Engine Inspection on Tap after SpaceX Scrubs Thanksgiving Launch

by

Editor’s Note: SpaceX‘s third attempt to launch SES-8 is scheduled for Dec. 2 Dec. 3. 

PARIS — SpaceX will take several days to examine the causes of a slower-than-expected increase in pressure in the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage cryogenic oxygen tank that forced a last-second scrub of its planned Nov. 28 launch of the SES-8 telecommunications satellite.

The first of two countdown aborts occurred at T minus zero second the moment of ignition of the first-stage engines. SpaceX had hoped to nail down the issue within the time it took to restart the countdown at T minus 13 minutes, but at T minus one minute 48 seconds decided that this countdown too should be aborted.

“We called manual abort. Better to be paranoid and wrong. Bringing rocket down to borescope engines,” SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk tweeted after the second abort of the day.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) will now give itself “ [p]robably at least a few days” to examine what happened before making another attempt, Musk said Nov. 28 via Twitter. “Depends on whether we need to pull the turbopumps.” The launch will be the second of SpaceX’s new Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket and the company’s first attempt at placing a satellite into geostationary transfer orbit.

The Nov. 28 abort followed a Nov. 25 countdown stop, in the final few minutes before liftoff, because of an oxygen-pressurization issue.

Flight attempts from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., spaceport were suspended for two days, on Nov. 26 and 27, because of heavy commercial air traffic congestion on the eve of the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration had given SpaceX authorization to fly on Nov. 28 and 29, but the company wants to give itself more time to get to the bottom of the issue. 

The mission’s goal is to place the SES-8 telecommunications satellite, owned by fleet operator SES of Luxembourg, into a supersynchronous transfer orbit from which SES-8 will power its own way to final geostationary position.

SpaceX had not announced a new target launch date as of early Nov. 29.


Follow Peter on Twitter: @pbdes