Sunday, February 28, 2016

Launch Alert: Go SpaceX and SES-9!

Update - February 28, 2016: 

Today's launch attempt was scrubbed after two tries. One involved technical issues, while the other hold was called due to an unauthorized vessel in waters off the coast of Cape Canaveral. It is routine to declare certain ocean stretches off-limits for brief periods while rocket launches occur. Alas, sometimes not everybody gets the message. It happened before and it happened again today. A launch is scrubbed when a vessel is present in the "off-limits" zone, where it could be hit by debris as a result of a launch accident. To paraphrase a tweet from Elon Musk: The important thing is that both vehicle and spacecraft are healthy
A new launch date has not yet been announced. I will post updates here.

Original Post:

In about an hour, SpaceX is scheduled to launch an SES-9 communications satellite from Cape Canaveral. SES is based in Luxembourg and among the world's leading satellite manufacturers. Today's launch is the third attempt to launch the satellite into a geostationary transfer orbit. 

Previous launches last week have been scrubbed due to fueling issues. According to a SpaceX statement, these steps were taken out of an abundance of caution.

Let's hope today's launch will proceed as planned; it should be spectacular, set against a colorful sunset on the Space Coast. 

Launch time:
6:46 pm EST
3:46 pm PST 
23:46 CET

The launch window lasts well over an hour and closes at about 8:23 pm EST (5:23 PST, 04:46 CET).

The launch includes a Falcon 9 upper stage landing attempt on an ocean-faring autonomous landing barge, whimsically named "Of Course I Still Love You", after Iain M. Banks' (fictional) sentient starships.

 Photo credit: SpaceX

SpaceX has previously attempted landings on ocean-based barges. While it has nailed landing a Falcon 9 upper stage on land, it has yet to stick a rocket landing on an ocean-faring barge. Previous attempts have resulted in RUDs on the barge ships - Rapid Unscheduled Disassemblies. Let's hope today's landing attempt will yield a more positive result!

Live launch - and possibly landing - footage is available here: