Spaceflight Insider

EchoStar 23 launch postponed to NET March 14

SpaceX Falcon 9 v1.1 Turkamenalem Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40 photo credit Mike Howard SpaceFlight Insider

An archive photo of the last Falcon 9 to fly without landing legs. That mission, TurkmenAlem52E, launched April 27, 2015, from Space Launch Complex 40 in Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Photo Credit: Mike Howard / SpaceFlight Insider

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — SpaceX’s second Falcon 9 to fly out of Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) will likely lift off no earlier than March 14, 2017. This postponement could be the result of delays with the static fire test.

Originally scheduled to be the first flight out of LC-39A, the EchoStar 23 mission was preceded by the Feb. 19, 2017, launch of the CRS-10 Dragon capsule to resupply the International Space Station. According to SpaceX on Jan. 30, this change allowed time for additional testing of ground systems ahead of the CRS-10 Mission.

With CRS-10 now out of the way, EchoStar 23’s mission flow was able to proceed. On March 7, 2017, the Falcon 9 was seen vertical on the pad in preparation for a static fire test. However, this was postponed to March 8, where it was again delayed.

According to NASASpaceflight, because of the delay with the static fire test, SpaceX is now targeting a 2.5-hour launch window that opens at 1:34 a.m. EDT (05:34 GMT) March 14, with a backup attempt on March 16. Previously, the company was hoping to fly on March 12.

As of right now, however, March 14 was the expected launch date for the Delta IV rocket with WGS-9. United Launch Alliance, which operates that rocket, has yet to comment on the status of this mission, which does not have a specified launch window.

When it does fly, the EchoStar 23 mission is likely to be the last launch in which SpaceX uses a planned expendable first stage. Because the payload is heavy enough and is being placed into a high-energy geostationary transfer orbit, recovery is not a viable option.

During an Oct. 23, 2016, interview on Reddit AMA, SpaceX CEO Musk discussed an upgraded version of the Falcon 9 that he referred to as “Block 5,” which will have improved legs, increased thrust and other enhancements designed to make landing and refurbishing the rocket for reuse easier. This version is expected to fly later in 2017.

SpaceFlight Insider reached out to SpaceX for details about the delay, but as of this writing has yet to receive a response.


Bart Leahy is a freelance technical writer living in Orlando, Florida. Leahy's diverse career has included work for The Walt Disney Company, NASA, the Department of Defense, Nissan, a number of commercial space companies, small businesses, nonprofits, as well as the Science Cheerleaders.

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