After a two-week delay, SpaceX will launch the upgraded Falcon 9 rocket on Sunday at noon EDT, 9 a.m. PDT. For Falcon 9’s first flight, the rocket will be carrying the Canadian Space Agency’s Cassiope satellite, launching it into low-Earth orbit.
The launch of the upgraded Falcon 9, v1.1 was originally scheduled for Sept. 15 but was delayed until Sept. 29, reports AmericaSpace. The Falcon 9 rocket completed a static fire on Sept. 19 and SpaceX will go forward to launch the rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on Sunday.
Col. Keith Balts, 30th Space Wing commander, said in a statement posted on Facebook, "This launch is a huge stepping stone for Vandenberg and our SpaceX mission partners, and I am impressed with the amount of innovation, dedication and professionalism that was put into making this historic event happen."
The Falcon 9 launch is scheduled as a test flight. This will be SpaceX's first launch from Vandenberg, but it will be carrying a Canadian satellite that will be launched into low-Earth orbit. The Falcon 9 will be carrying the Canadian Space Agency's, CSA, Cascade SmallSat and Ionospheric Polar Explorer, Cassiope, satellite. Cassiope is a small space weather satellite that will be used to explore the effects of solar storms on Earth and its communications systems.
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According to the CSA, Cassiope "is a multi-purpose mission designed to conduct space environment research and telecommunications technology demonstration. Its scientific payload ePOP (enhanced polar outflow probe) will observe the ionosphere and enable scientists to collect new data on space storms in Earth's upper atmosphere and assess their potential impacts." Cassiope will also include Cascade, a communications technology demonstrator payload that will act as a "courier in the sky," capable of sending and receiving large amounts of data. Cassiope has a scheduled research period of 18 months.
The biggest change to the Falcon 9 is the Merlin 1D engine, which provide a 56 percent increase in thrust over the Merlin 1C engine used in the previous launches of Falcon 9, reports AmericaSpace. The nine Merlin 1D engines are placed in an octaweb, eight engines forming a ring around a ninth engine at the center, and the Falcon 9 is capable of delivering a 28,991 pound payload into low-Earth orbit or a 10,692 payload into geosynchronous transfer orbit, GTO. Falcon 9 v.1.1 features larger propellant tanks and an improved electronics system, reports Reuters.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk hopes to reduce the launch cost by making the Falcon 9's first stage, which includes the engines and propellant tanks, reusable. Falcon 9 will launch over the Pacific Ocean and Musk said the team will try to reduce the landing velocity prior to the rocket hitting the ocean but predicts only a "10 percent" chance of success, reports Reuters.
Falcon 9's next big test will be its first commercial, and first GTO, launch carrying the SES World Skies communications satellite, reports Space News. No date is scheduled, but the company hopes for a November or December launch.
The SpaceX launch of the Falcon 9 rocket carrying the CASSIOPE satellite can be viewed below. The live stream begins at noon EDT, 9 a.m. EDT, on Sept. 29, 2013.