SpaceX win another contract ahead of CRS-2 mission

by Chris Bergin

As SpaceX prepare for their next Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission, the company is continuing to fill its order book for their Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy fleet. The latest order was announced this week, when contracts were signed for the launch of Spacecom’s AMOS-6 satellite – set to be sent into orbit on a Falcon 9 in 2015.


SpaceX are just over a month away from their next Dragon mission to the International Space Station (ISS), with preparations on track for the SpX-2 launch from Cape Canaveral.

The Eastern Range have approved the place-holder of March 1 for Falcon 9’s departure from SLC-40, with an instantaneous window targeting 10:10am local time, pending the approval of the customary Flight Readiness Review (FRR).

The FRR – as was the case with Shuttle – will review the previous flight of the Falcon 9 and Dragon as part the approval to proceed to launch, which – despite being a successful mission – will be highlighted by the anomaly resolution of the Engine 1 failure during Falcon 9’s ascent on SpX-1.

F9 Engine 1 Failure via L2 enhanced screenshotSpaceX claim they have found the root cause of the engine shutdown and have passed on their findings to NASA management for their feedback.

The incident occurred around 1:19 into the launch – as Engine 1 suddenly lost pressure, resulting in an engine shutdown command being issued.

The pressure loss resulted in the fairing that protects the engine from aerodynamic loads to rupture, giving the impression of an explosion. However, this was not the case and the remaining eight engines were unaffected by the event.

Preliminary source information (L2 LINK to F9/Dragon CRS-1 Post Launch Updates) noted the failure appeared to be related to a fracturing of the Merlin 1C engine’s fuel dome, localized solely in that area on Engine 1, explaining why the engine continued to send data after the event.

Falcon 9 AftFalcon 9 – which is designed to cope with two engines out during ascent – correctly compensated for the loss of engine and created a new ascent profile in real time to ensure Dragon’s entry into orbit for subsequent rendezvous and berthing with the ISS.

The actual root cause of the incident has not been revealed to the public due to its company sensitive nature. However, SpaceX have said they will release some information into their findings “soon”.

The next Dragon to fly to the ISS is currently being processed ahead of mating with its carrier rocket at Cape Canaveral. Payload installation is expected to take place in the middle of February.

SpaceX will be hoping this opening mission of 2013 will follow on from the successes of the previous year that – on top of their ISS debut with Dragon – was marked by the signing of 14 launch contracts for missions on their Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy vehicles.

AMOS-6 Contract:

The first contract signing of 2013 was announced on Tuesday, when Space Communication Ltd. (Spacecom) announced an agreement to launch their AMOS-6 satellite on a Falcon 9 in 2015.

“This last year has been one of great success and tremendous growth,” said Gwynne Shotwell, President of SpaceX. “Spacecom was one of our earliest supporters – SpaceX is proud to be their partner and we look forward to launching their AMOS-6 satellite.”

AMOS-6 via AIAThe AMOS-6 satellite, to be built by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), will provide communication services including direct satellite home internet for Africa, the Middle East, and Europe.

AMOS-6 – to be launched into a geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO) – will replace AMOS-2, which is expected to end its service in 2016.

“We are excited to partner with SpaceX and its tremendous team. AMOS-6 will be larger and stronger than AMOS-2 and AMOS-3 combined, and signals a new age for Spacecom,” commented David Pollack, President and CEO of Spacecom.

“As we establish our position as a global satellite operator providing more services and capacity, AMOS-6 will be a key element of our business strategy and future.”

SpaceX currently have an order book that stretches out into 2017, using both their Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy from their two launch sites on either side of the United States.

Their west coast site at Vandenberg is set to launch both the Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy this year.

(Images: via AIA, SpaceX and L2’s SpaceX Dragon Mission Special Section – Containing presentations, videos, images (Over 2,500MB in size), space industry member discussion and more. Now includes CRS-1 Image Dump, every single hi res photo taken from the ISS – 350 Hi Res images).

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