The SpaceX team have once again run into technical problems, resulting in yet another crash of a Falcon 9 rocket booster.
On their eight attempt to land their stage one booster rocket, liquid oxygen levels reached critically low levels, resulting in the shut down of one of the three booster engines. This caused the rocket to lose balance and hit the landing pad harder than usual. Part of the rocket’s frame and engines were destroyed, causing the unit to topple over.
Beyond the crash, the re-entry and hover procedure were pretty done by the book.
As a result of the first stage booster having to travel a much longer distance to position the second stage booster into supersynchronous range, the team would have had much less fuel to work with during the re-entry exercise compare to low earth orbit missions.
Musk seems undeterred by the crash, mentioning that he was aiming for a 70% success rate for 2016, as it was a year of “experimentation”. He also mentioned that the team is already working on a compensation method to prevent engine starvation in similar circumstances in the future.
Wednesday’s launch saw the delivery of ABS 2A and Eutelsat 117 West B, two Boeing 702SP satellites in a dual-stack configuration (2 satellites mated together for the launch period). Once SpaceX’s payload module reached supersynchronous orbit, the conjoined pair was released into space where they then separated to start to process of descending into geostationary orbit with the use of electrostatic ion thrusters.
ABS 2A joins the Asia Broadcast Satellite constellation, providing TV, cellular, and internet services to India, Southeast Asia, Russia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the GCC. Meanwhile, Eutelsat 117 West B joined the Eutelsat Americas network to provide similar communication services to countries in the western hemisphere.
The satellites were launched as a stacked pair to share rocket and mission costs, thus saving both companies millions of dollars compared to more traditional single satellite launches.
Here are the two satellites being released into the wild west.