The countdown clock ticked steadily on Friday evening for a Falcon 9 rocket and reached T-2 seconds earlier than the launch of a precious International Positioning System satellite tv for pc was aborted. That was the second consecutive time, in simply two days, {that a} Falcon 9 launch was known as off with mere seconds left within the countdown.

An “surprising ground-sensor studying” triggered an automated abort of a Starlink launch on Thursday at T-18 seconds. And on Friday night, in line with SpaceX founder Elon Musk, “an surprising stress rise within the turbomachinery fuel generator” brought about the scrub. The turbomachinery on this occasion pressurizes fuel coming into the “fuel generator,” which in flip is a small engine that powers the bigger Merlin rocket engine.

So what’s going on? SpaceX has now launched its Falcon 9 rocket greater than 90 instances, and earlier than this week, latest delays have virtually solely been on account of climate somewhat than technical issues with the rocket or its floor programs.

Musk apparently needs to know as effectively. After the back-to-back scrubs, he took to Twitter to announce that he would go to the corporate’s two launch websites in Florida: one at Cape Canaveral Air Power Station (the location of Friday evening’s scrub) and one at Kennedy House Middle (the place the Starlink mission awaits a second launch try).

Visiting subsequent week

Musk would really like SpaceX to extend its cadence such that it could actually attain 48 launches in 2021, which might greater than double the corporate’s earlier file for whole variety of missions in a single 12 months. Technical scrubs like those this week would stop this. Reaching frequent launches would require clean operations.

“We’re doing a broad evaluate of launch website, propulsion, constructions, avionics, vary & regulatory constraints this weekend,” Musk tweeted. “I can even be on the Cape subsequent week to evaluate {hardware} in particular person.”

This go to is notable, as a result of Musk is now spending most of his time in Boca Chica, Texas, engaged on the corporate’s next-generation launch system, Starship. Now, he shall be returning his focus to the Falcon 9 for a time.

This may matter, as a result of Musk actually serves as each the chief government of SpaceX in addition to its chief engineer. He leads the dialogue in any respect senior technical conferences, whether or not in his government convention room on the SpaceX manufacturing unit in Hawthorne, California, or a bigger room in Boca Chica.

He has at all times been, and stays, the animating drive behind SpaceX’s technical excellence. When Musk is someplace, issues get performed. He’s continuously pushing ahead, asking why issues can’t be performed quicker, or higher, or cheaper. He’s good at motivating workers to fulfill seemingly inconceivable deadlines. So by coming to Florida, Musk is not-so-subtly reminding his launch group of his expectations in addition to lending his technical experience to the myriad challenges of launching rockets on time.

SpaceX ought to have its subsequent alternative quickly. The corporate’s Starlink-12 mission, now delayed twice (as soon as for poor climate and as soon as as a result of floor programs situation) is scheduled to launch on Monday, October 5, at 7:46am EDT (11:46 UTC). We are going to watch—with nice curiosity.

Itemizing picture by Trevor Mahlmann for Ars Technica


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