Last weekend Hawthorne, Calif.-based Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) made three attempts to launch six next-generation telecommunications satellites (mission OG2) for customer ORBCOMM, but two technical issues and an uncooperative Mother Nature combined to keep the company’s Falcon-9 v1.1 rocket grounded at Space Launch Complex-40, and it will stay grounded for the time being (more on that later). Not only that, but a dramatic outcry from both the media and general public added insult to injury after the company announced they would not provide updates or a streaming webcast of the second launch attempt, and earlier this week SpaceX President and COO Gwynne Shotwell sat down with the to shed some light on a frustratingly long weekend at the Cape Canaveral launch site in Florida.
The controversial decision to not broadcast their second launch attempt was, according to Shotwell and despite what some in the spaceflight community may think, never intended to eliminate live streaming coverage of the company’s launch attempts. Quite the opposite actually.
“We’re not changing our plan (for webcasting), but we were moving away from the webcast format that we had before to get to a kind of higher-tech feel, and we were just going to transition away (from the old format), ” said Shotwell. “Saturday launch, even though we attempted it the weather did not look like we would be able to fly, and so we thought we could take that one day to transition (the webcast format).”
“Public opinion was very strong on that point, about the webcast, people like us to live stream, so on Sunday we were setting up to live stream, ” added Shotwell. “It’s not quite up to production level yet, but we were going to do something.”
So, SpaceX made a bad call when deciding to transition their webcast format ON a launch day, but secrecy or an effort to blackout the public was never the intention (as SpaceX has been accused of by some). The decision to not live stream a webcast of Saturday’s launch attempt was made because the company expected a weather scrub anyway and wanted to use the opportunity to transition their webcast to a more updated version. Nonetheless, the decision also eliminated any webcast at all for Saturday’s launch attempt, and hopefully SpaceX has learned from the experience.
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