Spaceflight Insider

Payload fairing issues resurface to delay Hispasat 30W-6 launch

SpaceX has delayed the launch of Hispasat 30W-6. Photo Credit: Mike Howard / SpaceFlight Insider

SpaceX has delayed the launch of Hispasat 30W-6. Photo Credit: Mike Howard / SpaceFlight Insider

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX’s had hoped to conduct the fifth launch of 2018 on Feb. 25 with the launch of the Hispasat 30W-6 satellite – when it appears an old nemesis reared its head – the Falcon 9’s Payload Fairing. Will this issue delay other SpaceX flights as well?

The shield that protects the rocket’s precious cargo through Earth’s atmosphere (commonly referred to as the rocket’s Nose Cone) has been mentioned in announcements made after the delays of at least two other missions SpaceX has been tasked with carrying out. 

SpaceX has noted the Falcon 9's payload fairing in at least three launch delays. Archive Photo Credit: Mike Howard / SpaceFlight Insider

SpaceX has noted the Falcon 9’s payload fairing in at least three launch delays. Archive Photo Credit: Mike Howard / SpaceFlight Insider

In regards to the latest slip, SpaceX issued the following statement on Feb. 24, 2018. Per one of the company’s spokespersons:

Tonight we announced on social media that we are standing down from our planned launch of Hispasat 30W-6 to conduct additional testing on the fairing’s pressurization system. Once complete, and pending range availability, we will confirm a new targeted launch date.

John Taylor

SpaceX Media Relations


As noted, within the first two months of 2018, SpaceX has launched four payloads to their destinations: Zuma (a classified mission whose very customer was not known) kicked off SpaceX’s 2018 launch manifest taking to the skies on Jan. 8 from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 40.

Sources claim that the mission was lost due to an issue with the payload adapter, however, citing the classified nature of the mission neither SpaceX nor the manufacturer of the payload adapter, Northrop Grumman have issued any definitive information as to the exact nature of the alleged accident.

Interestingly, the mission had been scheduled to launch in November of 2017 but was delayed due to an issue identified with one of SpaceX’s prior payload fairings.

SpaceX denied responsibility for the loss of the payload. However, when asked about the mission’s status White House spokeswoman Dana White directed reporters to SpaceX.

The company, never one to rest on its laurels, launched the GovSat-1 mission for the tiny European nation of Luxembourg on Jan. 31. 

The high point of 2018 so far for the NewSpace company has to be the first flight of its Falcon Heavy rocket and the recovery of two of its booster cores which safely touched down at Cape Canaveral’s Landing Zone 1 approximately eight minutes after they left Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. The mission saw a car, Musk’s Tesla Roadster, sent on a trans-Mars injection heliocentric orbit. The super heavy-lift rocket’s core stage was unable to complete a successful landing on the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship, “Of Course I Still Love You” which was positioned out in the Atlantic. However, by any estimation and considering estimates place the failure rate of maiden flights of any new launch system at around 75 percent. 

Then there was Paz. The Spanish Paz satellite had been slated to launch earlier than Thursday Feb. 22. However, while not providing much details on the subject, SpaceX did note the following after one of the delays: Team at Vandenberg is taking additional time to perform final checkouts of upgraded fairing. Payload and vehicle remain healthy. Due to mission requirements, now targeting February 21 launch of PAZ (weather in the form of high altitude winds would see the launch pushed back an additional day).

This makes the Hispasat 30W-6 delay at least the third mission to encounter an issue, in this case one significant enough to cause a postponement of more than a day or so, due to the Falcon 9’s payload fairing. 

The flight of Hispasat 30W-6, would have been the third flight for SpaceX this month alone and all appeared to be going well with the mission with NASASpaceFlight.com noting that the static test fire of the first stage’s nine Merlin 1D engines taking place on Tuesday, Feb. 20. However, the launch of the communications satellite will have to wait. At present it is unclear what, if any, delay this will have on the other missions SpaceX has planned for this year.

Hispasat, a operating company for a number of Spanish communications satellites, use their spacecraft to provide services to the Americas, Europe and North Africa. The company provided the following description of the satellite:

The Hispasat 30W-6 (Hispasat 1F), to be located at 30º W and will serve as a replacement for the Hispasat 1D, will give the Group additional Ku band capacity, in the Andean region and in Brazil. Likewise, the Hispasat 30W-6 (Hispasat 1F) will expand the Group’s transatlantic capacity in Europe-America and America-Europe connectivity. C band capacity with American coverage and Ka band capacity with European coverage will furthermore be incorporated, in order to enable HISPASAT to continue expanding its broadband service offer in the region.

Video courtesy of Hispasat

 

 

 

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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.

Reader Comments

Caution is better than launch-fever and so far SpaceX has had 4 successful launches and zero failures for the year. It may well be that these issues with the payload fairing are related to the recovery hardware being added to the fairings but that’s only a guess.
Cheers

Unless I’m mistaken SpaceX is the world’s only operational launch services provider to build their product entirely in-house. So at the very least any root causes should be easily resolved.
That said, if the company wants to keep winning big ticket NASA and U.S. government contracted missions from its rivals then ensuring 100% quality control. The SpaceX management ought to be commended for not being afraid delaying launches.

You’re mistaken. Musk himself noted components came from other contractors after the CRS-7 fiasco.

Could be incorrect, but my understanding is that the sub-contractor was fired.

Hari stated that the F9 was built entirely in house when it isn’t. Doesn’t matter if the subcontractor was fired or not as that wasn’t the point.

How can this be a “resurfacing” of fairing problems when PAZ was the first flight of a new fairing design; Fairing 2.0? More like new iteration growing pains, gremlins discovered during PAZ which need adjusting before flight 2.

Three Falcon 9 launch delays and all caused by the payload fairing. So yes it’s a resurfacing or recurring problem as it keeps happening with the same rocket and the same component of that rocket. Zuma, Paz and now Hispasat, not sure why that’s so hard for your kind (apologists) to comprehend. When you have a recurring problem, it’s better to focus on fixing it rather than making flimsy and lame excuses. Please try to be less stupid when you ask questions from now on m’kay?

Robert Martens

Who knew fans of rocketry could be so rude to each other. I thought we were all here because of what we had in common. Rooting for SpaceX is not a flaw it’s a feature. Let’s try and be a little more courteous in our critiques of others. Maybe the internet doesn’t have to suck so much of the time.

When you reinvent reality to distort the truth it’s a (dangerous) flaw. People who deny facts and basic numbers to support a company’s image need to be put down – hard. By your logic when a Dragon V2 claims its first crew we should distort what happened and fudge the numbers to make SpaceX look good. I’m going to root for proper engineering and for fixing recurring problems and I refuse to allow people to lie. You want to support liars? Be my guest, but don’t tell others to give people distorting the facts a free pass. “For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled.” – Richard Feynman during the Rogers Commission. What’s wrong with SpaceX fans that make you all incapable of handling criticism? You want your company to send people to the ISS? Then you need to get thicker skin and focus on having your company fix its broke crap as opposed to attacking those who point out that this is a problem that keeps popping up.

Yep, I’m all for proper engineering but often it takes time to iron out all the bugs. There’s no evidence that I know of that shows SpaceX is not going about their business in a solid logical way and I believe that their success to date demonstrates that. They have been engaged in rapid development and upgrading of their products so the odd hiccough is understandable. As a private company they can’t afford to spend copious amounts of time or money getting things perfect. There is a saying along the lines of ‘perfection being the enemy of good enough’. Good enough gets the job done. Anything more is ‘gold plating’.
And there’s also no ievidence to suggest that SpaceX isn’t trying to solve their fairing issues. Why on earth wouldn’t they. It’s just rediculous to consider anything else.
And I agree with Robert, less angst and rudeness by certain posters would be appreciated.
Cheers

The satellite was launched and inserted into orbit successfully. An issue caused delay and was fixed so calling it broken crap is a bit over the top. Considering how much new technology these rockets use and how fast SpaceX has been iterating on the designs, it’s not surprising to encounter issues. If you are wondering why people defend SpaceX here’s one simple reason, without fast iteration of the relevant technology, nobody is going to Mars any time soon. Maybe not even before the 50s. Block 5 will be the final version of Falcon 9 so after it’s put into full use I expect to see fewer issues and NASA missions with crew are likely to use fixed technology, what SpaceX does on it’s commercial missions in terms of design changes is entirely it’s business. Thankfully, it seems that the BFR won’t be linked to any government programs so this sort of argument won’t be valid in the future.

Is this the first launch of Block 5 Falcons, or one of the last Block 4’s ? Might that be part of the issue at hand ? Or is SpaceX developing a version 2.0 fairing system for them all ?

It’s a Block 4. The first Block 5 was only recently at McGregor for static firing.
I recently suggested that the fairing issue may be related to recovery efforts bur I have no evidence to support that theory and it now seems less that likely as the issue pre-dates fairing recovery TTBOMK.
I guess you could call their existing fairings version 2. Version 1 – no recovery system. Version 2 – recovery system included. But version 2 is still being tweeted as a larger parafoil is being added to slow the descent and allow the recovery vessel more time to get under it.
Cheers

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