ORBCOMM satellite launched by Falcon 9 has fallen to Earth

Oct 12, 2012 by Nancy Atkinson, Universe Today
The OG2 satellite being prepared for testing. Credit: ORBCOMM

The satellite that was launched to orbit as a secondary payload by the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on October 7, 2012 has deorbited, falling back to Earth. The ORBCOMM OG2 satellite was a prototype communications satellite that was launched along with the Dragon capsule for the CRS-1 resupply mission to the International Space Station. The satellite was sent into the wrong orbit as a result of "a pre-imposed safety check required by NASA," ORBCOMM said today in a press release, after the engine anomaly where one of the rocket's nine Merlin engines, Engine 1, lost pressure suddenly and an engine shutdown command was issued. The rocket was prevented from performing a second burn for safety reasons and the satellite was left in a lower orbit than intended.

"The safety check was designed to protect the and its crew," the ORBCOMM press release said. "Had ORBCOMM been the primary payload on this mission, as planned for the upcoming launches, we believe the OG2 prototype would have reached the desired orbit."

ORBCOMM had said earlier they were checking into the possibility of whether onboard propulsion could be used to boost the OG2 into a higher orbit, but obviously that was unsuccessful. They did say today, however that while the OG2 was in orbit for its much-shortened time frame, they were able to obtain engineering data and "made significant strides in testing various ," including an antenna that was deployed and basic functions of the satellite that were successfully turned on.

The company added that with the verifications they were able to achieve, they can now forge ahead and focus on completing and launching the more OG2 satellites, and they plan on using SpaceX to deliver them to orbit. But next time the satellites will be the primary mission payloads on two planned Falcon 9 launches, one in mid-2013 and another in 2014, putting them directly into their .

"We appreciate the complexity and work that SpaceX put into this launch," stated Marc Eisenberg, ORBCOMM's CEO. "SpaceX has been a supportive partner, and we are highly confident in their team and technology."

The OG2 satellite was supposed be in a final 750×750 km orbit, but the company didn't verify the orbit it did end up in. According to Jonathan's Space Report, OG2 was ejected at 0137 UTC into a 203×323 km orbit, instead of its planned 350×750 km insertion orbit. Another satellite tracker, T.S. Kelso said via Twitter that it was in a 318 x 194km orbit.

A call to ORBCOMM to verify the orbit and location of de-orbit wasn't immediately returned.

Explore further: Breezy science, plant studies and more head to space station on SpaceX-4

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

SpaceX launch good for NASA, not private firm (Update)

Oct 08, 2012

A private rocket successfully sent a capsule full of cargo zipping toward the International Space Station in a first of its kind delivery for NASA, but couldn't deliver on job No. 2: putting a commercial satellite into the ...

Iridium Next Prepares to Ride the Falcon

Apr 14, 2011

To date, Iridium NEXT is the largest commercial space launch contract with any single entity. All total, the contract is worth an estimated $492M. Iridium Communications Inc. signed into a deal with Space ...

SpaceX signs 1st customer for big new rocket

May 29, 2012

(AP) — Space Exploration Technologies says it has signed its first commercial contract for a new rocket that will be more powerful than the one that launched the company's Dragon capsule to the International Space Station ...

ASU Satellite Missing

Dec 23, 2004

Boeing Co. Delta IV heavy-lift rocket failed to put a communications satellite, that was developed by Arizona State University, in the orbit it was supposed to. Boeing said the failure was apparently caused by a shorter-than-planned ...

Recommended for you

NASA launches RapidScat wind watcher to Space Station

5 hours ago

A new NASA mission that will boost global monitoring of ocean winds for improved weather forecasting and climate studies is among about 5,000 pounds (2,270 kilograms) of NASA science investigations and cargo ...

User comments : 0