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Weather stops everything by SpaceX in the last 24 hours

SpaceX found itself stymied in the past 24 hours due to poor weather conditions on both coasts, with two launches and the return of a Dragon capsule from space all scrubbed.

First a Falcon 9 launch from Vandenberg of 22 Starlink satellites was scrubbed, the launch pushed back from yesterday to tonight at 5.39 pm (Pacific).

Then a launch of a NASA climate satellite on a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral was scrubbed shortly thereafter, the launch rescheduled for 1:33 am (Eastern) tonight.

Finally, the return of Axiom’s Ax-3 commercial passenger flight to ISS was scrubbed today because of poor weather conditions.

NASA, Axiom Space, and SpaceX are standing down from the Tuesday, Feb. 6, undocking opportunity of Axiom Mission 3 from the International Space Station. Mission teams will continue to review weather conditions off the coast of Florida, which currently are not favorable for return, and set a new target opportunity for space station departure and splashdown of the Dragon spacecraft and Axiom crew members.

The undocking is now tentatively set for tomorrow morning, but this remains unconfirmed. The three passengers and the Axiom commander have so far spent 18 days in orbit. The original plan was for a 14 day mission, most of which to be spent on ISS, but weather can always extend such plans.

The launch scrubs illustrate the challenge SpaceX faces in reaching its stated goal of 150 launches in 2024. It appears the company is now capable of technically meeting that goal. To do it however it needs to launch almost every other day, and weather simply might not allow a pace like this during some parts of the year in both Florida and California. Whether the company can make-up for these delays with multiple daily launches at other times remains unknown. If it does, it will be another feather in the cap for SpaceX.

Genesis cover

On Christmas Eve 1968 three Americans became the first humans to visit another world. What they did to celebrate was unexpected and profound, and will be remembered throughout all human history. Genesis: the Story of Apollo 8, Robert Zimmerman's classic history of humanity's first journey to another world, tells that story, and it is now available as both an ebook and an audiobook, both with a foreword by Valerie Anders and a new introduction by Robert Zimmerman.

 
The ebook is available everywhere for $5.99 (before discount) at amazon, or direct from my ebook publisher, ebookit. If you buy it from ebookit you don't support the big tech companies and the author gets a bigger cut much sooner.


The audiobook is also available at all these vendors, and is also free with a 30-day trial membership to Audible.
 

"Not simply about one mission, [Genesis] is also the history of America's quest for the moon... Zimmerman has done a masterful job of tying disparate events together into a solid account of one of America's greatest human triumphs."--San Antonio Express-News

8 comments

  • geoffc

    4th possible criteria… Sea state at the recovery zone. If the ASDS cannot maintain position or it is too wavy to land, they have to decide to launch or not.

  • Diane E Wilson

    This was always going to be true. To hit 150, or even 144, everything had to be perfect, and not just weather. No scrubs for sensor failures. No delays for scheduling conflicts with national security launches on other rockets. No equipment out of action for failures of any kind – such as a booster falling during voyage back to the cape, with the drone ship “Just Read the Instructions” still out of service.

    I’d give them a fair change at 120 launches this year. And next year. And so on, until there is either a viable competitor, or SpaceX adds new launch and recover capability.

  • Richard M

    SpaceX has already acquired one new pad – the vast complex 6 at Vandenberg – and it has added a crew access arm to enable to Dragon missions at SLC-40. The Vandy pad won’t be ready until next year, but the ability to do Dragon missions from two Cape pads will help a little.

    Still, it seems hard to avoid the impression that more is going to be needed. They will need more recovery ships before long (and perhaps this is already in the works). I hear rumors that they want to acquire SLC-37 once ULA has finished launching Delta IV’s from it this year – though if so, it is unclear whether they want it for Falcons, or Starships.

  • Diane E Wilson

    The specific reason for acquiring SLC-37 and launch complex 6 at Vandenberg is for vertical integration, something which is currently blocking for certain national security payloads. I would assume that these pads will be used for additional launches, though.

    Dragon launches, especially crew launches, require more prep time on the pad. Having two Dragon-capable pads makes scheduling easier, but it doesn’t necessarily increase the overall launch cadence.

    One factor that gets overlooked is the maintenance needs of the recovery droneships. “Just Read The Instructions” was forced into drydock when B1058 fell during return to the cape, but there was a lot of rust found that will need to be cleaned up, or parts replaced. Not sure what its schedule to return to service. There’s a long lead time for building new droneships, but it seems like having a spare on each coast would be a good idea, and would certainly help improve the launch cadence.

  • Diane E Wilson

    Checked on status of “Just Read The Instructions”. The droneship just retrurned from maintenance a couple of days ago, and is back in Florida.

  • Edward

    Diane E Wilson,
    You wrote: “There’s a long lead time for building new droneships, but it seems like having a spare on each coast would be a good idea, and would certainly help improve the launch cadence.

    I suspect that once Starship is operational the cadence for the Falcons will be reduced, as Starship will start launching the Starlink payloads rather than Falcon 9, and Starship may be more affordable for payloads that would otherwise need the Falcon Heavy. If the cost of a Starship launch is less than a Falcon 9 launch, then Falcon 9 may be only assigned to payloads that are inappropriate for Starship launches, such as the Dragons.

  • Edward wrote, ” If the cost of a Starship launch is less than a Falcon 9 launch, then Falcon 9 may be only assigned to payloads that are inappropriate for Starship launches, such as the Dragons.”

    I have my doubts. Manned Dragon launches will only fly if there is a demand from passengers, and I can’t imagine any passengers choosing a Dragon over Starship, especially if Starship ends up costing less.

    That SpaceX is working on making the Falcon 9 more reusable, capable of flying 30 to 40 times, suggests the company sees a demand for its smaller payloads in the future, but only if it can get the cost down so that it is competitive with Starship.

  • Edward

    Robert,
    You wrote: “Manned Dragon launches will only fly if there is a demand from passengers, and I can’t imagine any passengers choosing a Dragon over Starship, especially if Starship ends up costing less.

    Possibly, but I suspect that the future commercial space stations are going to be reluctant to have 100-ton Starships dock with them. The far lighter (7 ton) Soyuz and (4-1/2 ton) Progress ships caused damage to the Zvezda(?) module, so I suspect that docking 100 ton Starships may not be desirable. So far, I see mostly Dragons, Dream Chasers, and Starliners in the promotion videos for these commercial space stations.

    That SpaceX is working on making the Falcon 9 more reusable, capable of flying 30 to 40 times, suggests the company sees a demand for its smaller payloads in the future, but only if it can get the cost down so that it is competitive with Starship.

    I cannot argue with that, and this is part of my previous point, that there may be payloads that are not appropriate for Starship. However, I do not think that the Falcons will need the same cadence as they will have this year. I think Starship will take over quite a few payloads that are now launched on the Falcons, and I think Starship will allow for huge payloads that cannot be launched with existing launch vehicles, such as Voyager Space’s commercial space station.

    SpaceX seems to believe that Falcon will not be phased out for a while, and I have thought so for a while, but how many of these updated Falcons are they planning to make? Since the upper stage is not recoverable, there is a lower limit to the price SpaceX can charge per Falcon launch. Most likely, Starship will always win on the price per pound and price per passenger fronts, but even today customers sometimes have to pay a high price to get what they need.

    We already know that SpaceX plans to use Starship for a majority of its Starlink launches, which eventually reduces the number of Falcon launches from the current annual number. We also know that SpaceX thinks that they can launch Starship cheap: $2 million dollars, back before inflation hit us, but what they will charge for a launch is something I suspect they are still working out.

    I see Starship as being similar to Chrysler’s K-car, way back when the company was in serious trouble. The K-car was based upon a common chassis and used as many common parts as possible, but a range of models were fit onto that chassis. Starship is somewhat similar, in that a range of types are planned. For instance, two models land on other worlds, another model carries satellites and payloads to orbit, and another carries propellants to orbit. There seem to be additional varietals for each of these basic types, such as carrying humans and cargo to other worlds and carrying only cargo to those worlds, a clamshell for large payloads and a “Pez” dispenser for Starlink payloads, a tanker to reach orbit and a propellant depot on orbit. SpaceX has also mentioned a version for point-to-point Earth transportation and another version as a space station. These do not seem to be high priorities at this time.

    I do not think that Starship is the be-all end-all of spacecraft or launch vehicles, and there will be other launch vehicles needed for other types of spacecraft. I also think that if SpaceX rests on its laurels, it will find someone else building a better Starship.

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