Spaceflight Insider

Launch of SpaceX Falcon 9 with SES-9 postponed 24 hours

SpaceX Falcon 9 Full Thrust Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40 SES-9 photo credit Michael Howard SpaceFlight Insider

Photo Credit: Michael Howard / SpaceFlight Insider

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — The launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and its payload of the SES-9 communications satellite, has been postponed 24 hours due to an issue with the temperature of the booster’s liquid oxygen, according to a statement from the company. 

“Out of an abundance of caution, the team opted to hold [the] launch for today to ensure liquid oxygen temperatures are as cold as possible in an effort to maximize performance of the vehicle,” the statement read.

SpaceX Falcon 9 Full Thrust Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40 SES-9 photo credit Michael Seeley / We Report Space

Although there were high winds in and around SLC-40, severe weather, especially tornadoes, never materialized. Photo Credit: Michael Seeley / We Report Space

This version of the Falcon 9, dubbed the “Full Thrust”, utilizes liquid oxygen and rocket grade kerosene (RP-1) that are chilled nearly to their freezing points, densifying them. This allows for more fuel to fit inside the rocket’s tanks, increasing its performance—something needed to both send a payload to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) and recover first stage boosters downrange.

According to SpaceX’s twitter account, the rocket and spacecraft remain healthy. A new launch time was set for Thursday, Feb. 25, also at 6:46 p.m. EST (23:46 GMT), with a window extending to one hour and 37 minutes—the same as today’s postponed launch time. Tomorrow’s weather is forecasted to provide an 80 percent favorable conditions for launch, with the only concern being ground winds.

When it does take to the skies, the Full Thrust Falcon 9 will lift the SES-9 satellite to GTO. Upon reaching its destination, SES-9 will be the largest satellite supporting the Asia-Pacific region. The spacecraft has some 81 high-powered Ku-band transponder equivalents, which will be used to provide high-speed broadband, television, and other services to an array of customers in more than 20 countries.

As is currently the case with all East Coast SpaceX launches, the booster will be launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) located in Florida. SpaceX has said that it will attempt a landing of the rocket’s first stage on the company’s Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship “Of Course I Still Love You”. However, given the flight’s GTO profile, the company has stated that a successful landing is not expected.

The launch of SES-9 will be the second so far on SpaceX’s 2016 manifest. Once the mission is complete, the Hawthorne, California-based company still has 13 additional launches planned for the remainder of this year (according to SpaceFlight Now).

SpaceX Falcon 9 Full Thrust Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40 SES-9 photo credit Michael Howard SpaceFlight Insider

SpaceX has said they will attempt to recover the first stage of the Falcon 9 on an automated platform positioned out in the Atlantic. Photo Credit: Michael Howard / SpaceFlight Insider

Jason Rhian spent several years honing his skills with internships at NASA, the National Space Society and other organizations. He has provided content for outlets such as: Aviation Week & Space Technology, Space.com, The Mars Society and Universe Today.

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Reader Comments

The tanks must shrink at lower temperatures too, but apparantly not as much as the fuel.
I am expecting a successful landing, whatever SpaceX thinks. Never let facts get in the way of wishful thinking.

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