Watch the SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch Monday Night!

The entire universe in blog form
Nov. 25 2013 12:57 PM

SpaceX Launch Scheduled for Monday Night

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket ready to launch into space Monday night.

Courtesy of SpaceX

[UPDATE (Nov. 25 at 23:30 UTC): The rocket and spacecraft are safe, but the launch today was scrubbed due to some internal power and tanking issues. SpaceX is investigating, and the next launch window opens up at 22:38 UTC (5:38 p.m.) on Thursday, Nov. 28.]

Phil Plait Phil Plait

Phil Plait writes Slate’s Bad Astronomy blog and is an astronomer, public speaker, science evangelizer, and author of Death From the Skies!  

The private company SpaceX is scheduled to launch a communication satellite into space Monday night at 22:37 UTC (5:37 p.m. EST). It will be webcast live at the SpaceX site.


Although this is an uncrewed flight (no people are onboard), it’s important because this is SpaceX’s first attempt to place a satellite into geosynchronous orbit. That’s a special orbit, about 36,000 km (22,000 miles) above the Earth’s surface, where a satellite goes around the Earth once every 24 hours. To the satellite’s point of view, it always sees the same part of Earth under it, so this is a great place to put weather and communication satellites.

The satellite being launched is a commercial communication sat, called SES-8, and will provide coverage for South Asia and the Asian Pacific regions. Although SpaceX has already launched several payloads to the International Space Station and plans on launching humans in the next few years, satellite deployment missions like this one are important to the company if it’s to compete in the space launch game.

The launch of the Falcon 9 rocket is set for 5:37 p.m. (EST) Monday night. If all goes well, the first stage (with its nine Merlin engines) will thrust for three minutes, then shut down. The second stage will separate and begin firing its single Merlin engine—it’s based on the other engines but designed to work more efficiently in a vacuum. Then the fairing covering the satellite will separate and fall away a minute later. Eight minutes after launch the second stage will stop firing, coasting for 19 minutes. Then it will restart for one minute, putting the satellite into a long, elliptical orbit. Five minutes later the satellite will deploy, separating from the rocket. Over time, on-board thrusters will circularize the satellite’s orbit, placing it into the planned geosynchronous orbit.

SpaceX had some issues with the second-stage rocket during the last such launch; once it was shut down, it couldn’t re-ignite. That problem happened after it had deployed the satellite, but in today’s case the second stage must re-ignite to put SES-8 into the proper orbit. Ground testing of the second-stage engine since that earlier flight, however, has shown it performing up to speed.

I’ll be watching the launch via the webcast and live-tweeting it as well.



The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Why Time Is on Our Side in the Fight Against Ebola

Piper Kerman on Why She Dressed Like a Hitchcock Heroine for Her Prison Sentencing

Catacombs Where You Can Stroll Down Hallways Lined With Corpses

Homeland Is Good Again! For Now.


Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.


How Even an Old Hipster Can Age Gracefully

On their new albums, Leonard Cohen, Robert Plant, and Loudon Wainwright III show three ways.

The U.S. Has a New Problem in Syria: The Moderate Rebels Feel Like We’ve Betrayed Them

We Need to Talk: A Terrible Name for a Good Sports Show by and About Women

Trending News Channel
Oct. 1 2014 1:25 PM Japanese Cheerleader Robots Balance and Roll Around on Balls
  News & Politics
Oct. 1 2014 4:15 PM The Trials of White Boy Rick A Detroit crime legend, the FBI, and the ugliness of the war on drugs.
Oct. 1 2014 2:16 PM Wall Street Tackles Chat Services, Shies Away From Diversity Issues 
Gentleman Scholar
Oct. 1 2014 4:55 PM Blood Before Bud? Must a gentleman’s brother always be the best man at his wedding?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 1 2014 5:11 PM Celebrity Feminist Identification Has Reached Peak Meaninglessness
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 3:24 PM Revelry (and Business) at Mohonk Photos and highlights from Slate’s annual retreat.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 3:02 PM The Best Show of the Summer Is Getting a Second Season
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 4:46 PM Ebola Is No Measles. That’s a Good Thing. Comparing this virus to scourges of the past gives us hope that we can slow it down.
  Health & Science
Oct. 1 2014 4:03 PM Does the Earth Really Have a “Hum”? Yes, but probably not the one you’re thinking.
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.