SpaceX doubleheader struck down by poor weather

Two SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets are vertical ahead of back-to-back Dragon and commsat launches. (Ben Cooper/SpaceX)

Update: The first of two SpaceX launch attempts scheduled on Tuesday, November 22nd has been called off by poor weather. The weather for the second attempt, carrying a Eutelsat communications satellite, is expected to be just as poor, but SpaceX is still working towards a 9:57 pm EST (02:57 UTC) launch in spite of CRS-26’s bad luck.

SpaceX says it will attempt to launch two Falcon 9 rockets six hours apart after delaying a mission that was scheduled to lift off on November 21st.

The weather at Cape Canaveral is expected to be poor, with just a 10% chance of favorable conditions. But SpaceX says it will still attempt to launch the Eutelsat 10B communications satellite around 9:57 pm EST (2:57 UTC) on Tuesday, November 22nd, after delaying a November 21st attempt “to allow for additional pre-flight checkouts.” Only a few days prior, SpaceX indefinitely delayed a different Falcon 9 launch after apparently uncovering a problem during prelaunch testing. That problem was significant enough for SpaceX’s West Coast drone ship to return to port, guaranteeing a multi-day delay.

Despite back-to-back delays caused by apparent technical issues with two other Falcon 9 rockets, SpaceX’s next Cargo Dragon resupply mission to the International Space Station remains on track to launch as early as 3:54 pm EST (20:54 UTC) on November 22nd.

In the days prior, even Dragon’s CRS-26 mission didn’t escape unscathed. SpaceX discovered a small leak in the Dragon spacecraft earlier this month, forcing it to push the launch from November 21st to November 22nd. Before that, CRS-26 was delayed from November 18th to the 21st in the wake of Hurricane Nicole. Out of coincidence, the combination of the hurricane, Dragon leak, and unspecified issues with Eutelsat 10B’s rocket or payload have placed the launches just over six hours apart.

24 hours out, US Space Launch Delta 45 (formerly the 45th Space Wing) predicts just a 10% chance of favorable conditions for CRS-26 and Eutelsat 10B. The odds that both launches will thread a different 1-in-10 needle six hours apart are not great. Eutelsat 10B has a backup window on November 23rd with a 60% chance of favorable weather, while CRS-26’s next opportunity is November 26th.

CRS-26 will launch several thousand pounds of food, water, supplies, and a third set of upgraded solar arrays to the International Space Station (ISS). The mission will debut a new Falcon 9 booster (B1076) and the fourth and final reusable Cargo Dragon 2 spacecraft (Capsule C211).

In an unusual first, Eutelsat 10B will be the third SpaceX launch this month to intentionally expend a Falcon booster as Falcon 9 B1049 – the oldest in the fleet – flies its eleventh and final mission. The well-worn booster’s sacrifice will help boost the 5.5-ton (~12,000 lb) Eutelsat 10B communications satellite into a higher transfer orbit than usual, likely shaving weeks off the orbit-raising process and allowing it to enter service sooner. SpaceX will still attempt to recover Falcon 9’s payload fairing (nosecone) halves more than a thousand kilometers downrange.

SpaceX doubleheader struck down by poor weather
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