OG2 satellites for Orbcomm awaiting launchl

Update 5:58 p.m. Eastern Dec. 2o. — SpaceX reset Sunday’s launch attempt for 8:33 p.m. Monday, citing an analysis showing a 10-percent better chance of a good landing by waiting 24 hours. 

New target launch time is actually Monday, December 21 at 8:33 pm ET (not 8:34 as previously reported). #OG2 #SpaceX @SpaceX @elonmusk

— ORBCOMM (@ORBCOMM_Inc) December 20, 2015

Just reviewed mission params w SpaceX team. Monte Carlo runs show tmrw night has a 10% higher chance of a good landing. Punting 24 hrs.

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 20, 2015

WASHINGTON — SpaceX has scheduled the launch of its first Falcon 9 mission since a June failure for Dec. 20 after completing a static-fire test of the vehicle on the launch pad late Dec. 18, a flight that will also include an attempted landing of the rocket’s first stage back at Cape Canaveral.

SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk reported on Twitter shortly after 7 p.m. Eastern that the company had completed a brief test fire of the rocket’s nine main engines on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral.

“Static fire test looks good,” Musk wrote. “Pending data review, will aim to launch Sunday.” If the Dec. 20 launch date is confirmed, the launch would take place during an 60-second window at 8:29 p.m. Eastern. A backup launch date of Dec. 22 is also available.

Musk confirmed the launch date in a tweet early Dec. 19, adding that SpaceX would also attempt a landing of the rocket’s first stage back at the Cape.

Currently looking good for a Sunday night (~8pm local) attempted orbital launch and rocket landing at Cape Canaveral

— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) December 19, 2015

The static fire test was originally scheduled for Dec. 16, followed by a launch Dec. 19. However, SpaceX rescheduled the test for Dec. 17, and then delayed it to Dec. 18 after problems Musk said were caused by the use of supercooled liquid oxygen propellant, one of a number of changes SpaceX has made to the upgraded Falcon 9. Musk also reported technical problems with static fire attempts earlier Dec. 18 prior to the successful test.

Orbcomm posted this photo Dec. 17 of the Falcon 9 rocket that will carry its 11 satellites to orbit perhaps as soon as this weekend. Credit: Orbcomm
Orbcomm posted this photo Dec. 17 of the Falcon 9 rocket poised to carry its 11 satellites to orbit. Credit: Orbcomm
Orbcomm posted this photo Dec. 17 of the Falcon 9 rocket poised to carry its 11 satellites to orbit. Credit: Orbcomm

The launch, carrying 11 Orbcomm satellites, will be the first for the upgraded Falcon 9. The launch will also be the first for SpaceX since the June 28 failure of a Falcon 9 version 1.1 carrying a Dragon cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station. SpaceX later said a strut in the rocket’s upper stage broke during the vehicle’s ascent, setting off a chain of events that caused its destruction.

SpaceX also expects use the launch to attempt a landing of the rocket’s first stage, part of the company’s efforts to develop a reusable version of the Falcon 9. “SpaceX is attempting a secondary test objective of landing the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket on land for the first time at SpaceX’s Landing Zone 1,” the company said in a Dec. 19 press release. That landing site is a decommissioned launch site at Cape Canaveral originally called Launch Complex 13.

The SpaceX statement adds that some residents in communities near Cape Canaveral may hear a sonic boom during the landing attempt, “although what residents experience will depend on weather conditions and other factors.”

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...