Privately held SpaceX postponed the scheduled Wednesday, August 27th liftoff of a commercial telecommunications satellite in order to undertake a thorough check of all launch systems given a test-flight accident last week involving a prototype rocket. The firm had planned to launch the AsiaSat 6 satellite into orbit using its Falcon 9 rocket in the early morning Wednesday from Florida’s Cape Canaveral airbase, but cancelled the flight late Tuesday afternoon.
Prototype rocket exploded at test site last week
The decision to postpone the satellite launch came just four days after SpaceX’s Falcon 9 Reusable (F9R) rocket exploded after launching from the company’s Texas test site. Aeronautics and engineering experts at the firm say, however, that the accident last Friday with the new F9R is very unlikely to be of import to an operational Falcon 9 rocket.
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Over the last year or so, SpaceX has undertaken a number of successful test flights of reusable rocket prototypes, including both the F9R and Grasshopper models.
Statement from SpaceX CEO
“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,” SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk elaborated in a statement released Tuesday. “We expect to complete this process in one to two weeks.”
Musk continued to explain the delay. “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.”
“What we do want to triple-check is whether even highly improbable corner case scenarios have the optimal fault detection and recovery logic,” he added. “This has already been reviewed by SpaceX and multiple outside agencies, so the most likely outcome is no change. If any changes are made, we will provide as much detail as is allowed under U.S. law.”
Details on AsiaSat satellites
The cutting-edge AsiaSat 6 satellite is designed to distribute video and broadband service across the Asia-Pacific region. It is owned and operated by Hong Kong-based firm Asia Satellite Telecommunications Company Limited. SpaceX also launched the AsiaSat 8 satellite in early August. The satellites were built for AsiaSat by U.S.-based Space Systems/Loral.