Israeli company will again entrust payload to SpaceX for launch

By CHABELI HERRERA | Orlando Sentinel | Published: August 2, 2019

ORLANDO, Fla. (Tribune News Service) — An Israeli satellite is scheduled to head to orbit on a SpaceX launch no earlier than Monday, marking the first time since a 2016 explosion that the satellite provider will entrust its payload to Elon Musk’s rocket company.

Tel Aviv-based Spacecom will launch its Amos-17 satellite on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s launch complex 40. The launch window is expected to open Monday evening, though a new time has not yet been confirmed.

In September 2016, a Falcon 9 rocket was destroyed at the very pad from which SpaceX plans to launch this weekend. It was carrying Amos-6 for Spacecom, a $200 million satellite that was leasing some of its capabilities to Facebook to provide Internet connectivity to developing areas.

The explosion happened while propellant was being loaded into the rocket during a static fire test. It wasn’t until months later in early 2017 that SpaceX pinned down what it believed to be the cause of the accident: An issue with a pressure vessel, known as a COPV, in the second-stage liquid oxygen tank.

A static fire test for the upcoming launch went by without incident Wednesday night, but the company said Thursday evening that it would plan an additional static fire test after it replaced a “suspect valve." That moves the launch date from Saturday, as planned, to no earlier than Monday.

This launch will be free for Spacecom, which endeavors to offer TV, internet and data satellite services to part of Europe, the Middle East and Africa with its Amos fleet. This particular satellite, Amos-17, was built by Boeing and includes Boeing’s first 3D-printed metal antenna, a one-piece unit that the company says creates greater reliability while using fewer parts. The antennas typically require multi-part assembly.

The 3D-printed part, Boeing hopes, will reduce assembly time and weight.

For the launch, SpaceX is making modifications to its typical model of landing boosters back on the Space Coast when it launches locally. The Falcon 9 is flying in expendable mode, meaning it won’t have landing legs.

The choice helps Falcon 9 focus on lifting the heavy, 14,330-pound Amos-17 satellite, but means the previously flown booster won’t be recovered.

The launch will be a quick turnaround for SpaceX, which just last week launched an International Space Station resupply mission from pad 40. Muggy weather and high humidity for that launch helped the sound of sonic booms, caused by the booster landing, carry as far west as Orlando. With no landing, don’t expect that this time.

Weather was looking bad for the weekend, with the Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron forecasting conditions that were only 30% favorable for a Saturday launch due in part to a tropical wave that is expected to move across the western Bahamas and closer to the Space Coast. Conditions improved slightly to 40% “go” for launch on Sunday.

The Air Force has not yet released a forecast for Monday, the new launch date.


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