The launch of five commercial Iridium message relay satellites and a pair of US German Orbit geophysical probes on a Falcon 9 rocket from California was postponed for three days until May 22, and a week-long schedule until May 31 expected for the next SpaceX flight from Cape Canaveral with an SES communication payload.
The delay in launching the Falcon 9 from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, allows SpaceX to solve a problem in preparing for the Falcon 9 mission. Iridium boss Matt Desch said Monday
In a telephone conversation with reporters, Desch said SpaceX had identified a "minor processing problem" in preparing a component of the Falcon 9 rocket. He gave no further details about the nature of the problem, but said it was "no big deal".
Desch said on Monday that the launch was likely to be postponed two days back by rocket processing, but Iridium announced Tuesday the mission would be postponed for another day due to "reach" in Vandenberg.
The start from California was scheduled for Saturday, May 19th. The launch is now scheduled for Tuesday, May 22, at 12:47:58 pm PDT (3:47:58 EDT; 1947: 58 GMT) from the Space Launch Complex 4-West on the Pacific Coast military base northwest of Los Angeles
The mission will be the sixth launch of Falcon 9 for Iridium. Unlike the previous five SpaceX missions, which used Iridium payloads and each carried 10 of the new generation Iridium Next satellites, the next launch will feature five Iridium spacecraft with two geoscientific satellites developed by NASA and the German Research Center for Earth Sciences
The follow-on satellite gravity recovery and climate experiment will expand Earth's gravity field measurements captured by the Twin-GRACE satellites from 2002 to 2017.
Gravity measurements, calculated by continuously tracking the exact distance between the two formation spacecraft in orbit, will report to scientists on movements in Earth's oceans, subterranean aquifers, ice sheets, and landmasses.
The GRACE-FO satellites built by Airbus Defense and Space in Europe were originally intended for take-off by a Russian-Ukrainian Dnepr missile originating from a Soviet ballistic missile. However, Russia has stopped the Dnepr launches as relations with Ukraine worsened in the wake of the Russian annexation of Crimea.
That left the GRACE-FO satellites out of space until German officials responsible for securing take-offs had negotiated a ride-off. Launch with Iridium and SpaceX
Two of Iridium's upgraded satellites Generation were also left on the ground after the Dnepr missile program was stopped.
With the launch of next week Iridium will have 55 of its new satellites in orbit. Replacing Iridium's aging voice and data relay satellites launched in the late 1990s and early 2000s, they provide satellite telephony, messaging, and vessel and aircraft tracking services worldwide.
The Falcon 9's upper stage will deploy the two GRACE-FO satellites in orbit approximately 500 miles (500 miles) above the Earth and then return to a slightly higher orbit to release the five Iridium payloads.
Launching on May 22 will feature an earlier flown Falcon 9 first-stage booster. 7. Flight of the top-secret Zuma payload from the US government of Cape Canaveral. No recovery is expected in the next week – the booster comes from an earlier model of the Falcon 9 rocket, which is now out of production – but SpaceX could try out the Falcon 9's cargo fairing with a fast-moving ship from the harbor Los Angeles
The nose fairing, which protects satellites in the first few minutes of a launch, is the next piece of the Falcon 9 SpaceX rocket intended to recover and reuse. A ship named Mr. Steven was equipped with a large net or "catcher's glove" to try to grip halves of the two-piece fairing as they descend under steerable parafoils.
Iridium has reserved two more missions with SpaceX, Each group adds 10 more Iridium Next satellites to the communications network. One of the missions is scheduled for July, another is expected by the end of the summer, and Desch said both will fly on the upgraded "Block 5" version of the Falcon 9 rocket, which debuted on Friday with a successful commercial launch of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida
SpaceX will be launching the next week with another Falcon 9 flight before the end of May from Cape Canaveral's Complex 40 launch pad.
There is no plan for this mission, which an SES official said On 31 May, SpaceX will deploy the Airbus-built SES 12 communications satellite in a geostationary orbit over more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) above the equator ,
Officials had previously expected the SES 12 to be at its earliest on May 24
SES 12 is the largest and most powerful all-electric satellite ever built, offering engineers the opportunity to increase the mass of conventional liquid fuels through additional instruments to replace additional telecom relay capacity.
Equipped with eight antennas and 76 active Ku broadband and Ka-band transponders, SES 12 will serve the markets for direct-to-home television broadcasts, mobile communications and high-throughput data relays in the Middle East and Asia-Pacific Regions like India and Indonesia
Like the Iridium / GRACE-FO ride, the SES 12 mission will fly on a reused Falcon 9 first-stage booster after the US Air Force X-37B space shuttle went into orbit last September was sent.
SpaceX has scheduled two missions for June, both from Florida, with the Telstar 19 Vantage communications satellite and the company's next Dragon supply flight to the International Space Station
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