SpaceX rocket problem delays launch of Japanese lunar lander – Spaceflight Now

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket stands upright on Pad 40 at the Space Force Station at Cape Canaveral before the ispace Hakuto-R Mission 1 launch attempt. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX is expected to return the Falcon 9 rocket to its hangar at Cape Canaveral for troubleshooting, delaying the planned launch of the Japanese commercial lander by a month indefinitely. SpaceX did not provide details about the reasons for the suspension of the rocket.

The company planned to launch the 229-foot-tall (70-meter) Falcon 9 rocket this week using a privately developed launcher owned by Tokyo-based ispace. SpaceX announced late Tuesday that the teams would delay the launch from Wednesday to 3:37 a.m. EST (08:37 GMT) on Thursday. On Wednesday evening, officials decided to postpone the launch of the missile indefinitely.

“After further tests of the launch vehicle and a review of the data, SpaceX is canceling the launch of the Falcon 9 of the Hakuto-R ispace mission from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Space Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida,” SpaceX said in a brief statement. “A new target launch date will be shared once confirmed.”

ispace said in a statement that the cause of the delay is the Falcon 9 launch vehicle. Multiple sources familiar with the mission said SpaceX plans to lower the Falcon 9 rocket horizontally and roll it back to a hangar south of Pad 40, where specialists will conduct additional tests and solve the problem.

Data on marine tracking websites also shows that SpaceX’s recovery vehicle “Doug” has left the spot where it was supposed to retrieve the Falcon 9 payload fairing after the launch of the Hakuto-R ispace lunar rover, suggesting the delay could last more than a few days. SpaceX planned to land the first stage launch vehicle at Cape Canaveral about eight minutes after liftoff.

This year, SpaceX has launched 54 missions, 53 of which are with the Falcon 9 rocket, one of them with the Falcon Heavy, made by combining three modified Falcon 9 first-stage launch vehicles. The number of SpaceX missions in 2022 significantly exceeds the previous one a company record of 31 space launches in a calendar year. SpaceX set this record just a year ago.

The company plans as many as eight Falcon 9 rocket launches in December, a result that suggests the ispace Hakuto-R lunar lander mission will be able to fly quickly. SpaceX has scheduled two launches from Florida next week — one with the next batch of Starlink Internet satellites and another with 40 spacecraft for the OneWeb broadband constellation.

It was not immediately clear what impact the Hakuto-R launch delay might have on other Falcon 9 missions scheduled for December.

The Hakuto-R lander, developed by the Japanese company ispace, is located in the nose of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle at Cape Canaveral. Author: SpaceX

SpaceX has been plagued by minor technical delays for most of 2022, but the problem with the Hakuto-R rocket is the second Falcon 9 rocket in less than two weeks to keep the mission grounded.

Falcon 9 was scheduled to launch on November 18 from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California with 52 Starlink Internet satellites, but on the eve of the mission, SpaceX announced that managers decided to abandon the launch to evaluate data from the test fire. rocket. A new target launch date for this Starlink mission has not been announced, but two other Falcon 9 flights from California appear to have preempted it on SpaceX’s calendar, indicating that it likely won’t happen until January at the earliest.

The Hakuto-R mission aims to be the first privately developed spacecraft to land on the Moon. The one-ton lander carries several payloads, including a small rover from the United Arab Emirates that will be deployed on the lunar surface. Another tiny mobile robot to be deployed by the ispace lander comes from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency.

According to ispace, the first Hakuto-R lander will take about five months to travel from Earth to the moon using a low-energy orbit, which requires the spacecraft to use less fuel than if it took a direct route to the moon.

A 31-kilogram (14-pound) payload from NASA will launch into space on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. A secondary payload called the Lunar Lantern will fly on its own independent trajectory to the Moon to orbit and locate water ice deposits hidden in permanently shadowed craters at the Moon’s poles. Future explorers on the moon could use water ice deposits to produce rocket fuel, drinking water and breathing oxygen.

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Follow Stephen Clarke on Twitter: @StephenClark1. SpaceX rocket problem delays launch of Japanese lunar lander – Spaceflight Now

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