March 20, 2013
Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) will launch the first flight of its new Falcon 9 v1.1 rocket in June from the company’s new launch pad at Vandenberg AFB, Calif.
The upgraded Falcon 9 launcher will feature more powerful Merlin 1D engines, extended fuel tanks and a wider payload fairing.
The June mission will loft a small Canadian solar-weather satellite, Cassiope, to a polar low Earth orbit, a demonstration flight that could pave the way for the company’s first mission to geostationary orbit in early July with the launch of the SES-8 commercial communications satellite for Luxembourg-based fleet operator SES.
Barry Matsumori, SpaceX vice president of commercial sales and business development, says the SES mission will be followed in late July by the launch of the Orbital Sciences Corp.-built Thaicom 6 satellite.
In the fall, SpaceX plans to launch eight second-generation OG2 satellites for fleet operator Orbcomm, a dedicated launch that follows the loss of a prototype OG2 satellite that flew as a secondary payload on NASA’s Oct. 7 cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS), but which was placed into the wrong orbit following the loss of one of the Falcon 9’s nine Merlin 1C engines.
By the end of the year, Matsumori says SpaceX expects to conduct its third cargo resupply mission to the ISS.