postpones rocket launch due to technical glitch
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[June 21, 2014]
By Irene Klotz
CAPE CANAVERAL Fla. (Reuters) - Space
Exploration Technologies postponed Friday's planned launch of a Falcon 9
rocket, which is slated to put six small satellites into orbit for
Orbcomm Inc, which provides machine-to-machine communication services.
The rocket was on track for a 6:08 p.m. EDT (2208 GMT) liftoff
from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida when engineers
detected a possible problem with its upper-stage engine, Falcon 9
product director John Insprucker said during a launch webcast.
Flight directors reset countdown clocks to the end of a 53-minute
launch opportunity, but ran out of time to assess the problem. The
next launch window opens at 5:46 p.m. EDT (2146 GMT) on Saturday.
"Clock just running out of time to give the team enough minutes to
evaluate the data we've been looking at for the last hour,"
The launch, which would be SpaceX's 10th Falcon 9 mission, is
intended to put six of Orbcomm's 17 next-generation satellites into
orbits about 500 miles (800 km) above Earth. The new satellites,
built by privately owned Sierra Nevada Corp and Boeing Co, will join
Orbcomm's existing 25-member network.
"We help commercial companies monitor their assets," Orbcomm Chief
Executive Marc Eisenberg said in an interview.
Each satellite in
the $200 million, 17-member Orbcomm Generation 2, or OG2,
constellation has more capacity than the entire existing
constellation, he said. In addition to longer messages between, for
example, retailers and their shipping containers or construction
companies and their cranes, OG2 will plug holes in the current
system, making the network faster. Currently, Orbcomm has gaps of
about 30 to 60 minutes when satellites are out of range. "We're
launching directly into that hole in the sky so the network is going
to get dramatically quicker,"
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Eisenberg said.OG2 spacecraft are designed to last 10 years. "We've
got a great base of customers and we need to show them that there
are years of service that Orbcomm is going to continue to supply,"
Eisenberg said. "Machine-to-machine communications - or the
'Internet of things' - has really picked up over time. It's just
kind of hitting its stride now." Orbcomm is paying a cut-rate $47
million for two Falcon 9flights, the second of which is slated for
launch later this year.
Orbcomm originally bought rides on SpaceX's smaller Falcon
1boosters, but those rockets were retired in 2009. SpaceX moved
Orbcomm to the larger Falcon 9s, but kept the price the same. "That
would be priced today at about $120 million, "Eisenberg said. "They
kind of took it on the chin financially to make sure we had a path
(Editing by Jonathan Oatis and Richard Chang)
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