credit: USLaunchReport.com

Remarks attributed to Elon Musk in which he discussed a possible cause of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch pad firexplanomaly leaked out to the public last week after his his presentation before officials at the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

“We are close to figuring it out. It might have been formation of solid oxygen in the carbon over-wrap of one of the bottles in the upper stage tanks. If it was liquid it would have been squeezed out but under pressure it could have ignited with the carbon. This is the leading theory right now, but it is subject to confirmation,” Musk is reported to have said.

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Terra Bella and Spaceflight Industries Sign Agreement for Falcon 9 Launch for Small Imaging Satellites

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Falcon 9 launches the Dragon CRS-9 mission to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

Falcon 9 launches the Dragon CRS-9 mission to the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA)

SEATTLE, Oct. 11, 2016 (Spaceflight Industries PR)Spaceflight Industries, a next-generation space company enabling access to space and redefining global intelligence, announced today that Terra Bella has signed an agreement with its launch services entity, Spaceflight, for a SpaceX Falcon 9 launch of Terra Bella SkySats.

Terra Bella will be the co-lead on Spaceflight’s SSO-A dedicated rideshare mission scheduled to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California in late 2017.

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Shotwell: Helium Tank “Let Go” in Falcon 9 Firexplanomaly

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Gwynne Shotwell

Gwynne Shotwell

SpaceNews has a story on Gwynne Shotwell, who provided an update on the investigation into the Falcon 9 launch pad failure last month and other developments at the company. Here is a summary:

  • SpaceX believes Falcon 9 failure was caused when a composite over wrapped pressure vessel (COPv or helium bottle) “let go” in the liquid oxygen (LOX) tank;
  • Company is not sure what caused the explosion yet, but they don’t believe it was caused by ground support equipment;
  • Doesn’t believe it is a problem with helium bottle design but “probably is more focused on the operations”;
  • Accident in September was different from the one in June 2015 when a helium bottle broke loose due to strut failure;
  • Neither of the Falcon 9 failures have been associated with changes made to the booster;
  • Believes Falcon 9 can be put back into service this year;
  • Discount on reused Falcon 9 first stages is about 10 percent than the previously advertised 30 percent;
  • SpaceX wants to recover investments put into making Falcon 9 first stages reusable before reducing prices;
  • Company might reduce prices for reused first stages at a later date;
  • Does not think the company is trying to do too much at once, pointing to small percentages of the company working on Mars and the broadband constellation;
  • Top three priorities are getting Falcon 9 flying again, making sure Dragon gets “upgraded” to carry crew, and flying a Falcon Heavy booster that’s four years behind schedule;
  • The timeline for SpaceX’s broadband constellation of 4,000 satellites is still uncertain;
  • Will fly test satellites for the constellation next year;
  • Key issue with broadband constellation is a reliable and affordable ground antennae for users that’s easy to install.

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Congressional Letter Supports SpaceX Firexplanomaly Investigation

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Falcon 9 explodes on the launch pad. (Credit: USLaunchReport.com)

Falcon 9 explodes on the launch pad. (Credit: USLaunchReport.com)

Twenty-four members of Congress have written a letter to the administrators of NASA and the FAA and the secretary of the U.S. Air Force supporting the SpaceX-led investigation into the loss of one of the company’s Falcon 9 boosters last month.

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