SpaceX is working towards a night launch of the company’s Falcon 9 rocket in the early hours on Friday to deliver to orbit the JCSat-14 commercial communications satellite for Japanese satellite operator Sky Perfect JSAT. Liftoff is set for a two-hour launch window opening at 5:21 UTC (1:21 a.m. local time Friday).
JCSAT-14 Hosted Webcast
JCSAT-14 Technical Webcast
The first stage will be on duty for just over two and a half minutes, firing its nine Merlin 1D engines to accelerate the vehicle to a speed exceeding six times the speed of sound. Separation of the stages will mark the start of the first stage’s return adventure, heading towards a high-energy re-entry as fuel margins do not permit a boost-back or braking maneuver prior to re-entry, creating a particularly challenging environment considering re-entry temperatures.
A short re-entry burn with three engines will slow the booster down and shield its aft section ahead of a two-minute atmospheric descent during which the four actuated grid fins will keep the stage on course to begin its critical landing burn. In the last high-energy return on the SES-9 mission, Falcon 9 survived re-entry and successfully started its three-engine do-or-die landing maneuver, but ran out of fuel in the middle of the burn causing a hard impact on the Drone Ship leaving a hole in the steel deck.
Although hopes for success in Friday’s landing are low, SpaceX aims to gather more data for fine-tuning of the landing sequence for future missions that are particularly low on fuel. If successful, landing would occur just over eight and a half minutes after liftoff, 660 Kilometers from Cape Canaveral.