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