Falcon 9 conducts Static Fire test ahead of ASIASAT-8 mission

by Chris Bergin

SpaceX conducted a Static Fire test on its Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket late on Thursday. The test – once reviewed – will pave the way for what is now an August 5 NET (No Earlier Than) launch of the ASIASAT-8 satellite, the first of two missions for the same customer. The next satellite, ASIASAT-6, arrived at Cape Canaveral on Wednesday, flown in on an Antonov An-124 transport plane.


Quickly following on from the successful ORBCOMM OG2 mission last month, SpaceX is looking at a quick turnaround for what should be two launches in August.

Both missions will be for Hong Kong based ASIASAT Telecommunications Co. Ltd.

The first launch is now set to take place on August 5, which is only a one day slip since the Eastern Range was originally requested, showing a very smooth pad turnaround since the ORBCOMM OG2 launch at Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40).

This latest mission involves lofting the ASIASAT-8 satellite into a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO), utilizing the power of the upgraded Falcon 9 v1.1, with the first stage requiring all of its propellant to get the job done. As such, there won’t be a propulsive landing attempt of the core on this mission.

2014-07-28 11_03_57-asiasat 8 - Google SearchThe satellite is based on the Space Systems/Loral 1300 series platform, equipped with 24 Ku-band transponders and a Ka-band payload.

Sporting additional Ku beam coverage with inter-beam switching capability for services including DTH television, private networks and broadband services, this bird will be the most powerful member of ASIASAT’s fleet, with a payload power of about 8,500 watts.

A key milestone for the rocket that will loft the spacecraft towards its eventual home at 105.5 degrees EAST is the Static Fire test, sometimes known as a Hot Fire test.

This 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.

The test, like the launch date, moved only slightly from the original schedule, with operations conducted on Thursday evening, within a four hour window.

The long window for a Static Fire allowed engineers some breathing space, in the event the test suffers from any issues during what was a full propellant loading sequence, launch countdown operations, engine ignition operations and testing of the pad’s high volume water deluge system.

The Static Test also provided 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.

2014-07-31 20_46_38-SpaceX Webcast - SES8 Falcon 9 Launch Success!- 3rd Attempt December 3, 2013 - YThis 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.

Per 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.

Z7Pressurization of the propellant tanks followed, ahead of a short burst of the Merlin ID engines on the core stage of the F9, allowing 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 followed, before the rocket will be lowered on to the Transporter Erector (TE) and rolled back to the hanger.

Once inside the barn, she will be mated with the satellite and fairing, both of which did not ride out to the pad for this test.

2014-07-31 19_57_45-index.php (269×403)The satellite is currently encapsulated inside the Falcon 9 v1.1 fairing in the hanger.

While this is ongoing, a data review will be conducted at the Launch Readiness Review (LRR) – a key meeting that will confirm the launch date.

Currently, the August 5 launch date is expected to utilize a window that ranges from 01:25 through to 03:25 Eastern, with an alternate date of August 6 – with an identical window.

However, L2’s ASIASAT-8 flow information notes “SpaceX is working on an extension of the launch window to 04:11 local on both 8/5 & 8/6.”


Should the ASIASAT-8 launch proceed as planned, SpaceX will refocus on the next Falcon 9 mission, tasked with the lofting of the ASIASAT-6 satellite.

2014-07-31 19_37_08-SpaceX McGregor Photos, June and July, 2014The flow for this launch is already in full swing, with the first stage (F9S1-012) already spotted at SpaceX’s McGregor facility in Texas on Wednesday (photos taken by a L2 member from a public road), ahead of its shipping to Cape Canaveral.

As with the next Falcon 9 v1.1, the ASIASAT-6 mission will not result in the first stage making an attempt to propulsively land in the Atlantic Ocean, with SpaceX’s next test towards their fully reusable launch system set for the CRS-4/SpX-4 mission involving the next Dragon spacecraft flight to the International Space Station (ISS) – currently scheduled for September.

Z2AAAThe satellite has now arrived in Florida, riding inside an Antonov An-124 transport plane that landed at the famous Shuttle Landing Facility (SLF).

“AsiaSat, SpaceX and SSL are teaming on two consecutive launches,” said John Celli, President of SSL.

“I’d like to congratulate everyone involved in successfully executing the logistics of both AsiaSat 8 and AsiaSat 6 at launch base and to thank our customer, AsiaSat for its ongoing confidence in SSL.”

AsiaSat 6 is designed to provide broadcasting, telecommunications and broadband services across the Asia-Pacific region. When launched, AsiaSat 6 will be positioned at 120 degrees East longitude where it will help fulfill the demand for quality satellite services.

“SSL and AsiaSat designed AsiaSat 6 with the flexibility and capability to provide high quality and reliable satellite services across the Asia Pacific,” noted William Wade, President and Chief Executive Officer of AsiaSat, marking the completion of the satellite’s shipping.

“We are pleased that the satellite has arrived safely at the launch base and look forward to making new capacity available to our users and service providers.”

2014-07-28 11_06_02-asiasat 6 - Google SearchSporting 28 high-powered C-band transponders, with a design life of 15 years. It is based on the SSL 1300 platform, which provides the flexibility to support a broad range of applications and technology advances.

It is the fourth satellite that SSL has provided to AsiaSat and the company continues to build an additional satellite, AsiaSat 9, which SSL counts among its backlog of 23 geostationary satellites.

Thaicom Public Company Limited (Thaicom) is a partner of AsiaSat on AsiaSat 6 and will be using half of the satellite’s capacity to provide services under the name of Thaicom 7.

(Images: via SpaceX, SSL, ASIASAT and L2).

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