Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Mission Impossible

SpaceX launches AsiaSat 6 at 1:00 AM EDT on September 7, 2014. Image source: SpaceX.

“It always seems impossible until it's done.”

— Nelson Mandela

On August 5, I wrote about SpaceX setting a modern record for shortest turnaround time between launches at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

SpaceX had just launched AsiaSat 8 a little under 22 days after launching Orbcomm OG2.

The September 7 launch of AsiaSat 6 occurred 33 days after the AsiaSat 8 launch. AsiaSat 6 was supposed to launch on August 27, but was delayed eleven days after a developmental rocket test failed at the SpaceX site in McGregor, Texas. Although there was no suspicion that the incident had anything to do with the Falcon 9 version on the Cape's Pad 40, SpaceX founder Elon Musk ordered a delay anyway just to “triple-check.”

The tentative launch date for Commercial Resupply Services flight 4 (CRS-4) to the International Space Station had been tentatively scheduled for September 19. With the AsiaSat 6 launch delayed eleven days, I suspected the CRS-4 mission would be delayed too.

But never assume SpaceX will pass up a challenge.

Florida Today reporter James Dean posted this afternoon that SpaceX still intends to try to launch CRS-4 on September 19.

The urgency is due a Russian Soyuz launch scheduled for September 25 to deliver the next crew rotation to the ISS.

If SpaceX pulls it off, it will have been twelve days between launches.

One might have to go back to the 1960s to find a faster turnaround.

During the Gemini program, NASA launched Gemini 6 eleven days after Gemini 7, a rendezvous practice mission improvised after the Gemini 6 Agena Target Vehicle exploded after launch.

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