SpaceX prepares for ORBCOMM launch, and shows off latest Falcon 9R test

SpaceX is set to try again to launch six ORBCOMM second-generation satellites late Friday from Cape Canaveral. Launch of the ORBCOMM OG2 satellites is scheduled for Friday at 6:08 pm EDT (2208 GMT); the company’s webcast of the launch will begin at 5:35 pm EDT (2135 GMT). Weather appears to be the major issue regarding the launch, with only a 30 percent chance of acceptable weather at the scheduled launch time, improving to 60 percent on Saturday.

The launch, originally scheduled for last month, has slipped several times. Initially the problem was with the Falcon 9 rocket, which suffered a helium leak in its first stage first detected during preparations for a static fire test. After that problem was repaired, an issue with one of the six OG2 satellites postponed the launch, according to ORBCOMM. “In an effort to be as cautious as possible, it was decided to perform further analysis to verify that the issue observed on one satellite during final integration has been fully addressed,” the company said June 13. That problem was addressed, the payloads encapsulated within the Falcon 9 v1.1’s payload fairing, and the launch scheduled

As SpaceX was preparing this Falcon 9 v1.1 for launch—one that will attempt to “soft land” the first stage in the ocean, as they attempted on the previous launch in April—the company has also performed another test flight of its Falcon 9R demonstrator. The company released this video of a June 17 flight from its test site in McGregor, Texas, where the rocket flew to an altitude of 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) before landing:

A different in this flight from previous ones was the addition of paddle-like fins near the top of the stage. The steerable fins, the company said in the video description, “provide control of the rocket during the fly back portion of return.” The video adds that the company will soon switch to landing legs that are stowed against the sides of the rocket during liftoff, deploying during landing. On Falcon 9R and Grasshopper tests to date, the legs have been fixed in the extended position. SpaceX did successfully deploy the landing legs during April’s flight.

3 comments to SpaceX prepares for ORBCOMM launch, and shows off latest Falcon 9R test

  • Brock

    I guess steering fins like that have a long pedigree in the missile and rocket business, but it’s still sort of funny to such little surfaces flapping around at the top. Purely from a layman’s point of view, it’s hard to believe they do much.

  • Yeah, they look funny. However I think the rocket will be moving much faster when they are used. I think they are for guidance near the top of the main tanks flight.

  • Andy Clark

    A great step forward. I really appreciated slow down at the end for a nice soft landing. Do we have any impact ‘g’ or velocity data?
    I think the fins are there for reasons of stability for the whole vehicle; I imagine that winds aloft may be a problem, particularly at lower speeds. After all, dropping a vehicle to the ground on thrust must be like balancing a long stick on one finger and then lowering it to the ground!

Leave a Reply




You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>