AsiaSat 6 Launch on Falcon 9 Delayed until Further Notice

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WASHINGTON — Space Exploration Technologies Corp. said it would take one to two weeks to re-examine potential failure modes of its Falcon 9 rocket, an exercise that forced the company to postpone the scheduled Aug. 27 launch of the AsiaSat 6 telecommunications satellite from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.

SpaceX has decided to postpone tomorrow’s flight of AsiaSat 6,” Elon Musk, the company’s founder and chief executive, said in a statement posted online Aug. 26. “We are not aware of any issue with Falcon 9, nor the interfaces with the Spacecraft, but have decided to review all potential failure modes and contingencies again.”

The launch had previously been scheduled for Aug. 26 but was postponed by one day following the failure of an experimental reusable version of the Falcon 9 rocket during a test flight at SpaceX’s McGregor, Texas, facility. The vehicle, known as F9R-Dev, was performing the latest in a series of test flights when its flight termination system was triggered by an anomaly. Video showed the vehicle exploding.

“The natural question is whether this is related to the test vehicle malfunction at our development facility in Texas last week,” Musk said. “After a thorough review, we are confident that there is no direct link. Had the same blocked sensor port problem occurred with an operational Falcon 9, it would have been outvoted by several other sensors. That voting system was not present on the test vehicle.”

SpaceX nonetheless wants to review whether the same fault detection and recovery system would work in what Musk characterized as a “highly improbable” scenario during the AsiaSat 6 launch. “This has already been reviewed by SpaceX and multiple outside agencies, so the most likely outcome is no change,” he said. “If any changes are made, we will provide as much detail as is allowed under US law.”

In a statement issued Aug. 26, Hong Kong-based AsiaSat said the launch of its satellite had been postponed “until further notice” to allow SpaceX to verify unspecified data.