SpaceX Aborts the Intelsat 35e Mission for the Second Time

Kathleen Villaluz

The latest SpaceX mission has been aborted again, and this time the Intelsat 35e launch was postponed due to a "violation of abort criteria". It was initially postponed from its original launch on the 2nd of July and was rescheduled for a second launch attempt using its backup window on the 3rd of July, 2017, at 7:37 pm, EDT, or 23:37 UTC. The first aborted mission was due to a technical glitch in the rocket's guidance system.

At the time of writing, SpaceX or Elon Musk has not confirmed the exact launch day or time. However, Musk said that a launch opportunity is available either on the 5th or 6th of July.

The Falcon 9 rocket used in this launch will not attempt to land due to the mission's requirements.

The mission

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is set to deliver the Intelsat 35e, a commercial communications satellite, to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO). Falcon 9 will not attempt to land as the immense weight of the Intelsat 35e payload requires all of the rocket's fuel to ensure it reaches its geostationary orbit. There simply won't be enough propellant left for the first stage booster to make a stabilized landing. This mission's Falcon 9 rocket has also been stripped of its landing hardware such as the legs and grid fins in order to maximize its performance and reduce the overall weight of the booster. The Intelsat 35e is currently the heaviest GTO payload Falcon 9 has to launch.

This latest mission is SpaceX's tenth Falcon 9 mission of 2017, which comes only over a week after the back-to-back launch of two Falcon 9 rockets. The Intelsat 35e mission will be launched from the LC-39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Based on its original schedule, the satellite is to be deployed approximately 32 minutes after launch.

Intelsat 35e mission ready for launch

Intelsat 35e Mission at NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Florida [Image Source: SpaceX via Flickr]

The Intelsat 35e payload

The 6,761 kg spacecraft is Intelsat's fourth, Epic NG (next-generation) satellite that will deliver high-performance services in C- and Ku-band. The advanced payload of the satellite will serve customers from the Caribbean, Europe, Africa, and the Americas. It will be placed into service at 325.5 degrees East, replacing the Intelsat 903 satellite. The soon-to-be superseded Intelsat 903 will be redeployed to another Intelsat orbital location by the end of this year.

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According to Intelsat, the architecture of the 35e features a highly reliable C-band spectrum that is conditioned to work despite weather pattern issues.

"Its unique payload of C-band wide- and spot-beams enables higher efficiency and improved throughput for demanding applications including wireless backhaul, enterprise and mobility services in regions where weather patterns necessitate the use of highly reliable C-band spectrum".

The Intelsat 35e satellite will run on two solar wings, where each is composed of three panels of ultra triple-junction gallium arsenide solar cells. It was manufactured by Boeing Space Systems, which has a long history of producing satellites for Intelsat.

"The Boeing-built Intelsat Epic NG 702MPs will help take Intelsat to the next level, ensuring a bright future for one of our most trusted partners", said Craig Cooning, president of Boeing Network & Space Systems.

Aborting the mission for the second time

An hour before its scheduled launch, the mission was delayed for another hour until SpaceX announced that it's postponed again. A complete review of the rocket and pad systems will be conducted by the team as America celebrates their 241st Independence Day, according to Musk. Despite having a 70% favorable weather condition before the launch, another abort criteria has been detected and caused the mission to halt.


There are no confirmed date nor time yet for the next launch opportunity. A short statement was released by SpaceX on their live webcast page.

"Out of an abundance of caution, SpaceX will be spending the 4th of July doing a full review of the rocket and launch pad systems. The next launch opportunity for Intelsat 35e from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida is now no earlier than Wednesday, July 5 or Thursday, July 6".

The Intelsat 35e payload and Falcon 9 rocket are both in good condition but a thorough sweep of the launch system must be done and as Musk said, there is "only one chance to get it right".

Sources: SpaceX, Intelsat, NASA Spaceflight

SEE ALSO: SpaceX Scrubs Falcon Launch Due to Computer Issues

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