WASHINGTON — Space Exploration Technologies Corp.’s (SpaceX) first launch of a commercial telecommunications satellite will be delayed to Nov. 25 from Nov. 22, SpaceX President and Chief Operations Officer Gwynne Shotwell said Nov. 13.
“We wanted a little bit more time to make sure the launch site was ready for us, and we wanted to give the [launch vehicle] crew a little more rest,” Shotwell said during a press event at NASA headquarters here.
The event was held to mark the end of NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Program, a development effort that helped fund new rockets and spacecraft from SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp. now being used to resupply the international space station.
Shotwell would not be more specific about the delay.
SpaceX’s customer for the Florida launch is satellite fleet operator SES of Luxembourg, who is entrusting its SES-8 communications satellite to the Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket’s maiden launch to geostationary transfer orbit, the drop off point for most commercial communications satellites. The launch will take place from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 40.
SpaceX has accrued a substantial backlog of commercial communications satellite launches, and a successful launch of SES-8 will open the door for the company to begin fulfilling those orders.
Falcon 9 v1.1, the latest version of the company’s nine-engine Falcon 9 rocket, made its debut Sept. 29 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., when it launched the Canadian Space Agency’s Cassiope space-weather satellite. On that flight, Falcon 9’s upper stage failed to reignite — something it will have to do in order to get SES-8 to geostationary transfer orbit.
Meanwhile, Shotwell said work is progressing on the Falcon 9 v1.1 that will launch Thailand’s Thaicom 6, another communications satellite bound for geostationary transfer orbit.
“The elements [of Falcon 9] are ready and we’re going to start shipping them to the Cape right after a static fire test on Nov. 19,” Shotwell said. “And we will continue to hold the Thaicom 6 launch date of Dec. 20.”
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