Falcon Heavy will not Fly Again This Year: Updated

9/19/2018 Update: Elon said nothing on Monday about this, and the reporters at the event didn’t ask any questions about it (but did do the typical and annoying waste-everyone’s-time-repeating-the-same-questions-just-to-get-attention crap).

Steve Pietrobon, PhD, the author of both of the documents referenced earlier (see below), emailed me back shorty after the #dearMoon announcement broadcast and kindly set me straight. They are not at all official and his company is not in any way part of the launches of SpaceX rockets. He is a guy like me who likes to keep track of this stuff (though he seems to do a better job of it than I do).

Quoth he…

I get a lot my launch dates from the NASASpaceflight.com forum. Here’s the
source for STP-2 launch in March 2019.

https://www.teslarati.com/spacex-second-usaf-mission-december-gps-satellite-launch-target/

“Currently NET March 2019 as well, SpaceX’s third dedicated USAF launch – STP-2
on Falcon Heavy – is being set up primarily to help the USAF certify SpaceX’s
newest heavy-lift rocket for national security launches.”

For Arabsat 6A, Spacenews say its launching in the December 2018-January 2019
timeframe.

https://spacenews.com/arabsat-falcon-heavy-mission-slated-for-december-january-timeframe/

Elon Musk announced at the BFR press conference a few hours ago that the Dragon
2 DM-1 will be launching in December. Since Dragon 2 and Falcon Heavy both use
Pad 39A, it is unlikely that both of these important missions will be launching
at the same time. So that would put Arabsat 6A to January 2019 at the earliest.

My expectation though is that since the USAF has been waiting so long for STP-2
(original launch date was December 2012.
https://spaceflightnow.com/2018/03/01/rideshare-mission-for-u-s-military-confirmed-as-second-falcon-heavy-launch/
) that Arabsat 6A will likely be delayed further to after March 2019. The
Spacenews article is also old (June 2018), when the STP-2 launch was scheduled
to be before Arabsat 6A.

In other words, the manifests I used were built based on news articles that I should not have missed. Also, the conclusions in them are not solid and their predictions don’t seem to be fully confirmed officially by the major players.

Just the same, Wikipedia was right in paying attention to Steve’s afore referenced launch manifests and I confidently stand by my prediction in the title of this article on the following grounds…launch pad availability, Falcon Heavy risks, and CCDev priorities.

When Falcon Heavy debuted in spectacular fashion back in February, Elon Musk himself had serious doubts, saying in effect that if the monster gets far enough away from the pad not to do serious damage when it explodes, he would call that a win. The market for Falcon Heavy is seen by a lot of folks (not me) as being a lot less important to the overall scheme of things than was originally envisioned.

Commercial Crew, however, is absolutely critical to Space Station operations and too much (IMO undeserved) industry doubt still exists for the program.  Crew Dragon must not only beat Boeing to space for one-up-man-ship reasons, but any more delays to either or both programs risks a gap in crew rotations aboard the ISS…serious stuff. In light of these factors, no risk of pad damage to 39A is acceptable .

FH is currently still a risky one-off at this point. The FH launch was a great first, and I look forward to its bright future, but has no serious competitors pressing its schedule and has no pressing, industry-critical launches currently planned beyond STP-2.

I think that these things, combined with the typical and natural schedule creep that always exists with launch facility planning, will result in both FH launches following at least the un-crewed first flight of Crew Dragon, which will end up, sadly, definitely, pushing them both to 2019.

——————————————————————————————————————————-

9/16/2018

I might be the first one to break this news. I might end up sticking my foot in my mouth.

According to two recently released flight manifests, one purporting to be a list of U.S. Military and one purporting to be a list of commercial launches, both of the planned launches of the Falcon Heavy that were planned for 2018 now have launch dates set for early 2019.

According to a document on Wikipedia that was sourced on August 6th and last updated today, the Air Force STP-2 “Ride Share” demonstration launch is currently on schedule for March 2019.

According to a seperate Wikipedia article and a manifest document of commercial flights that was sourced September 13th and last updated today, the Arabsat 6A launch is listed for sometime in the 1st quarter of 2019.

Neither of these documents list any remaining FH flights in 2018. They come from a company called Small World Communications in Australia. The source is not an official representation of SpaceX, the U.S. Air Force, or Arabsat. I have not seen any official announcements or news releases from any of those three. I have emailed Small World Communications for more information. I am guessing that they do comm relays of telemetry for flights.

I know that Elon will probably say something tonight about it. I don’t have a way to PM him.

I’ll release this blog article and tag him and see if he responds.

 

 

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~ by Bill Housley on September 17, 2018.

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