No SpaceX Falcon Heavy payload is safe as NASA’s Psyche mission announces delay

The launch of SpaceX’s first Falcon Heavy rocket for NASA was affected by a seven-week delay after spacecraft engineers discovered a software glitch during initial processing.

Named after the strange metallic asteroid designed to explore it, NASA’s Psyche spacecraft completed its journey from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, to the launch facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in late April. To date, the Falcon Heavy is the first and only payload to arrive at the Kennedy Space Center since mid-2019. At the time of its arrival, it was unclear when the Falcon Heavy would finally end its launch abort. of three years or what would be the payload(s) that will be on top of the rocket for the event.

Three weeks later, the two are still unclear, but now for different reasons.

On May 23, Spaceflight Now reported that it had received a written statement from NASA confirming that the launch of Psyche had been delayed from August 1, 2022 to (NET) September 20 at the latest “after ground crews discovered a problem testing the software on the spacecraft. From the spacecraft to the Payload Handling Facility at the Kennedy Space Center, teams have spent the past few weeks scouring Psyche and ensuring it survives the flight without a hitch. At some unknown point, engineers had to run the spacecraft’s computers for extensive diagnostic testing. It is also possible that a newer version of Psyche’s flight software was externally reviewed prior to final installation.

Anyway, something went wrong. For now, all NASA wants to say is that “there is an issue preventing confirmation that the software controlling the spacecraft is working as expected.” While it appears to be software-centric, such a vague statement doesn’t rule out the possibility of a hardware issue, which could help explain why NASA and the spacecraft team quickly decided to delay the launch of Psyché by seven weeks.

For unknown reasons, each Falcon Heavy’s short-range payload has decreased dramatically from its original launch target. In recent weeks, the USSF-44 – which was due to launch in June 2022 after years of delay –“ Indefinitely delayed.Delayed from Q3 2020, USSF-52 now scheduled for launch in October 2022. Fisat-3, which was scheduled to launch on Falcon Heavy in 2020, is now .NET in September 2022. Jupiter-3, a Etisalat satellite breaks a record It was only confirmed as a Falcon Heavy launch contract a few weeks ago and has recently returned from 2021 and 2022 to early 2023.

Only USSF-67, whose official launch target has not been updated in over a year, is said to still be about to launch somewhere within the original launch window (H2 2022). If it really launched without delay on a Falcon Heavy rocket in November 2022, it would be a long way off. Meanwhile, Psyche’s September 20 delay means it may now conflict with the ViaSat-3 Falcon Heavy mission, which is expected to use the same launch pad. Most likely, ViaSat-3 was already due to drop in the fourth quarter, but the situation shows how painful planning for launches of nearly half a dozen chronically delayed payloads must be for SpaceX.

Meanwhile, SpaceX must also store and maintain it nine Various Falcon Heavy boosters as they have to wait a long time for their assigned missions. SpaceX’s entire fleet of operational Falcon 9s – including a Falcon Heavy booster provisionally operating as a Falcon 9 – contains 12 boosters, meaning that more than 40% of all Falcon boosters are currently heavyweights.

No SpaceX Falcon Heavy payload is safe as NASA’s Psyche mission announces delay

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