SpaceX is expected to end a two-month launch drought in Cape Canaveral with a coup Thursday night carrying a privately funded Israeli lander, an Indonesian telecommunication satellite and a payload monitoring capability. American air force in orbit.
A Falcon 9 rocket will take off during a 32-minute launch window at 20:45. EST Thursday (0h45 GMT Friday).
The Falcon 9 launch of Cape Canaveral Resort 40 will be the first launch since Florida's Space Coast since Dec. 23 and the first of some 20 orbital-class missions planned for Florida this year.
There is an 80% chance of a favorable time during the Thursday night launch window. An almost full moon will rise a few minutes after opening the launch window.
Nine Merlin 1D main engines will propel the Falcon 9 rocket with a push of 1.7 million pounds.
SpaceX plans to recover the first leg of the Falcon 9 aboard the company's drone stationed in the Atlantic Ocean a few hundred kilometers east of Cape Canaveral. Mr. Steven, another ship in the SpaceX fleet, could try to catch the refit of the rocket's payload when it returns to Earth.
Steven arrived in Port Canaveral, a few miles south of the Falcon 9 launch pad earlier this month, after a trip from the port of Los Angeles via the Panama Canal and the Caribbean Sea , until his new rallying base in Florida. The ship is equipped with a giant net suspended between four arms, a configuration that SpaceX has dubbed the "capture glove", to catch the fairings as they descend under steerable parafoils.
The ship tried to catch the fairing after several launches from California, but almost missed the Falcon 9 shroud crash. SpaceX also practiced capturing fairings with Mr. Steven in the Pacific Ocean after their release from a helicopter.
Thursday night's mission could mark Steven's debut on the East Coast.
This week's flight will be SpaceX's second launch of the year, following the January 11th flight of Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, with 10 Iridium communications satellites.
SpaceX tested the Falcon 9 rocket on Sunday night and put the launcher back in its hangar to link it to the mission payloads.
Three spacecraft will be stowed in the payload fairing of the Falcon 9 rocket for launch.
The most important of the group is an Indonesian telecommunications satellite named Nusantara Satu.
Built by SSL in Palo Alto, California, the Nusantara Satu satellite will provide voice, data and video distribution services throughout Southeast Asia, according to the spacecraft manufacturer.
The satellite belongs to PT Pasifik Satelit Nusantara, or PSN, an Indonesian telecommunication company. Formerly known as PSN 6, the satellite carries C-band and Ku-band transponders, as well as a high-speed payload for broadband services.
"The satellite (Nusantara Satu) is a very important infrastructure for Indonesia," said Adi Rahman Adiwoso, CEO of PSN. "As the first high-speed satellite in Indonesia, the PSN is making another big step towards realizing its dream and continuing its commitment to provide broadband services in the vast Indonesian archipelago."
Designed for a 15-year mission, the spacecraft will use electric thrusters to move in a circular geostationary orbit of more than 22,000 miles (about 36,000 km) above the equator from from an initial transfer orbit located between an altitude of a few hours one hundred miles and about 60,000 kilometers (37,000 miles), an orbit accessible by the two-stage Falcon 9 rocket.
The Falcon 9 will launch its upper-deck Merlin engine twice during Thursday night's mission to reach the targeted supersynchronous transfer orbit about half an hour after take-off.
The Israeli lunar lander Beresheet, one of the secondary payloads of the mission, will first separate from the launcher. It is attached to the top of the stack of three payloads inside the nose of the Falcon 9 rocket 229 feet (70 meters).
The Beresheet spacecraft, which weighs about 1,300 pounds, full of gasoline, will use its own thrusters to move away from the spiral Earth, gradually increasing its orbit until it Intercepts the moon on April 4th.
The LG, which weighed about 582 kg (1,283 pounds), was originally designed to compete in Google's late Google Lunar X award. When the competition ended last year without a winner, the Israeli team – known as SpaceIL – continued its project, billed as the first lunar lander financed by private funds.
The Beresheet spacecraft is also the first mission to attempt a soft landing on the moon by a non-superpower, as a result of probes sent by the United States, the Soviet Union and China.
Israeli officials said the lunar lander had been developed for less than $ 100 million.
Assuming that the craft reaches lunar orbit on 4 April as planned, the landing in the lunar region of Mare Serenitatis is scheduled for 11 April.
The other launch payload that will launch on Thursday is the S5 satellite from the Air Force Research Laboratory.
Unlike the Beresheet LG, S5 will remain mounted on the Nusantara Satu probe during orbiting communications satellite operations.
Nusantara Satu will release the S5 satellite into an orbit near the geosynchronous altitude, and then move to its final orbital position.
S5 has been described as a space situational awareness mission in a 2017 press release from Blue Canyon Technologies, a small product manufacturer located in Colorado.
According to Blue Canyon Technologies, the spacecraft weighs approximately 60 kg and carries a payload provided by Applied Defense Systems.
The US military has launched several missions in recent years with optical sensors to scan the geostationary orbit, where ground-based radars used to track satellites and space debris in low Earth orbit have difficulty detecting objects.
One of these missions was SensorSat, which was launched at Cape Canaveral in August 2017 to raise the eyes to the geostationary orbit from a low-altitude orbit squeezing the equator. The Air Force has also launched four spacecraft satellites to navigate the geostationary orbit, with the ability to approach and inspect objects.
S5 will demonstrate the ability of a small satellite to find objects in a geostationary orbit, thereby enabling the army to update its database, which is relied upon by commercial companies and international space agencies.
"The objective of the S5 mission is to measure the feasibility and affordability of developing low-cost constellations for regular and frequent updates to the GEO (geostationary) space catalog," said Blue Canyon Technologies. in a statement in 2017.
The launch of the Beresheet lunar probe and the Army's S5 mission was organized by Spaceflight, a launch broker and carpool provider in the Seattle area. This will be Spaceflight's first carpool in geostationary transfer orbit, after many missions in low Earth orbit.
Spaceflight secured the carpooling launch service with SSL, which purchased the full capacity of the Falcon 9 rocket.