SpaceX has, for the third time, cancelled the launch of one of its Falcon 9 rockets on Sunday, Feb. 28, after flight computers shut down the ignition sequence. The reason is still unclear.
The SES-9 satellite is designed to deliver HD television programming to the nations of Southeast Asia. This spacecraft will also be among the most advanced ever placed in orbit to provide media to that region of the world.
"The Falcon 9 remains healthy in advance of SpaceX and SES's mission to deliver the SES-9 satellite to Geostationary Transfer Orbit. 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 officials reported following the decision to scrub the planned liftoff on Feb. 25.
Start of the mission was delayed twice by mission engineers at the Luxembourg-based private space agency. The rocket was just two minutes from liftoff on Feb. 25 when mission planners scrubbed the flight, as liquid oxygen was being loaded into the vehicle. The temperature of the fuel component played a major role in the decision to postpone the launch during the first liftoff attempt.
One of the more unusual features of the Falcon 9 design is the method by which the first stage of the rocket lands vertically on a floating platform. So far, a successful landing has proven elusive for developers.
"This mission is going to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit. Following stage separation, the first stage of the Falcon 9 will attempt an experimental landing on the 'Of Course I Still Love You' droneship. Given this mission's unique GTO profile, a successful landing is not expected," mission planners stated [pdf].
In addition to delivering television broadcasts to 22 million households in southeastern Asia, the SES-9 satellite will also transmit broadband services to remote areas of the region. Passengers aboard sea vessels and airplanes traveling in the Indian Ocean and surrounding areas will also be able to take advantage of the communications signal provided by the craft.
SpaceX was founded by PayPal developer Elon Musk, becoming part of a new wave of private developers sending payloads into orbit.
Built by Boeing, the SES-9 is designed to last 15 years in orbit.