SpaceX’s Shotwell: Orbcomm Launch Not Likely Before July 14

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PARIS — Space Exploration Technologies Corp. President Gwynne Shotwell on June 25 said the launch of six Orbcomm commercial messaging satellites, which has been delayed on multiple occasions since early May, likely will not occur before July 14 as the U.S. Air Force performs scheduled launch-range maintenance and SpaceX works out Falcon 9 thrust vector control issues.

Appearing on “The Space Show” radio program, Shotwell said Hawthorne, California-based SpaceX noticed a possible issue with the rocket’s first-stage thrust vector control actuator June 22. That caused a scrub of the planned Orbcomm launch.

The company has moved the vehicle from the launch pad to its final integration hall to verify both the first- and second-stage thrust vector control actuators. Thrust vector control orients a rocket’s motors to maintain the desired trajectory during flight.

Shotwell said the company was uncertain of being able to complete the work before the planned two-week maintenance at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, and decided to delay the flight until after the maintenance was complete.

Shotwell said the final date would be known after the Air Force gives final range clearance.

Shotwell also said SpaceX, which had decided not to webcast the Orbcomm launch, has faced public pressure to maintain the broadcasts. “Public opinion was pretty strong on that point,” Shotwell said. “They like the webcast. They certainly like the live stream.”

Shotwell said SpaceX had long planned to move away from webcasting launches to get to a more “high-tech feel” for the launch campaigns. She said the decision not to conduct a webcast had nothing to do with the specific Orbcomm launch.