Bird-watchers on the beaches of Cape Canaveral will have to wait a few more days to see Florida’s first satellite launch of 2014. SpaceX announced this afternoon that launch of the THAICOM 6 communication satellite is being delayed until at least January 6. Some sources reported that an unspecified issue with the launch vehicle’s payload faring prompted the delay, but this was not confirmed by SpaceX officials.
The Falcon 9 is the third upgraded v1.1 vehicle and sports a 13.1 by 5.2 meter fairing built in-house. It had been targeted for liftoff on January 3 at 5:05 p.m. EST, the opening of a 2-hour, 12-minute launch window. The weather forecast called for a 90% probability of acceptable conditions and the rocket and spacecraft processing seemed to be proceeding smoothly for an on-time liftoff.
Instead, technicians will spend the extra three days to conduct additional inspections of the rocket. A SpaceX spokesperson stated that the new round of inspections are intended to ensure confidence Falcon is ready for launch.
“We’re not aware of anything that would cause a mission failure, but in order to ensure the highest possible level of mission assurance we decided to conduct additional inspections of the launch vehicle,” said SpaceX spokesperson Emily Shanklin.
The next opportunity to get Falcon off the ground is no earlier than Monday, the 6th, according to an email statement from the Air Force 45th Space Wing which manages the launch range at Cape Canaveral and is reponsible for tracking and safety.
Backup launch opportunities are available between January 8 and 12. However, Falcon will have to stand down on the 7th to make room for the launch of Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares rocket. Blasting off from Wallops Island, VA., the Antares Orb-1 mission is carrying the Cygnus spacecraft on its first operational launch dedicated to space station resupply. Both launches require the use of a tracking station on Bermuda in the Atlantic Ocean, which is already reserved for Antares.
Regardless of which launch occurs first, it promises to be a banner week for Orbital Sciences. In addition to Antares and Cygnus, the THAICOM 6 satellite was manufactured by Orbital. Orbital’s technicians will control the spacecraft through launch and on-orbit checkout while the company is also guiding Cygnus toward rendezvous with ISS.
It will also be a milestone week for SpaceX, who will become the first launch provider to conduct two missions from the same Cape Canaveral launch pad in such a short period, just over one month, time since 1999. The company successfully deployed the SES-8 satellite to geostationary transfer orbit on December 3 last year. That launch marked SpaceX’s first GEO mission and the first commercial satellite launch from Cape Canaveral in four years.
THAICOM 6 To Serve Growing Asian Brodacast Market
THAICOM 6 is based on Orbital’s Star 2.3 model. It contains 26 transponders including 18 C-band transponders and 8 Ku-band transponders. The THAICOM 6 will be launched into the orbital slot at 78.5 Degrees East Longitude.
THAICOM 6 will serve the broadcast industry with higher quality digital TV and more high definition channels than currently vailable. At present, the Company has acquired over 66% booking on THAICOM 6’s capacity. THAICOM 6 will also strengthen THAICOM’s Hotbird platform on 78.5 Degrees East.
Thaicom Public Company Limited was the first satellite provider in the Asia Pacific region to offer Ku-band and Digital Direct-to-Home broadcasting services, and was the world’s first operator to employ MPEG-2 DVB compression since 1994. THAICOM also developed and launched the world’s first Internet Protocal (IP) satellite, IPSTAR.
Bermuda Tracking Station Completes NASA’s Only Launch Range
While NASA’s launch range at Wallops Island, Virginia, and its companion state-run Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), do not operate under the same auspices and control as Kennedy Space Center or Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, they share a very important tracking facility on Bermuda.
The British territory of Bermuda has long-served a crucial role in America’s space program. The island hosted tracking and communications facilities to support NASA human spacelight from the Mercury program until late in the shuttle program, when the facility and grounds were handed back to the Bermuda government.
Following an agreement signed between NASA and Bermuda in early March 2012, range officials at Wallops Flight Facility deployed a temporary mobile tracking station on Cooper’s Island in the Bermuda territory in August of that year..This gave Wallops, NASA’s only launch range, a full compliment of range assets for expendable launch vehicle operations.
Along with cost savings, perhaps the biggest impact lies in range scheduling. “Owning, deploying, and controlling our own assets means control over scheduling,” said Steven Kremer, NASA Wallops deputy range manager.
“It gives us higher confidence in promising range availability to our customers when they come to Wallops for services. In addition, our services offered from Bermuda will benefit other customers who launch from other ranges such as the United States Air Force’s Eastern Range in Florida.”
NASA’s mobile tracking station in Bermuda provides telemetry, radar, and command and control services. It will support the launch of rockets carrying supplies to the International Space Station or satellites to low-Earth orbit. During a typical ELV launch operation, about 10 range personnel will deploy to Bermuda to configure the mobile tracking station, conduct the operation, and then pack the systems for shipment back to Wallops.
Falcon 9 launch updates can be found on the SpaceX website at: http://www.spacex.com
Antares / Orb-1 mission updates and links: http://www.orbital.com/NewsInfo/MissionUpdates/Orb-1/
Learn more about Wallops Flight Facility, visit: http://sites.wff.nasa.gov/code840/
For more information about Thaicom, Plc at: http://www.thaicom.net
(Article by: Matthew Travis)
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