SpaceX to attempt ASDS first stage recovery for SES-9
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX is planning on attempting a first stage recovery during the scheduled Feb. 24 launch of the SES-9 communications satellite. Due to the velocity required to send the spacecraft into the proper orbit, a ground landing at the Cape’s Landing Zone 1 is not possible – but a landing on a platform positioned out in the Atlantic is.
SpaceX has tried on three earlier occasions to have a first stage land on one of SpaceX’s Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ships (ASDS) which have been positioned out in either the Atlantic or Pacific. The company has progressively gotten closer to achieving this goal with each attempt.
Almost everything appears on track for tomorrow’s launch with SpaceFlight Now reporting that a static test fire of the Falcon 9 tasked with launching SES-9 was conducted on Monday, Feb. 22. The roughly 230-foot tall (70 meter) booster was erected at the Cape’s Space Launch Complex 40 and fueled with Rocket Propellant 1 (RP-1) and liquid oxygen.
The static test fire is one of the final milestones that the two-stage rocket undergoes before it is sent aloft. During the test, which lasts for several seconds, the nine Merlin 1D rocket engines in the rocket’s first stage are activated – unleashing some 1.3 million pounds-force (5.8 MN) of thrust.
The one issue which could cause a delay is the turbulent Florida weather. A low-pressure front is moving in toward the north of Florida’s Space Coast. According to a report by Florida Today’s James Dean, strong winds and clouds are predicted during the launch window, which opens at 6:46 p.m. EST (23:46 GMT) and extends for one hour and 37 minutes. However, meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force have given a 60 percent chance of favorable conditions for launch. The weather improves significantly on the following day (Thursday, Feb. 25) with an 80 percent chance of favorable conditions for launch.
The Falcon 9’s payload, the SES-9 communications satellite, is being fielded to provided television and internet services to customers in the Asia-Pacific region. This will mark the second flight of a Falcon 9 for Luxembourg-based SES, the first being the SES-8 satellite that was launched in December of 2013.
Upon reaching orbit, SES-9 will be the largest satellite that will provide services to the Asia-Pacific region.
If everything goes as planned tomorrow, the Falcon 9 will send SES-9 to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit. The spacecraft should be deployed 31 minutes and 24 seconds after liftoff. This is the second planned launch of 2016 for SpaceX.
Courtesy of SpaceX
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.