SpaceX Delays ORBCOMM Launch on Falcon 9

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Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) delayed the May 10 launch of six second-generation ORBCOMM (OG2) communications satellites after scrubbing a May 9 static-fire test of its Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket during fueling.

“Both the Falcon 9 rocket and ORBCOMM satellites are in good condition, but as a result of schedule constraints, launch will be postponed past this weekend with the next opportunity most likely in late May,” the company said in a May 9 statement, referring to a busy manifest at Cape Canaveral AFS, Fla., including upcoming launches of United Launch Alliance Delta 4 and Atlas 5 rockets this month.

The May 10 launch was to be the first of two missions scheduled for ORBCOMM this year as the New Jersey-based company builds a constellation of 17 second-generation machine-to-machine communications satellites in low Earth orbit. In addition to the six spacecraft expected to blast off this month, SpaceX plans to deliver the remaining 11 by year's end.

ORBCOMM had initially planned to launch a constellation of 18 OG2 satellites on SpaceX Falcon 1 rockets. After Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX retired the two-stage liquid-fueled light-launcher in May 2012, the ORBCOMM missions were rescheduled to orbit in batches atop the medium-lift Falcon 9.

In October 2012, a baseline Falcon 9 rocket carried a prototype OG2 as a secondary payload to NASA's first Cargo Resupply Services (CRS-1) mission, which sent the SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule to service the International Space Station (ISS).

Although the CRS-1 mission was a success, an engine-chamber breach on the Falcon 9 first stage left the prototype OG2 spacecraft in a lower-than-intended orbit, where it burned up after reentering Earth's atmosphere.

The upcoming ORBCOMM launch will the be the company's first on the new, more powerful Falcon 9 v1.1 vehicle, which has flown successfully four times since September last year.

In February, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said the company planned to launch 11 Falcon 9 missions in 2014. So far, the company has launched two - the Thaicom 6 commercial communications satellite for Bangkok-based fleet operator Thaicom in January, and NASA's third CRS mission (CRS-3) in April.

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