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SpaceX Falcon 1 Launch Countdown

Published by Klaus Schmidt on Sat Nov 26, 2005 9:45 pm
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5:11 pm (pst)

SpaceX: The launch is scrubbed for today. As I warned, the likelihood of an all new rocket launching from an all new launch pad on its first attempt is low.
What happened was that an auxiliary liquid oxygen (LOX) fill tank had a manual vent valve incorrectly set to vent. The time it took to correct the problem resulted in significant LOX boiloff and loss of helium, and it was the latter that caused the launch abort. LOX is used to chill the helium bottles, so we lose helium if there is no LOX to cool the bottles.
Although we were eventually able to refill the vehicle LOX tanks, the rate at which we could add helium was slower than the rate at which LOX was boiling away. There was no way to close the gap, so the launch had to be called off. In addition, we experienced an anomaly with the main engine computer that requires further investigation and was arguably reason in and of itself to postpone launch.
We are anticipating rescheduling the launch within a week at the earliest but probably longer as we need to bring in LOX and helium from Hawaii. Our LOX plant on Omelek will not replenish in time

5:19 pm (pst)

According to SpaceX, the next launch date will be at least in a week, but could be mid-December.

4:55 pm (pst)

Larry Williams of SpaceX: “we have not gotten confirmation on what the plan is for tomorrow. If you can keep an eye on our web site, we will post information on our web site, and tell you what our next launch date is.”
Rumor: “Another anomoly appeared during the T-Minus 10 minute hold. The rocket computer rebooted and there is not enough LOX to analyze the problem.
Next launch date is January based on current LOX delivery estimates.”

4:51 pm (pst)

Today’s launch attempt has been called off. The next opportunity comes at 1 p.m. EST (1800 GMT) Sunday.
SpaceX: Just got an update, we are scrubbing for today. Our next launch window is 9am tomorrow morning. Stand by for a minute and I’ll try to get more of an update.

4:50 pm (pst)

The launch team is going through safing procedures and depressurizing the vehicle tanks

4:49 pm (pst)

The countdown will not resume in one minute

4:43 pm (pst)

The launch team is refilling helium tanks and performing some other procedures before the countdown resumes for liftoff this evening.

4:42 pm (pst)

During the operation, they unloaded about 15% of the RP1 from the rocket tanks. The reason they did this was because the LOX tanks and the RP1 tanks are adjacent to each other. If the RP1 tank is full, the fuels effect each other’s temp. With a temperature differential between the LOX and RP1 of about 400F, that causes the LOX to boil-off much faster.
Since the race was to finish the operation before all the LOX boiled off, this move bought them some time. The LOX burn-off went from 8 gallons per minute to 4 gallons per minute. The delay took three hours in all. That’s 750 gallons saved.

4:25 pm (pst)

The SpaceX team has successfully resolved the launch pad tank problem, clearing the way for liftoff the Falcon 1 rocket at 8:00 p.m. EST.
Earlier in the countdown, a valve on one of the ground liquid oxygen tanks refused to close. A manual hands-on fix was required, prompting the small crew to travel over to Omelek Island and make that adjustment.
The team has been racing to get the valve closed to prevent too much super cold liquid oxygen from escaping, which would cause a lengthy resupply of the pad commodities.
But that valve has now been closed, and reserve liquid oxygen has been transferred from low-pressure tanks to the high-pressure tanks used for re-fueling the rocket. The cryogenic oxidizer naturally boils away aboard the rocket, necessitating replenishment through the countdown.

4:02 pm (pst)

A LOX fill problem has been corrected. Expected launch time is now approx 5 p.m. California time

3:58 pm (pst)

The launch window has been lengthened an additional two hours — to 10 p.m. EST (0300 GMT). A spokesman for SpaceX says it still looks good that launch will happen today.

3:57 pm (pst)

They have extended the launch window, and still hope to be good to go today. “But, obviously, we’ll have to wait and see.”

3:51 pm (pst)

SpaceX still working on refilling the LOX tanks with a team on the launch pad

3:26 pm (pst)

Loading tank is having either a valve or pressure issue

3:18 pm (pst)

SpaceX: Launch window may be extended

3:02 pm (pst)

Larry Williams of SpaceX: “We are still attempting to launch today. We had someone go to the pad to make a manual adjustment to the LOX fill tank. We hope to launch in an hour and a half to two hours from now.”

2:40 pm (pst)

They need to re-fill the LOX tank again. Launch expected in 1 to 2 hours.
Larry Williams of SpaceX: It sounds like we are going to have another delay. They have to go back to the main island to refill the LOX tank. [Are still going to try to launch in the launch window]. A minimum of 1-2 hour delay.

2:26 pm (pst)

Countdown still holding

2:15 pm (pst)

Countdown clocks remain stopped at T-minus 10 minutes because of unfavorable weather conditions over the launch site. There is no information from officials on the weather forecast or the chances for improvement.

2:14 pm (pst)

Re-fill of the LOX tank is in progress. T-10 and holding for weather

2:00 pm (pst)

T-10 and holding

1:55 pm (pst)

There’s no word on how long this weather-induced hold in the countdown will last. Also, it is unclear of the cloud cover was the reason for the earlier hour-long delay or if something else was to blame.

1:50 pm (pst)

T-minus 10 minutes and holding. SpaceX says the countdown is holding due to unacceptable cloud conditions over the launch site.

1:45 pm (pst)

A SpaceX spokewoman says liftoff is now anticipated around 5:10 p.m. EST.

1:42 pm (pst)

The countdown has now progressed inside 30 minutes to launch. Retraction of the mobile support trailer away from the Falcon 1 rocket is expected momentarily, SpaceX says

1:40 pm (pst)

They’ve lowered the tower and now T-30 minutes

1:31 pm (pst)

Right now they’re in a hold while the winds persist

1:06 pm (pst)

We are waiting on word regarding the nature of the delay and at what point in the countdown the delay occurred.

12:59 pm (pst)

HOLD. A SpaceX spokesperson just announced that liftoff has been delayed an hour, according to an email received from the Kwajalein launch site. At what point the countdown is holding, why the countdown has stopped and the nature of the problem are unanswered questions right now.

12:55 pm (pst)

T-5 mins.
“looking good right now for 1pm”

12:45 pm (pst)

Weather forecast slightly overcast another update coming before 1:00 pm (pst)

12:43 pm (pst)

Larry Williams Vice President in charge of international Government Affairs, is monitoring the conference from California, he will be feeding us the data as it happens and answer questions

12:31 pm (pst)

Quite a muddle going on as they sort everyone out on site

12:25 pm (pst)

Currently fueling stage two LOX tanks


12:23 pm (pst)

Currently 11 mins into a hold


12:21 pm (pst)

Sound checks and what have you…


A predawn look at Falcon I on the launchpad

12:15 pm (pst)

“we are still holding” — please continue to hold…


12:01 pm (pst)

“your conference will begin momentarily” — please continue to hold…


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