Falcon and Venus Express delayed

by Chris Bergin

Two very different missions but both with the same news, as the European Space Agency (ESA) announced their Venus Express spacecraft will not launch next Wednesday, due to a problem with its Russian launch vehicle.

Meanwhile, SpaceX’s Falcon 1 has also suffered a delay – and won’t launch until the middle of November.

ESA announced that during the final preparations for the launch of the Venus Express spacecraft by a Soyuz-Fregat launcher, contamination was detected inside the launcher’s fairing.

Starsem and ESA have therefore decided to carry out additional checks, which will postpone the originally scheduled launch date of Wednesday, 26 October by several days.

The $150 million mission is the first to Venus, our closest neighbour, for 15 years and will help study the effects of global warming.

ESA have noted that a new launch date will be announced shortly.

The maiden flight of the Falcon 1 follows several cautious weeks of delay during engine testing.

SpaceX operations at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California had been held back while the US Air Force launched their last Titan rocket, carrying a classified national security payload into orbit, which launched earlier this week.

Due to the delays in the run up to the launch of the Titan rocket, Falcon 1 will lift off from the miniscule island Omelek of the Kwajalein Atoll, leased by the US Army as a missile test range from the Marshall Islands.

The island is only nine degrees from the equator, allowing launches to take more advantage of the Earth’s rotation.

The delay – believed to be caused by minor flight software glitches – to mid-November places extra pressure on the company, with any further delay pushing the launch into next year.

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