SpaceX Readies New Falcon 9 v1.1 for Launch, But Date Still Uncertain

SpaceX Readies New Falcon 9 v1.1 for Launch, But Date Still Uncertain

SpaceX is getting ready for the first launch of its new version of the Falcon 9, the Falcon 9 v1.1, carrying a Canadian scientific satellite and five smaller satellites.  SpaceX is being cautious about announcing a launch date, and until moments ago indicators were that it would be on Sunday.  One of the customers announced about 4:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), however, that the launch has been postponed to an unspecified “later date.”

SpaceX’s website makes no mention of the launch (at least we cannot find anything).   The FAA granted a safety waiver for the launch last month and identified September as the launch time frame.  This is SpaceX’s first launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, CA and the waiver was needed because of weather conditions common off the California coast in September.

Other sources have suggested various dates for the launch, but the most official indications have come from two of the customers and a NASA launch manifest, all of which were showing Sunday, September 15, as the launch date until moments ago.   The planned launch time apparently was 12:00 noon Eastern Daylight Time (EDT), or 9:00 am Pacific Daylight Time (PDT) at the launch site.

The main payload is the Canadian Space Agency’s (CSA’s) Cascade SmallSat and Ionospheric Polar Explorer (CASSIOPE) satellite to study the space environment and demonstrate telecommunications technology.  CSA issued a press release earlier today stating that the launch was scheduled for Sunday at 12:00 noon EDT.  Another customer, the University of Colorado-Boulder, already had announced that the launch would be on September 15.  Students at UC-Boulder built one of the five smaller satellites that will be launched along with CASSIOPE.   The Drag and Atmospheric Neutral Density Explorer (DANDE) satellite will study the Earth’s thermosphere.   A NASA manifest of launches of interest to the agency also shows September 15 as the launch date, with the time listed as 1600-1800Z, which would be 12:00-2:00 pm EDT, consistent with the CSA announcement.

Meanwhile, however, SpaceX founder and CTO Elon Musk (@elonmusk) tweeted at 2:04 EDT this morning (Friday) that anomalies were detected during a static fire test yesterday and the launch date is “TBD.”   At about 4:00 pm EDT, CSA tweeted (@csa_asc) and updated its website with the message that the launch “is delayed to a later date.”

Jeff Foust reports in his NewSpace Journal blog that SpaceX officials speaking the AIAA’s Space 2013 conference over the past few days emphasized that the Falcon 9 v1.1 is “trying a lot of things for the first time” and is “a bit of a nail-biter.”

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