ORBCOMM Determining Satellite's Fate in Wake of Falcon 9 Malfunction

ORBCOMM Determining Satellite's Fate in Wake of Falcon 9 Malfunction

ORBCOMM, Inc. issued a press statement this afternoon on its efforts to determine if its OG2 satellite’s mission is recoverable after a Falcon 9 malfunction left it in a lower than planned orbit.

The Falcon 9 was launched amid much fanfare last night carrying a Dragon spacecraft full of cargo for the International Space Station (ISS).  That mission reportedly is doing fine, but a prototype ORBCOMM  satellite was left in the wrong orbit when one of the nine Merlin engines on the Falcon 9 rocket lost pressure and ruptured its fairing.  The other eight engines compensated for the lost thrust and placed Dragon into the correct orbit.

The ORBCOMM OG2 satellite wasn’t as lucky.  Orbcomm’s statement says “the rocket did not comply with a pre-planned International Space Station (ISS) safety gate to allow it to execute the second burn.  For this reason, the OG2 prototype satellite was deployed into an orbit lower than intended.”   The company went on to say it was working with the satellite’s manufacturer, Sierra Nevada, to determine “if and the extent to which the orbit can be raised to an operational orbit using the satellite’s on-board propulsion system.”

The OG2 satellite was a secondary payload on this mission.  The company said that it plans to launch its operational constellation of 18 of these satellites on Falcon 9 rockets in 2013 and 2014.  In those cases, the satellites will be the primary payloads and directly inserted into their operational orbits.

The OG2 series is ORBCOMM’s second generation Machine-to-Machine (M2M) communications satellites for tracking, monitoring and controlling a wide range of mobile and fixed assets including trucks, shipping containers, locomotives, and pipelines.  The satellite launched yesterday also is carrying an Automated Identification System (AIS) device for tracking ships.

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