SpaceX Sets Next Launch From Cape Canaveral for April 27

The first stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket nears an attempted landing on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean minutes after its Tuesday afternoon launch of an International Space Station resupply mission from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. (PHOTO CREDIT: SpaceX)
The first stage of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket nears an attempted landing on a ship in the Atlantic Ocean minutes after its Tuesday afternoon launch of an International Space Station resupply mission from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. (PHOTO CREDIT: SpaceX)

SpaceX is targeting April 27 at 6:14 p.m. for its next launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, a few days later than previously planned.

A Falcon 9 rocket will launch Turkmenistan’s first communications satellite to a geosynchronous orbit more than 22,000 miles over the equator.

The spacecraft is officially called TurkmenAlem52E/MonacoSat, but SpaceX calls it the Thales mission for short, referring to Thales Alenia Space, which built the satellite and signed the launch contract.

Because of the payload’s high orbit, the Falcon 9 will not have enough spare propellant to attempt another booster landing at sea.

Video SpaceX released of Tuesday’s attempt showed a near landing by the booster on an unpiloted “drone ship” a couple hundred miles off the coast of Jacksonville.

The 14-story rocket stage appeared to touch down at a slight angle, hesitate for a moment, then tip over and explode on impact.

The next booster landing attempt will be made during SpaceX’s next International Space Station resupply mission, tentatively scheduled for June 19. Those flights are to low-Earth orbit.

SpaceX later this year plans to begin flying Falcon 9s with improved thrust that would enable booster returns from higher-orbit missions.

After the upcoming launch, SpaceX’s priority is a test of its Dragon spacecraft, the version being designed to fly people.

The “pad abort” test will fire the Dragon’s SuperDraco thrusters to shoot the capsule from Launch Complex 40, testing the system that would allow astronauts to escape a failing rocket.

The long-awaited test could happen as soon as May 2, but SpaceX warned the date could change.

Runway deal in sight?
A deal to turn over the operation of Kennedy Space Center’s three-mile shuttle runway over to Space Florida has been said to be close for months.

It still is, as negotiations approach the two-year mark.

KSC Director Bob Cabana this week said lawyers continue to discuss insurance and indemnification, perhaps the last big issue to resolve.

“I think we’ve reached agreement on just about everything,” Cabana told reporters and guests of a NASA Social event before SpaceX’s first attempt to launch cargo to the International Space Station.

The runway is a key piece of the center’s strategy to become a multi-user spaceport supporting government and commercial spaceflight.

Space Florida says it has talked to a dozen or more companies that might be interested in horizontal launches and landings of space planes or their carrier aircraft. Drones also could be tested there.

But Cabana said most of those companies weren’t ready to fly yet, so the extended negotiations hadn’t had any negative impact.

“I thought we would have had this by now,” he said. “We’re very close.”

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SOURCE: Florida Today, James Dean

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