SpaceX is getting back on the launchpad after their rocket explosion in June. The first payload is a constellation of eleven miniature relay satellites that will launch in late 2015.
The new order switches the launch order from the pre-mishap schedule. Originally, the next launch on SpaceX’s docket was SES 9 television broadcasting spacecraft that required a relight of the second-stage engine to reach a higher orbit. Instead, the Orbcomm 2 mission will launch instead, using a simpler flight pattern that will deliver a constellation of tiny machine-to-machine data relay satellites into a lower orbit. In a statement from SpaceX, the company explained:
“The Orbcomm 2 mission does not require a relight of the second stage engine following orbital insertion. Flying the Orbcomm 2 mission first will therefore allow SpaceX to conduct an on-orbit test of the second stage relight system after the Orbcomm 2 satellites have been safely deployed.
This on-orbit test, combined with the current qualification program to be completed prior to launch, will further validate the second stage relight system and allow for optimization of the upcoming SES 9 mission and following missions to geosynchronous transfer orbit.”
This will be the first launch since a SpaceX cargo run went critically awry when a strut brace broke on June 28, 2015. The payload is on-target to launch in six to eight weeks, with a currently-unspecified launch window likely in late November or early December.
The launch will be using a newly-modified design for the Falcon 9 rocket that was already in testing before the rapid unscheduled disassembly in June. The bulked-up rocket will be able to boost larger payloads into orbit while still preserving enough fuel for barge landing attempts. SpaceX released test footage of the new rocket in a static fire test with densified fuel in September.
Top image: Orbcomm 2 payload. Credit: Sierra Nevada Corporation