SpaceX completes Falcon 9 v1.1 Static Fire, delays launch

by Chris Bergin

SpaceX has completed a key pre-launch objective with the Static Fire of their Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket at Cape Canaveral’s SLC-40. However, the vehicle’s mission has been delayed from its Sunday launch to a TBD (To Be Decided) target, after the customer noted they wished to conduct additional testing on their six ORBCOMM satellites.

Falcon 9 v1.1 Static Fire:

Delays for rocket launches are commonplace, with SpaceX not immune from having to reschedule their missions.

Many factors come into play during a pre-launch flow, such as the availability of the Range, weather – even before the launch, such as rollout constraints – along with the requirement to ensure the rocket and payload are in good health.

Everything needs to be right to provide the vehicle and payload the best possible chance of a successful launch, given there are no second chances once the rocket rises off the pad.

One of the primary elements to ensure the rocket is ready to go in a Falcon 9 flow is the Static Fire.

Also known as the Hot Fire test, the effort relates to ensuring that the pad’s fueling systems – and the launch vehicle – function properly in a fully operational environment, with numerous requirements to be successfully proven via such a test, such as the engine ignition and shut down commands, which have to operate as designed, and that the Merlin 1D engines perform properly during start-up.

Z587Tasks also include a full propellant loading sequence, launch countdown operations, engine ignition operations and testing of the pad’s high volume water deluge system.

The Static Fire was set to take place on Thursday. However, the flow was delayed by “weather” surrounding the rocket’s departure from the hanger on to the launch pad – per L2′s coverage of the mission’s flow to launch.

The Static Test provides a dress rehearsal for the actual launch, with controllers first conducting a poll to allow for the loading of Falcon 9′s RP-1 propellant with liquid oxygen oxidizer two hours and thirty five minutes before T-0.

This was followed with fuel and Thrust Vector Control (TVC) bleeding on the second stage, performed at T-1 hour.

At T-13 minutes, a final flight readiness poll was required, with a final hold point at T-11 minutes.

Z77Per the countdown procedures, the tasks then entered the terminal count ten minutes before ignition, followed by the launch vehicle being transferred to internal power at four minutes and forty six seconds before T-0.

The Flight Termination System (FTS), used to destroy the rocket in the event of a problem during an actual launch, was armed three minutes and eleven seconds before launch, and seven seconds later oxidizer topping was concluded.

Pressurization of the propellant tanks followed, and while a Wet Dress Rehearsal (WDR) – which are no longer required for the Falcon 9 – would have concluded the test at around T-5 seconds, the Static Fire continued the count through to ignition.

Z7A short burst of the Merlin ID engines on the core stage of the F9 then took place – noted per L2 coverage as a few seconds prior to 15:30 local time – which allows for validation data to be gained on the health of the vehicle and pad systems.

With the required engine and vehicle data collected, detanking operations follows for the rest of the day, followed by the lowering on to the Transporter Erector and rollback to the hanger.

Sources note the test was successful, with a smooth flow to ignition – bar some initial weather constraints – with the firing also proving engineers have fixed the problem surrounding the rocket’s helium pressurization system that scrubbed Static Fire last month.

A Launch Readiness Review (LRR) is expected to still take place in the coming days, as much as there is no firm launch date following the decision – taken on Friday – not to press ahead with Sunday’s launch.

While there are Eastern Range considerations, due to a maintenance window that is about to begin, the latest delay was attributed to the payload – six ORBCOMM OG-2 satellites.

Z9“ORBCOMM’s 6 OG2 satellites were re-encapsulated on Wednesday (ahead of) proceeding toward a static test fire of the rocket on Friday, June 13,” noted the customer. Their previous issue with the satellites caused the initial delay of the launch to Sunday.

“All six satellites have completed additional testing and are functioning as expected. In an effort to be as cautious as possible, it was decided to perform further analysis to verify that the issue observed on one satellite during final integration has been fully addressed.

“The additional time to complete this analysis required us to postpone the OG2 Mission 1 Launch. We are working with SpaceX to identify the next available launch opportunity, and we will update the schedule shortly.”

As of the time of the Static Fire, L2 information noted the latest NET (No Earlier Than) launch date is now June 20. However, it is not yet known if that target has received Range approval.

(Images: SpaceX, NASA, Jacques van Oene/ and via L2′s Special Sections. L2 SpaceX section now includes thousands of unreleased images from all Dragon ISS missions – including CRS-3)

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