Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Weather or Not

The SpaceX Thales launch filmed by a GoPro camera near the pad. Video source: Matthew Travis YouTube channel.

After a 49-minute delay due to the weather, SpaceX launched its Falcon 9 yesterday at 7:03 PM, deploying a Thales Alenia communications satellite for the Republic of Turkmenistan.

The Falcon 9 departed the Cape's Pad 40 thirteen days, two hours and fifty-three minutes after its predecessor launched April 14, sending the robotic Dragon cargo ship to the International Space Station.

In the modern era, no other company has been able to launch as often from the same pad as has SpaceX.

I wrote last August about the shortest turnaround time for various Cape pads.

Within the last two years, SpaceX has reduced their turnaround times from 34 days to 22 to 14, and now to 13.

In a week, SpaceX is scheduled for a pad abort test on May 5 of its crew Dragon from Pad 40. The Dragon will be atop a simulated rocket structure, not an actual Falcon 9, but technically the Dragon will be “launched.”

As I wrote last September, the only equivalent I can find in the Cape's launch history is the turnaround of Pad 19 in late 1965 to support two Gemini launches. That was improvised, not planned.

Gemini 7 and Gemini 6A launched from Pad 19 in December 1965. Gemini 6 was supposed to launch on October 25 to rendezvous with an Agena Target Vehicle, but the Agena was destroyed during launch earlier that day, so Gemini 6 had no mission. It was decided to postpone the mission until December, so it could practice a rendezvous with Gemini 7, which launched on December 4. Pad 19 required only minimal repairs, and the renamed Gemini 6A launched on December 15.


  1. Will be interesting to see what happens once Pad 39-A is online, they could potentially launch once a week from the cape with the 2 week turn-around they have demonstrated.

    1. I think the key is horizontal integration. The Gemini 7/6A turnaround was possible in part due to the Titan II using horizontal integration. The service tower erector tilted back out of the way, so it wasn't exposed to damage at launch. The same with SpaceX at Pad 40.

      Pad 39A will use some elements of the old Shuttle service tower, the elevator in particular, so I kinda doubt they'll be able to turn around as quickly. The Falcon Heavy will be three times as powerful as the Falcon 9, so again more firepower to cause potential damage.

      But Elon does like a challenge. :-)