Two launches. Two landings. Within two days. Yep, that’s a lot more work than I plan on doing this weekend. SpaceX launch personnel will be a busy bunch this weekend with the scheduled launch of BulgariaSat-1 on Friday and the Iridium on Sunday.
BulgaraiSat-1 was already supposed to be in space, but a faulty fairing valve scrubbed the launch. Elon Musk went into a little more detail on Twitter.
Postponing launch to replace fairing pneumatic valve. It is dual redundant, but not worth taking a chance. https://t.co/vnfxmeer7h
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) June 18, 2017
Hey, no reason taking risks you don’t have to. There’s always another launch day.
That small hiccup is setting the stage for a SpaceX doubleheader. And there’s a lot of the usual SpaceX stuff going on behind the scenes.
BulgariaSat-1 will take to the skies above Kennedy Space Center in Florida on a Falcon 9 that’s already made the trip once before. That rocket’s first flight handled the Iridium-1 mission from Vandenberg Air Force base back in January.
Another set of Iridium NEXT satellites in Vandenberg will catch a ride on top of a pristine Falcon 9 rocket. Both first-stage portions will attempt landings on drone ships in the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean.
The pair of missions will be targeting Geostationary Transfer Orbits (GTO). That’s why neither rocket is coming back to solid ground. These orbits are designed to keep satellites above the same position on Earth. Handy for communication and weather satellites.
This weekend’s launch from Vandenberg will also be the first West Coast launch using an Autonomous Flight Safety System (AFSS). This article goes into more detail about the system, but here are the basics.
AFSS uses GPS navigation data to keep tabs on the rocket launch. If a problem pops up during flight, an on-board computer can activate a self-destruct on the rocket before it becomes a danger to anyone on the ground.
Another big plus, especially for SpaceX, is AFSS can track multiple flying objects at the same time. When the Falcon Heavy starts thundering into the skies, three boosters will come back. This system will make it easier to keep track of them and make sure they are heading to the right spot.
A possible tropical storm is brewing in the Gulf of Mexico right now, but that should clear out before Sunday’s launch in Florida.
GOES 16 visible view of “Potential Tropical Cyclone Three” in the GOM this morning… pic.twitter.com/wVQA4SqQvl
— James Spann (@spann) June 20, 2017
We could see three SpaceX launches within about nine days if the schedule holds up. Intelsat 35e is set for launch on July 1. No word yet on how the BulgariaSat-1 delay will affect the timing of that mission. Don’t be surprised to see that July 1 date shift around a little bit. I’ll keep you posted on all three launches as we get closer to them.