A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch this Saturday is in question after the company did not perform a static fire test Wednesday as planned.
The Falcon 9 was moved to the pad late Wednesday for the test, but there was no evidence that the test took place, nor any comment Wednesday from SpaceX or the launch’s customer, Orbcomm.
However, Orbcomm tweeted late Thursday morning that a status fire was in the offing for that afternoon.
Yesterday @SpaceX had a good run through of pad operations. Looking to static fire this afternoon (exact time TBD) pic.twitter.com/cFmrJWu8u1
— ORBCOMM (@ORBCOMM_Inc) December 17, 2015
The companies previously said that the launch would take place about three days after the static fire test, suggesting Saturday’s scheduled launch could be postponed. [Florida Today]
A Soyuz rocket carrying two Galileo navigation satellites lifted off this morning. The Soyuz launched from Kourou, French Guiana, at 6:51 a.m. Eastern on a mission to deploy the Galileo Full Operational Capability 11 and 12 satellites. The satellites are scheduled to be deployed from the Fregat upper stage nearly four hours after liftoff. The launch is the twelfth and final mission for Arianespace this year. [Arianespace]\
China launched a satellite Wednesday night to search for dark matter. A Long March 2D rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 7:12 p.m. Eastern Wednesday and placed the Dark Matter Particle Explorer (DAMPE) satellite into a sun-synchronous orbit. The spacecraft, also known as Wukong, will study cosmic rays, seeking potential signatures of dark matter. [Xinhua]
The omnibus spending bill will keep NOAA’s satellite programs fully funded. The bill provides $809 million for the first two Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) satellites and $871.8 million for the GOES-R program, as well as $370 million for the new Polar Follow On budget line to start work on the next two JPSS spacecraft. NOAA overall receives $5.7 billion in the omnibus bill, more than $100 million above its original request. [SpaceNews]
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Wednesday’s PSLV launch also successfully tested relighting the rocket’s upper stage. After deploying six satellites, the vehicle’s fourth stage briefly reignited its engine in a test that the Indian space agency ISRO declared a success. ISRO plans to use this capability on future launches that involve satellites going to multiple orbits. [IANS]
Two companies developing small launch vehicles are locked in a legal dispute about alleged trade secrets. P.J. King, a member of the board of Firefly Space Systems, filed suit this week to overturn an arbitrator’s judgement that he turn over documents to Virgin Galactic. The documents are linked to claims that Firefly founder Tom Markusic took proprietary information when he left Virgin Galactic to create Firefly. King, in the suit, alleges that the arbitrator’s decision would require Firefly to disclose its own trade secrets. Both companies are developing small launch vehicles, although with different technologies. [Parabolic Arc]
Crews are moving equipment from the mountaintop construction site of a controversial telescope whose future is in question. Workers started moving equipment Wednesday from the site on Mauna Kea for the Thirty Meter Telescope. Construction of the telescope was halted by protests in the spring, and the Hawaii Supreme Court revoked a construction permit for it earlier this month after concluding state officials did not allow objections to the facility to be heard. Leaders of the consortium of universities and nations involved with the telescope have said they’re still considering what steps they’ll take next. [Reuters]
The menagerie of aliens in Star Wars doesn’t trouble real-life astrobiologists too much. One scientist did a back-of-the-envelope calculation, using the Drake Equation, to estimate that in the Star Wars galaxy, 1 in 38 habitable planets develop intelligent species at roughly the same time. That number seems a little high, but is not too troubling. “It seems like they are a little bit over-optimistic,” said Harvard’s David Kipping. “But I can’t say that I ever sit in the cinema grinding my teeth about that. I just enjoy the show.” [New Scientist]
How Former Vice Presidents Deal with Launch Delays
“Several of us who are here spent a lot of time down at Cape Canaveral when the launch of DSCOVR was postponed several times. I got to know the Cocoa Beach Hilton real well. It was a really great experience, and I learned a lot from these scientists around the buffet table and at the bar when we were killing time waiting for the rocket to go off.”
– Former Vice President Al Gore, recalling the several days of delays before the launch of the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) spacecraft in February. Gore was part of a panel session at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting Wednesday, along with some scientists, on observations of the Earth by DSCOVR, a mission he instigated while in office in 1998.