SpaceX and Blue Origin launch – live: Final rocket launch attempts cancelled but ULA attempt still on

Anthony Cuthbertson@ADCuthbertson
Wednesday 19 December 2018 15:21
SPACEX and Blue Origin launch: Falcon 9 rocket launch delayed and new shepard forced to cancel

A second attempt to launch the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket will take place in Florida today, as Elon Musk’s private space firm aims to deliver a spy satellite into orbit for the US Air Force.

It is the first time SpaceX is launching a satellite for the US military, following an $83 million contract with the Air Force.

The satellite launch is scheduled for 9.07am EST (2.07pm GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

It will be the first of three major rocket launches today, with Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin set to send its New Shepard capsule into the skies above West Texas just 19 minutes later.

A third launch is then planned from multinational satellite firm Arianespace and the US-based United Launch Alliance.

Follow all the latest news of the launches here.

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Christmas has come early for space fans, with four separate rocket launches scheduled for today, 18 December.

Among them is the final launch of the year for SpaceX, which will launch a next-generation GPS satellite for the US Air Force at 9.11am EST (2.11pm GMT), as well as Blue Origin's New Shepard capsule, scheduled to launch just 19 minutes later.

anthony.cuthbertson18 December 2018 11:41

Here's the full list of today's launch locations and times:

  • SpaceX GPS satellite launch, Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida – 9.11am EST (2.11pm GMT)
  • Blue Origin New Shepard capsule launch, West Texas – 9.30am EST (2.11pm GMT)
  • Arianespace spy satellite launch, Kourou, French Guiana – 11.37am EST (4.37pm GMT)
  • United Launch Alliance classified cargo launch, Vandenberg Air Force Base in California – 8.57pm EST (1.57am GMT, 19 December)
anthony.cuthbertson18 December 2018 11:52

Weather in Florida suggests a high chance the SpaceX launch will go ahead as planned today, according to Kennedy Space Center.

anthony.cuthbertson18 December 2018 12:09

In attendance at the Cape Canaveral launch site is US Vice President Mike Pence, who calls the SpaceX mission "an important day for American leadership in space."

Speaking to the Associate Press earlier, two officials say the VP may also be making an announcement later today about Donald Trump's proposed Space Force programme.

anthony.cuthbertson18 December 2018 12:18

Here's what Pence has previously said about the space initiative: "Trump is committed to preparing for the next battlefield where America’s best and bravest will be called to deter and defeat a new generation of threats to our people and our nation…The time has come to establish the United States."

Read the full story here: 

anthony.cuthbertson18 December 2018 12:29

Blue Origin also seems on track for the second launch of the day, with the New Shepard rocket on the pad beneath blue skies in West Texas.

anthony.cuthbertson18 December 2018 12:36

A reminder that all four rocket launches are being live streamed today. We'll be providing links to all of them as soon as they go live.

anthony.cuthbertson18 December 2018 12:56

So with less than an hour to go until the SpaceX launch, what can we expect from the landmark launch?

Firstly, there will be a 26-minute launch window beginning at 9.11am EST (2.11pm GMT).

Mission requirements will mean there will not be an attempt to land Falcon 9’s first stage rocket after launch.

The payload is a GPS III satellite, which the US Air Force says “will augment the current constellation of 31 operational GPS satellites.”

anthony.cuthbertson18 December 2018 13:24

Here is a full timeline of the mission, courtesy of SpaceX:


Hour/Min/Sec – Events

00:38:00 - SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for propellant load

00:35:00 - RP-1 (rocket grade kerosene) loading underway

00:35:00 - 1st stage LOX (liquid oxygen) loading underway

00:16:00 - 2nd stage LOX loading underway

00:07:00 - Falcon 9 begins engine chill prior to launch

00:01:00 - Command flight computer to begin final prelaunch checks

00:01:00 - Propellant tank pressurization to flight pressure begins

00:00:45 - SpaceX Launch Director verifies go for launch

00:00:03 - Engine controller commands engine ignition sequence to start

00:00:00 - Falcon 9 liftoff


Hour/Min/Sec – Events

00:01:04 - Max Q (moment of peak mechanical stress on the rocket)

00:02:44 - 1st stage main engine cutoff (MECO)

00:02:48 - 1st and 2nd stages separate

00:02:50 - 2nd stage engine starts

00:03:22 - Fairing deployment

00:08:16 - 2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-1)

01:08:51 - 2nd stage engine restarts

01:09:37 - 2nd stage engine cutoff (SECO-2)

01:56:17 - GPS III SV01 deployment

anthony.cuthbertson18 December 2018 13:40

SpaceX has just announced a new launch time of 9.34am EST (2.34pm GMT), owing to wind levels. 

This puts it at the end of the scheduled launch window and pushed it behind the Blue Origin launch.

Should it be cancelled, there is a backup window scheduled for Wednesday, 19 December at 9.07am EST (2.07pm GMT).

anthony.cuthbertson18 December 2018 13:57

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