On Friday night the countdown clock for a Falcon 9 rocket was constantly ticking and the precious Global Positioning System reached T-2 seconds before the satellite could stop launching. For the second time in a row, in just two days, a Falcon 9 launch was halted just moments before the countdown.
“Unexpected ground-sensor reading” caused the automatic shutdown of a Starlink launch at 18 seconds on Thursday. According to Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, on Friday evening, “unexpected pressure on the turbomachine gas generator” caused the scrub. In this case the turbomachine pressurizes the gas entering the “gas generator”, which is a small engine that powers the large Merlin rocket engine.
So what happens? SpaceX has now launched its Falcon 9 rocket more than 90 times, and earlier this week, the weather was more likely to cause the delay than technical problems with the rocket or its underground systems.
Musk also wants to know. After the back-to-back scrubs, he took to Twitter to announce that he would visit two of the company’s launch sites in Florida: one at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (Friday night Scrooge’s site) at the Kennedy Space Center (there) waiting for the second launch attempt).
Visiting next week
Musk wants to increase the number of SpaceXs to reach 48 launches by 2021, which is more than double the company’s previous record for total missions in a year. Technical scrubs like this week will prevent this. Regular launches require smooth operations.
“This weekend we have a comprehensive review of the launch site, propulsion, structures, avionics, range and regulatory limitations.” Musk tweeted. “I’ll be in Cape next week to personally review the hardware.”
The visit is noteworthy because Musk now spends most of his time in Boca Chica, Texas, working on Starship, the company’s next-generation launch system. Now, he will turn his attention to Falcon 9 for a while.
This is important because Musk serves as the Chief Executive and Chief Engineer of SpaceX. He leads the discussion at all senior technical meetings, whether in the Executive Conference Room at the SpaceX Factory in Hawthorne, California, or in a large room in Boca Chic.
He has always been the animating force behind the technical excellence of SpaceX. When the musk is somewhere, things get done. He is constantly moving forward, asking why things can’t be done faster, better or cheaper. He is good at persuading employees to meet impossible deadlines. So by coming to Florida, Musk is reminding his launch team of expectations as well as providing technical expertise for the many challenges of launching rockets on time.
The next opportunity for SpaceX should be available soon. The company’s Starlink – 12 mission will now be launched twice a week late (due to bad weather and once due to system problems) launching EDT (11:46 UTC) on Monday, October 5 at 7:46 am. We will see with great interest.
The image is listed by Trevor Mahalman for Ars Technica