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Tracking System Bug Delays SpaceX's DSCOVR Launch 48

The SpaceX two-fer launch that was scheduled for today has been scrubbed. NBC News reports that the launch was postponed until Monday at the earliest due to a problem with the range-tracking system in Florida. That means an ambitious second attempt to land the Falcon 9 rocket's first stage on an oceangoing platform will also have to be delayed. ... Satellites such as the Advanced Composition Explorer and Solar and Heliospheric Observatory, which are already located at the L1 point, can provide up to an hour's warning of major storms. Both those satellites are well past their anticipated lifetimes, however, and DSCOVR is designed to provide a much-needed backup. SpaceX's two-stage Falcon 9 rocket will boost DSCOVR into a preliminary orbit, but it will take 110 days of in-space maneuvers to get the probe into the right position. This launch would mark the first time that SpaceX has sent a spacecraft so far, and it will be judged a success if DSCOVR reaches its intended orbit. The delayed launch could take place as soon as tomorrow (Monday) evening.
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Tracking System Bug Delays SpaceX's DSCOVR Launch

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  • Just to be clear, the problem was purely on the Air Force's end, right? It didn't sound like Musk was saying that something malfunctioned with the launch vehicle itself.
    • Re:Just to be clear (Score:5, Informative)

      by ShaunC ( 203807 ) on Sunday February 08, 2015 @07:51PM (#49013825)

      During the webcast, the product manager for Falcon kept referring to a telemetry problem on the SpaceX side that they needed to resolve before T -2:00. Somewhere around T -8:00, reports started showing up online that there was also an issue with the AF radar. The webcast never clarified what the telemetry issue was. Elon mentioned a "1st stage video transmitter (not needed for launch, but nice to have)." It sure sounded like they intended to scrub the launch if they hadn't fixed the telemetry problem by T -2:00, so either the video transmitter really was needed, or they had another problem.

      • Re:Just to be clear (Score:4, Informative)

        by Teancum ( 67324 ) <robert_horning@@@netzero...net> on Sunday February 08, 2015 @11:49PM (#49015073) Homepage Journal

        The video transmitter was just something on the rocket so nice folks here on Slashdot and elsewhere can get pretty pictures of the 1st stage landing. It had nothing to do with the successfully launching this rocket, although it might have impacted what was seen on the webcast if the landing attempt was going on... assuming SpaceX doesn't mine showing video of the rocket falling into pieces again but this time from the perspective of the rocket as it is falling apart.

        The payload can be sent into space and meet 100% of the paid objectives without this telemetry working. It likely is a frequency conflict, or at the very least a secondary transmitter that isn't working properly as this link is only really needed after stage separation. Most other rocket launching companies treat spent 1st stages as trash to be randomly discarded in hopefully an unpopulated area and ignored afterward... but SpaceX intends to treat the 1st stage like a separate vehicle with its own mission objectives (mainly to land on the barge in once piece).

        • That first stage camera is primarily to inform SpaceX, not us. Because a first-stage soft landing attempt os being made, they have a strong interest in knowing what happens.

          • by Teancum ( 67324 )

            Yes, I get that the cameras have utility as engineering diagnostics when things go very bad. The Shuttle and even the Saturn V had dozens of cameras at nearly every possible angle, and as the cameras got smaller there were even more that were stuffed onto the various devices... including the SRBs and even the external tank.

            As an engineer, you can pull out a whole lot of information about what is happening at each stage, especially if it is a high speed camera watching stuff that happens at launch... as tha

      • The fact they thought they could resolve the "telemetry problem" without access to the rocket, tells me it wasn't anything on the rocket. They said the rocket was healthy when they aborted the launch. I'm guessing they were having issues with the air-force radar long before the launch was scrubbed. I'm speculating it was providing suspicious data, and then suddenly no data at all. Perhaps they thought the radar system just needed to be restarted, and then it never came back online.
    • by Nutria ( 679911 )

      purely on the Air Force's end, right?

      Or NASA.

    • Re:Just to be clear (Score:5, Informative)

      by confused one ( 671304 ) on Sunday February 08, 2015 @07:54PM (#49013843)
      One of the multiply redundant 1st stage telemetry radios on the vehicle was glitching. They will go ahead and swap it out before tomorrow's launch attempt..
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 08, 2015 @07:35PM (#49013711)

    Great, now I need to make my own Air Force with my own radar systems...

    • And now Elon's thinking... Great, now I need to make my own Air Force with my own radar systems...

      At the Texas launch site, will SpaceX be providing launch radar or will the Air Force?

      • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) *

        Yeah, the DSCOVR launch was originally scheduled for January, but the Air Force already delayed it by another week or two because "they wanted more insurance coverage for it"

        If something else happens, I call political shenanigans.

        (FULL DISCLOSURE: my FIL is the PM from the NASA GSFC side, and my son flew out to Cape Canaveral to watch the launch this weekend so we've been tracking this somewhat closely.)

      • At the Texas launch site, will SpaceX be providing launch radar or will the Air Force?

        SpaceX may build a local radar site for the launch site itself, but you can bet the Air Force will still be involved, since the launch trajectory for equatorial orbits crosses Florida. It's unlikely that purely FAA-run radars will be considered acceptable for covering rocket launches any time soon, if they ever are. Their mode of operation is such that they don't provide updates quickly enough to be useful during an orbital launch, and it doesn't seem likely that the FAA will want to change that.

        Nobody ha

        • you can bet the Air Force will still be involved, since the launch trajectory for equatorial orbits crosses Florida.

          By the time a Brownsville/Boca-Chica launch crosses the Florida peninsula, it will above 50km and not a range-safety issue. In fact, it'll be well after first stage separation, and may even be after second stage MECO.

          The USAF will routinely track it as they would any launcher, or ICBM or IRBM, launched by anyone, anywhere in the world, but that will have nothing to do with launch ops and will

  • by ArcadeMan ( 2766669 ) on Sunday February 08, 2015 @07:54PM (#49013837)

    Why "DSCOVR"? That's even worst than an MS-DOS filename.

    • by msauve ( 701917 )
      It's a cousin to V'ger [memory-alpha.org].
    • by rwa2 ( 4391 ) *

      Why "DSCOVR"? That's even worst than an MS-DOS filename.

      Hey, give NASA credit for breaking out of the TLA or FFLA mold.

      • Hey, give NASA credit for breaking out of the TLA or FFLA mold.

        I thought it was FLEA: Four Letter Extended Acronym.

    • Why "DSCOVR"?

      Modern NASA has a thing for retarded backronyms. This one is particularly forced. ("OVR" is "Observer"? Fuck off.) Older programs were given names for the sake of names. "Pioneer", "Voyager", "Mariner". Not MARINR (MArs Remote ImagiNg observeR).

      Still, at least the damn thing is flying after being mothballed for 15 years years because of its association with Al Gore.

  • Read that as SystemD bug.

    On the one hand I was confused how systemD was involved in the launch.

    On the other hand, I was happy someone was fixing bugs in it.

    • On the one hand I was confused how systemD was involved in the launch.

      Then you haven't been paying attention - all the systemd supporters are adamant that it is descended from launchd!

    • What? Haven't you heard that software-defined radar will be in the next systemd feature set?
  • As someone in New Zealand, I got confused for a moment on how tomorrow could be Monday night... (and still not quite sure what time this is expected to be happening without having to go and read TFA :-). I really wish more of the world (America is the worst) would use GMT/UTC, as that's easy to translate (and it means I don't need to look up the offset of the timezone someone refers to - which again is usually only given by name). We are not all in America. :-)
    • I really wish more of the world (America is the worst) would use GMT/UTC, as that's easy to translate (and it means I don't need to look up the offset of the timezone someone refers to - which again is usually only given by name). We are not all in America. :-)

      SpaceX is quite good at giving launch times in UTC in their own press materials. They tend to run their software systems in UTC too, since there's no point in trying to use a "local" timezone for a vehicle that is going to be crossing multiple timezones in a few minutes. It's just the press who are lazy about it. The SpaceX webcast page just gives a countdown in hours and minutes on the day of a launch, so you don't have to do the math yourself.

    • by Sivaraj ( 34067 ) on Monday February 09, 2015 @12:01AM (#49015129)

      Better launch countdown where you can see in your local time (click on the globe). Looks like the launch moved to Tuesday night (EST) now.

      http://spacexstats.com/mission... [spacexstats.com]

  • Anybody know what's up with NASA TV and region restrictions? We tried to watch the launch last night on our TV but Chromecast refused to play it because the player threw region restriction errors.

    Clearly it was better for the advancement of science to have my kids huddled around my phone ("I can't see; move your elbow!") ...

    • Same reason that you can get a lot of TV episode streams the next day on the network website, but their tablet app makes you wait a week: "Because we're Hollywood, and we can force Congress to let us do that."

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