Latest update: The GovSat-1 mission launched on schedule and appears to be making a nominal drive to geostationary orbit on Wednesday afternoon. The first stage did not land on the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” because that will be necessary for a Falcon Heavy launch that could come as early as February 6. Yes, with the GovSat-1 mission now in space, the Falcon Heavy is stepping into the battle arena. It’s time.
Wednesday update: SpaceX say it continues with the GovSat-1 mission on Wednesday, with the launch window at 4:25 PM. The company has apparently resolved the technical issues of Tuesday’s failed launch attempt and the weather conditions are much better today. Meteorologists give the launch a 90 percent chance of favorable weather, which is about as good as it gets.
Read below for more background on the launch and to watch a webcast that starts about 15 minutes before the launch window opens.
Update Tuesday 15:10: Per Bill Harwood, from CBS News, SpaceX has violated Tuesday’s planned launch of the Falcon 9 rocket to replace some kind of transducer. The plan is to try again on Wednesday with the same launch window, which opens at 4:25 PM ET. The weather should be better by then too.
Original mail: SpaceX began its launch campaign this year on January 7, with the launch of the top-secret Zuma payload for the US government. Although it is not official, multiple sources have said that the mission did not reach orbit. SpaceX has said its rocket performed nominally despite a malfunction, and the Air Force has backed the company in that claim.
Perhaps the biggest vote of confidence in the company is that it’s ready to relaunch less than four weeks later. On Tuesday in Florida, during a launch window from 4:25 p.m. ET to 6:46 p.m. ET, a Falcon 9 rocket will attempt to launch a satellite into geostationary orbit for a public-private partnership between the Luxembourg government and SES. The GovSat-1/SES-16 satellite will be used for both NATO communications and commercial purposes.
This is the sixth time SpaceX has launched a used rocket. The core of this mission has flown once before, in May 2017, to launch the NROL-76 mission. While the rocket will have enough propellant to attempt a landing after pushing the four-ton satellite into orbit, SpaceX will not attempt to recover the booster. This is partly because the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” will be needed for Falcon Heavy’s launch next week.
Winds are a concern for Tuesday’s launch, with just a 40 percent chance of favorable weather. Conditions are expected to be much better if a backup attempt is needed on Wednesday.
For those eagerly awaiting the first launch of the Falcon Heavy rocket, the GovSat-1/SES-16 mission is also important because it represents SpaceX’s final flight before the Heavy mission. SpaceX has set a tentative February 6 launch date for the Falcon Heavy launch from Kennedy Space Center, at a launch pad near where Tuesday’s launch attempt will take place.
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