CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, FL – Following a pair of back to back launch scrubs this week on Wednesday and Thursday due to rocket fueling issues with the liquid oxygen propellant, SpaceX has reset the blast off of their upgraded Falcon 9 rocket – carrying the commercial SES-9 television and communications satellite – to coincidentally coincide with a serene sunset on Sunday, Feb. 28.
Spectators have flocked to the Florida space coast in hopes of catching a glimpse of what could prove to be a spectacular evening streak to orbit after miserable mid-week weather finally departed the sunshine state in favor of glorious blue skies – to the delight of everyone!
SpaceX engineers are now targeting liftoff of the Cape’s first Falcon 9 launch of 2016 for 6:46 p.m. EST from SpaceX’s seaside Space Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. at the opening of a 97-minute launch window.
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The first launch scrub on Wednesday was called some 45 minutes before launch.
“Out of an abundance of caution, the team opted to hold launch for today to ensure liquid oxygen temperatures are as cold as possible in an effort to maximize performance of the vehicle,” SpaceX said in a statement.”
The rocket and spacecraft were otherwise nominal.
“The Falcon 9 remains healthy in advance of SpaceX and SES’s mission to deliver the SES-9 satellite to Geostationary Transfer Orbit.”
The second scrub was called at 1 minute forty seconds before T zero when engineers were concerned about aspects of the liquid oxygen fuel loading and internal temperatures.
“Countdown held for the day. Teams are reviewing the data and next available launch date,” tweeted SpaceX post scrub.
SpaceX is cooling the liquid oxygen propellant in the upgraded Falcon 9 to lower temperatures compared to the rockets prior version, in order to increase its density and provide more fuel aboard the rocket for the engines to burn.
Both stages of the 229 foot tall Falcon 9 are fueled by liquid oxygen and RP-1kerosene which burn in the Merlin engines.
Air Force meteorologists are predicting an almost unheard of >95% percent chance of favorable weather conditions at launch time Sunday – which could result in an absolutely spectacular view as Falcon roars off the launch pad thunders to space, if all goes well.
The only potential concern at this time is for cumulus clouds associated with onshore flow.
A live webcast will be available at SpaceX.com/webcast beginning about 20 minutes before liftoff, at approximately 6:26 p.m. EST on Sunday, Feb. 28.
The launch window closes at approximately 8:23 p.m. EST.
The weather prognosis changes only slightly to 90 percent GO on Monday, again with a concern for cumulus clouds.
If needed, SpaceX has a backup launch opportunity reserved on the Eastern range for Monday, Feb. 29 at approximately the same time at 6:46 p.m. EST.
The goal of Sunday’s launch is to boost the commercial SES-9 television and communications satellite to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO). The satellite will be deployed approximately 31 minutes after liftoff.
The commercial launch was contracted by the Luxembourg based SES, a world-leading satellite operator. SES provides satellite-enabled communications services to broadcasters, Internet service providers, mobile and fixed network operators, and business and governmental organizations worldwide using its fleet of more than 50 geostationary satellites.
Watch for Ken’s onsite launch reports direct from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and planetary science and human spaceflight news.
Learn more about SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, ULA Atlas rocket, Orbital ATK Cygnus, ISS, Boeing, Space Taxis, Mars rovers, Orion, SLS, Antares, NASA missions and more at Ken’s upcoming outreach events:
Feb 27/28: “SpaceX, ULA, SLS, Orion, Commercial crew, Curiosity explores Mars, Pluto and more,” Kennedy Space Center Quality Inn, Titusville, FL, evenings