SpaceX-3 to Launch April 14 at 4:58 p.m. EDT

SpaceX announced Friday they will launch the next cargo mission to the International Space Station on Monday, April 14 at 4:58 p.m. EDT. The Falcon 9 rocket will lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station carrying a Dragon spacecraft loaded 5,000 pounds of experiments, crew supplies and other cargo. The launch window in instantaneous. We will begin our continuous countdown coverage on the NASA Launch Blog at about 3:45 p.m. NASA TV also will begin coverage at 3:45 p.m. April 14.

Sunday’s Launch Postponed

SpaceX has confirmed that Sunday’s launch of its third contracted resupply mission to the International Station has been postponed due to a range asset issue. More information including a new target launch date will be posted here and at https://www.nasa.gov/spacex as it becomes available.

UPDATE – The Air Force said in a statement Thursday:

A mandatory range asset supporting the NROL-67 launch went offline, March 24, 2014.  An investigation revealed a tracking radar experienced an electrical short, overheating the unit and rendering it inoperable.  The outage resulted in an inability to meet minimum public safety requirements needed for flight, so the launch was postponed.

Initial assessment indicates repair of the tracking radar will take approximately three weeks.  The Air Force is evaluating the feasibility of returning an inactive radar to full mission capability to resume operations sooner.  The launch schedule impact is to be determined, pending resolution of the anomaly.  Early indications are all launches scheduled for FY14 will be supported. More information will be provided as it becomes available.

Launch Time: 10:49 P.M. EDT on Sunday

SpaceX will target its next cargo mission launch to the International Space Station from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, for 10:49 p.m. EDT, Sunday, March 30. An on-time launch would put the Dragon’s arrival at the station at about 7 a.m. Wednesday, April 2.

We’ll begin our continuous launch coverage at 9:45 p.m. and NASA Television’s launch coverage will kick off at the same time. This is the company’s third contracted resupply mission to the orbital laboratory. Should the launch be postponed, the next launch opportunity is 9:39 p.m. Wednesday, April 2, with blog and NASA TV coverage beginning at 8:30 p.m.

NASA TV also will air a prelaunch news conference at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 29 at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A 2 p.m. briefing on the science and technology cargo being delivered to the space station by SpaceX will follow.

SpaceX Targets March 30 Launch Date

From SpaceX: To ensure the highest possible level of mission assurance and allow additional time to resolve remaining open items, SpaceX is now targeting March 30  for the CRS-3 launch, with April 2 as a back-up.  These represent the earliest available launch opportunities given existing schedules, and are currently pending approval with the Range.

Both Falcon 9 and Dragon are in good health; given the critical payloads on board and significant upgrades to Dragon, the additional time will ensure SpaceX does everything possible on the ground to prepare for a successful launch. 

Additional details on exact liftoff time, press activities, etc. will be available as we get closer to launch.

Forecast Calls for 70 Percent Chance of “Go” Weather

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Florida at night as seen from the International Space Station, the destination of SpaceX-3.

The first launch weather forecast ahead of the SpaceX-3 cargo mission to the International Space Station sets out a 70 percent chance of acceptable conditions at launch time, which remains 4:41 a.m. EDT. Thick clouds are seen as a potential obstacle according to the forecast. SpaceX-3 is the third commercial resupply mission to space station for SpaceX. During the mission, the Dragon capsule will deliver 4,969 pounds of cargo to the orbiting laboratory and return 3,578 pounds to Earth.

An Unusual First Stage Photo

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SpaceX CEO Elon Musk released this photo yesterday of the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket that will launch the SpaceX-3 mission to the International Space Station. The unusual feature is the landing legs on the side of the rocket. According to Musk, they are 60 feet in diameter. He said the booster will still land in the ocean, but will attempt what’s known as a soft landing instead of simply plummeting as such stages have done until now. The exception is the space shuttle’s solid rocket boosters which parachuted into the water and were recovered for reuse. Musk has said before that his goal is to bring the spent first stage back to land on land so the booster and its 9 engines can be used again. Musk ended his posts saying the company needs to prove precision control of the stage throughout the deceleration from hypersonic to subsonic speeds.