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2015-12-21 01:29 UTC (2015-12-20 08:29 EST), Cape Canaveral, FL: SpaceX will be launching their newly-upgraded Falcon 9 medium-lift launch vehicle carrying eleven Low Earth Orbiting (LEO) telecommunications satellites for ORBCOMM of Rochelle Park, New Jersey. These spacecraft are the next set of the OG2 second-generation satellites to augment Orbcomm's machine-to-machine global telecommunications service. The satellites are based on Sierra Nevada Corporation's SN-100A small spacecraft bus and are manufactured in Louisville, CO.
This will be the first commercial launch for the Falcon 9 since the catastrophic in-flight breakup of the vehicle carrying the Dragon 9/CRS-7 spacecraft to the International Space Station. The failure root cause analysis concluded that the incident was caused by the failure of a retaining strut in the 2nd stage helium pressurant system. The strut failed well below its design operating limits which allowed a helium tank to come loose and overpressurize the stage. This in turn caused the vehicle to break up.
This mission is the debut flight of the upgraded Falcon 9 launch vehicle. Upgrades include deep-cryogenic densified propellants, uprated engines, more tank capacity, and stronger structures which add up to an additional 33% of launch vehicle performance.
Weather is currently projected to have a 90% chance of being favorable for flight. The launch window is instantaneous so any delay or hold called will result in the launch slipping to another day. In addition to the primary mission of delivering the eleven OG2 spacecraft safely to their destination in low-Earth orbit, SpaceX will be making its first attempt to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle at its recently-completed Landing Complex 1 facility shortly after launch. SpaceX has advised local residents that they may hear a sonic boom as the vehicle approaches depending on weather conditions. A successful landing could mark the beginning of a revolution in affordable space flight.
The previous attempt during the CRS-6 launch ended in a hard landing due to problems with throttle valve stiction on the landing engine. Earlier attempts also ended in near-successes including a perfect landing in high seas without a drone ship in place during the DSCOVR mission earlier this year and a crash landing on ASDS Just Read The Instructions due to early depletion of hydraulic fluid powering the first stage control effectors during the CRS-5 mission. This will be a night launch and the rocket's flight path takes it east away from Florida so your best bet of catching the launch is to watch the SpaceX webcast: http://www.spacex.com/webcast/
Have fun and fly safe!
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