PARIS -- Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has pushed a Dec. 19 Dragon cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) to Jan. 6 after a recent static fire test of the Falcon 9 v1.1 launch vehicle was cut short.
“While the recent static fire test accomplished nearly all of our goals, the test did not run the full duration,” SpaceX spokesman John Taylor said in a statement to Aviation Week. “The data suggests we could push forward without a second attempt, but out of an abundance of caution, we are opting to execute a second static fire test prior to launch.”
Taylor said given the extra time needed for data review and testing, and the limited launch date availability due to the holidays and other restritions “our earliest launch opportunity is now Jan. 6, with Jan. 7 as a backup.”
Specifically, he said the January launch date is due in part to the space station's solar beta angle constraints –- where the angle between the ISS orbital plane and the sun is high, leaving it in almost constant sunlight for a 10-day period between now and Jan. 7.
“During this time, there are thermal and operational constraints that prohibit Dragon from being allowed to berth with the ISS,” Taylor said. “This high beta period runs from Dec. 18 to Jan. 7,” he said, adding that for a launch on Jan. 6, Dragon would berth on Jan. 8.
In the meantime, “both Falcon 9 and Dragon remain in good health, and our teams are looking forward to launch just after the New Year,” Taylor said.
Despite a manifest teeming with commercial and ISS missions, SpaceX has not conducted a Falcon 9 launch since its last ISS cargo run for NASA Sept. 21.