Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Elon Taketh Away

Click the arrow to watch Elon Musk on CNN Money. You may be subjected to an ad first.

SpaceX was supposed to launch AsiaSat 6 last night, but founder Elon Musk called off the launch about ten hours before the scheduled launch time of 12:50 AM EDT.

Later in the day, SpaceX issued this release from Musk:

SpaceX has decided to postpone tomorrow's flight of AsiaSat 6. We are not aware of any issue with Falcon 9, nor the interfaces with the Spacecraft, but have decided to review all potential failure modes and contingencies again. We expect to complete this process in one to two weeks.

The natural question is whether this is related to the test vehicle malfunction at our development facility in Texas last week. After a thorough review, we are confident that there is no direct link. Had the same blocked sensor port problem occurred with an operational Falcon 9, it would have been outvoted by several other sensors. That voting system was not present on the test vehicle.

What we do want to triple-check is whether even highly improbable corner case scenarios have the optimal fault detection and recovery logic. This has already been reviewed by SpaceX and multiple outside agencies, so the most likely outcome is no change. If any changes are made, we will provide as much detail as is allowed under US law.

— Elon Musk

It seems an odd turn for the normally brash Musk, who in the past has pushed his employees into working 60-hour weeks with no days off to establish record launch pad turnarounds between flights.

Presumably this will also delay the next NASA commercial cargo launch. The Dragon CRS-4 flight to the International Space Station was tentatively scheduled for September 19.

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