Last Thursday, SpaceX called off its second attempt to propel the SES-9 communications satellite into distant orbit due to a technical snag, according to their launch commentator.
The launch was scrubbed while the Falcon 9 rocket was barely two minutes from liftoff at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, according to the company’s commentator John Insprucker while on a live launch webcast.
The countdown was halted when the launch group was manning the final loading of super-chilled liquid oxygen propellant into Falcon 9’s first and second stages. The team was probing the amount of time left in the countdown to complete loading of the liquid oxygen.
“[A]t that time the launch team decided that we would need to hold the countdown,” recounted Insprucker, as quoted by Reuters.
The first launch attempt slated for Wednesday was also canceled, giving more chilling time for its liquid oxygen. The fuel’s density increases – making it more potent – when there are lower temperatures.
SpaceX tweeted after the first postponed attempt that the “rocket and spacecraft remain healthy” and that they were eyeing to try again the next day. Cape Canaveral was also covered with thick clouds Wednesday night, with the weather only 60 percent favorable.
There is no word yet on when the launch will be rescheduled.
SpaceX aims to deliver the satellite as high above Earth as 24,233 miles, with plenty of fuel to fly the rocket’s first stage to an ocean platform around 400 miles off the Florida coast for return sea landing.
Elon Musk’s California-based space exploration firm has had three unsuccessful water landing attempts. The first landing was hard and at an angle, while the second toppled over because of residual post-landing motion. The third, which was deemed half-successful given the Jason-3 satellite blast off, also toppled over after the landing gear failed at touchdown.
The SES-9 satellite for the supposed Feb. 24 launch features a launch mass of about 11,700 pounds, and is designed to provide TV broadcasting and other communications services across a swath of Earth from Africa and the Middle East to Southeast Asia.
The satellite is expected to have a 15-year service life, eventually settling into an operating post in geostationary orbit along the equator.
Photo: Steve Jurvetson | Flickr