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SpaceX ‘logjam’ hits launch clients

February 16, 2017

A SpaceX rocket is scheduled to launch this coming weekend carrying a routine NASA cargo mission to the International Space Station (ISS). But the long delays since the Sepember 1st explosion on one of its Falcon 9 rockets is creating headaches for some of its commercial customers.

SpaceX’s senior executives have repeatedly said they will soon be carrying out launches every two weeks, but that cannot happen until repairs to Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral – where the explosion destroyed most of the necessary infrastructure – are fully completed.

This Saturday’s launch takes place at Launch Pad 39A, and coincidentally where almost all of the Apollo missions and 24 Space Shuttle missions were carried out.  SpaceX has leased the site from NASA for 20 years.

However, extreme delays are now occurring. For example, Iridium, already much delayed, was expecting to see a batch of 10 of its Iridium NEXT satellites launched in mid-April to a Low Earth Orbit. That launch date has slipped to mid-June, according to a statement to investors made on February 15th.

This news is a surprise given that Iridium’s launches take place from SpaceX’s Vandenberg site, and ought not to impact activity from Cape Canaveral. An Iridium batch of 10 satellites was successfully launched from Vandenberg on January 14th.

SES-10, also much delayed, had been expected to be launched this week but that cannot now be expected to launch until March 5th. Once launched SES-10 will eventually be placed at 67 degrees West and replace AMC-3 and AMC-4 in orbit.

Other commercial satellites ready and waiting for a launch date including spacecraft for Korea, Qatar (Es’Hail-2), Spain’s Amazonas 5, the Philippines, Bulgaria and EchoStar 105/SES-11.

At the beginning of 2016 SpaceX was targeting 18 launches in total (including NASA and commercial missions). In fact, only eight were managed, which meant that 10 launches slipped into 2017 which already had a crowded launch manifest.

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