Orbcomm Satellite Falls Out of Orbit, Offers Enough Data Despite SpaceX Mishap
October 15, 2012 2:43 PM
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Orbcomm said it will be filing an insurance claim of $10 million to cover the prototype satellite as well as the cost of the launch and insurance policy
Orbcomm's prototype second-generation satellite, OG2, has fallen out of orbit after SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket failed to launch it into the correct trajectory.
Orbcomm, a satellite messaging service provider, had sent its OG2 prototype into space aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket during
the Oct. 7 launch to the International Space Station
(ISS). The main mission was to send the Dragon capsule to the ISS for supplies, but NASA and SpaceX agreed to let Orbcomm send a satellite high into orbit on the Falcon 9 as a secondary part of the mission.
However, a small mishap occurred during the Oct. 7 flight: one of the nine Merlin first-stage engines on Falcon 9 shut down.
The Falcon 9 was still able to
lift the Dragon to the ISS
successfully on Oct. 10, but it was unable to launch the OG2 prototype far enough into orbit to collect an optimal amount of data. It wandered for four days before falling out of orbit.
However, Orbcomm said that wandering satellite gathered enough data in the nearly four-day period to proceed with the full constellation launch next year. The constellation launch consists of sending 18 second-generation satellites into orbit aboard two Falcon 9 rockets.
Orbcomm said it will be filing an insurance claim of $10 million to cover the prototype satellite as well as the cost of the launch and insurance policy. If the insurance underwriters accept this, Orbcomm will not need to launch another prototype. Rather, it would be able to launch all 18 satellites starting next year thanks to the amount of data collected during the recent launch.
SpaceX added that Orbcomm knew that there was a chance that OG2 wouldn't make it into the correct orbit beforehand.
"It is important to appreciate that Orbcomm understoof from the beginning that the orbit-raising maneuver was tentative," said Katherine Nelson, SpaceX spokeswoman. "They accepted that there was a high risk of their satellite remaining at the Dragon insertion orbit. SpaceX would not have agreed to fly their satellite otherwise, since this was not part of the core mission and there was a known, material risk of no altitude raise."
SpaceX's Dragon is currently at the ISS unloading 882 pounds of cargo, and will bring twice that amount of cargo back to Earth near the end of October.
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RE: SpaceX Mishap?
10/15/2012 4:40:45 PM
And in this case, the falcon9 was able to do just that for the primary objective (the dragon capsule), but the secondary (the orbcomm sat) did not get enough of a correction.
RE: SpaceX Mishap?
10/15/2012 11:00:57 PM
From what I can tell reading the sources there was basically no chance this thing would have made it to high orbit unless there was no ISS-bound Dragon capsule.
Obviously the priority at SpaceX is NASA, not some small communications company that was told the risks of a piggyback launch but ok'd it anyway. I don't see this insurance claim being approved. Risks were known. Useful data was collected. Engine failure or not, the success probability was already
RE: SpaceX Mishap?
10/16/2012 8:55:27 AM
I think this obviously was NOT a SpaceX mishap. They had a priority in reaching the ISS without taking any additional risks. The communications company agreed to this, fully cognisant of the risk that they might fail to get a higher orbit. SpaceX did their job, took no stupid risks and sent Dragon on to the ISS. Job well done.
The insurance company may actually pay out if their policy underwriting took account of the material risks of a failure and issued the policy anyway. Gamblers can't win them all!
"Well, we didn't have anyone in line that got shot waiting for our system." -- Nintendo of America Vice President Perrin Kaplan
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