Technical problems with the Falcon 9 rocket’s first stage have forced SpaceX to delay launch of of TurkmenAlem52E/MonacoSAT until no earlier than March 28, according to officials with spacecraft manufacturer Thales Alenia Space. SpaceX’s fourth mission of 2015 had been scheduled to blast off from SLc-40 at Cape Canaveral AFS on Saturday, March 21 at 40:04 pm EDT.
SpaceX has not confirmed the delay or responded to inquiries, but officials at Thales state that there is an issue with the rocket’s first stage. The vehicle was supposed to undergo a standard prelaunch static test fire today at the launch complex, but it appears that will not be taking place.
Presumably, the next available launch opportunity will not open up until March 28, following the launch of a United Launch Alliance Delta IV rocket on March 25. Carrying the U.S. Air Force GPS IIF-9 satellite, the Delta IV Medium+ is targeting a 2:36 pm EDT launch at the opening of an 18-minute window. With the Eastern Range booked for the GPS launch, the Falcon will have to wait until March 28.
Weighing 9,920 pounds at launch, the TurkmenAlem52E/MonacoSAT communications satellite will be the first satellite for the country of Turkmenistan.
TurkmenAlem52E/MonacoSAT was shipped from Thales Alenia Space’s Cannes plant on February 23, 2015, arriving at the Cape Canaveral launch site in Florida on February 26.
“TurkmenAlem52E/MonacoSAT will permit Turkmenistan to operate its first national satellite telecommunications system,” according to the Thales website. “The satellite is built on a Thales Alenia Space Spacebus 4000 C2 platform, will weigh 4,500 kg at launch and offers a design life exceeding 15 years. Its coverage zone encompasses Europe, Central Asia up to the Chinese border and virtually all of Africa.”
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