SpaceX Gears Up for Falcon 9 Launch at 11am EDT; Delays a Possibility [Update: Success!]

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Starting at 11am EDT today, private space transport company SpaceX is going to take its shot at space flight glory with the test launch of its Falcon 9 rocket. Why is this a big deal? Well, the Falcon 9 is the first fully privately developed medium-capacity launch system, defined as being capable of lifting at least 2,000kg, but less than 20,000kg to low Earth orbit; all that have preceded it have been developed for national space programs. You may also recognize SpaceX founder Elon Musk as the co-founder of PayPal, or, alternately, as that guy who cameoed in Iron Man 2.

While the SpaceX crew understandably have high hopes for their rocket, today’s launch isn’t a done deal:

If the weather is bad at Cape Canaveral, the rocket launch, which has a four-hour window from 11am EDT to 3pm EDT, will have to be delayed. According to SpaceX’s site, “The weather experts at the Cape are giving us a 40% chance of “no go” conditions for both days of our window, citing the potential for cumulus clouds and anvil clouds from thunderstorms.” Redditor Codaflow passes along the below photo of current weather conditions at the Cape, and they don’t look too great:

According to weather.com’s hourly forecast, weather conditions are likely to be either “partly cloudy” or “isolated thunderstorms” at Cape Canaveral until 3pm; the rub will most likely lie with just how ‘partly’ the cloudy winds up. (Hopefully, less so than in the photo above.)

While a delay would be frustrating, obviously the safety and success of the test mission are higher priorities. According to SpaceX, the “primary goal is to collect as much data as possible, with success being measured as a percentage of how many flight milestones we are able to complete in this first attempt. It would be a great day if we reach orbital velocity, but still a good day if the first stage functions correctly, even if the second stage malfunctions. It would be a bad day if something happens on the launch pad itself and we’re not able to gain any flight data.”

SpaceX’s webcast will go live at 10:40am EDT. Should today’s launch be delayed, they have a second launch attempt scheduled tomorrow from Cape Canaveral at the same hours.

Update: The weather appears to have cleared up some. But at 1:30pm EDT, when the rocket was preparing to launch, it appears to have experienced a shutdown condition. SpaceX: “It looks as if we may have experienced a shutdown condition just after ignition. In these situations the vehicle puts itself into “safe mode”. There may be the chance to “recycle” the count and try again.”

Update2: Success!

(via Reddit, Bad Astronomer. Weather pic via Reddit.)


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