SpaceX to launch, land 2 Falcon 9 rockets just days apart
Due to an adjustment in its mission manifest, SpaceX will attempt to fly two Falcon 9 rockets a little more than 50 hours apart – from opposite sides of the United States. Using two different launch teams, it would set a new record for successive launches by the NewSpace company.
The first mission is scheduled to take flight on Friday, June 23, 2017, from Kennedy Space Center’s Launch Complex 39A. Originally scheduled to launch on June 19, this flight was delayed following the discovery of a problem with a pneumatic valve in the payload fairing, which SpaceX determined needed to be replaced to ensure a safe deployment of the satellite.
The valve is responsible for separating the two halves of the fairing during flight after the payload is above the thickest parts of the atmosphere. While there is redundancy in the system, SpaceX decided to err on the side of caution and replace the suspect valve.
Having already completed all of its pre-launch testing, including a static fire test over the weekend, the “flight-proven” Falcon 9 should be ready to fly once it is returns to the pad.
This will be the second flight of this particular first stage, core 1029, having previously launched the first 10 Iridium NEXT satellites in January 2017 during the Iridium-1 mission.
The payload for the East Coast flight is a television broadcasting satellite called BulgariaSat-1, which will provide direct-to-home television to the Balkans, among other areas. The two-hour launch window opens at 2:10 p.m. EDT (18:10 GMT). If the flight does not happen on Friday, a backup opportunity exists on Saturday with the same window.
Nearly three minutes into the flight, core 1029 will separate from the second stage and attempt to land on the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship which will be stationed downrange in the Atlantic Ocean.
Two days later, on the other side of the continent, a second Falcon 9 mission will take place. Scheduled for Sunday afternoon from Vandenberg Air Force Base’s Launch Complex 4E (east) in California, this will be the fourth liftoff SpaceX has executed from that facility.
The company completed a successful static fire test on the rocket on Tuesday, June 20. It involved filling both stages with liquid oxygen and rocket-grade kerosene in a simulated countdown culminating in the nine first stage Merlin-1D engines igniting for just over 3 seconds to confirm everything was functioning properly.
With the test out of the way, SpaceX can now move ahead with integrating the payload, the second set of 10 Iridium NEXT satellites, with the rocket. These spacecraft will give Iridium Communication’s customers a better voice and data service. Liftoff for the Iridium-2 mission is set for 1:25 p.m. PDT (4:25 p.m. EDT / 20:25 GMT). This will be the first flight for this specific Falcon 9 first stage, core 1036.
The company will attempt to land core 1036 on its West Coast drone ship, Just Read the Instructions, following the separation of the second stage some 2.5 minutes into the flight. Assuming a successful recovery, SpaceX plans to refurbish and reuse the booster for a future launch.
Lloyd Campbell’s first interest in space began when he was a very young boy in the 1960s with NASA’s Gemini and Apollo programs. That passion continued in the early 1970s with our continued exploration of our Moon, and was renewed by the Shuttle Program. Having attended the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on its final two missions, STS-131, and STS-133, he began to do more social networking on space and that developed into writing more in-depth articles. Since then he’s attended the launch of the Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity rover, the agency’s new crew-rated Orion spacecraft on Exploration Flight Test 1, and multiple other uncrewed launches. In addition to writing, Lloyd has also been doing more photography of launches and aviation. He enjoys all aspects of space exploration, both human, and robotic, but his primary passions lie with human exploration and the vehicles, rockets, and other technologies that allow humanity to explore space.