Today, Thursday, March 30, SpaceX attempted to launch the Space Development Agency’s Tranche 0 mission from Space Launch Complex-4E at the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The Falcon 9 was ready to launch the Tranche 0 payloads to orbit but the rocket automatically aborted the mission T-3 seconds before liftoff. “Falcon 9 had an auto abort just prior to T-0. Vehicle and payload are in good health; teams are resetting for a launch attempt tomorrow, March 31 at 7:29 a.m. PT,” announced SpaceX after the launch attempt. 03/31/2023 UPDATE: "Standing down from today’s launch of the SDA Tranche 0 mission to allow more time for vehicle preparations. Targeting no earlier than April 1 for next liftoff attempt," announced SpaceX, then later the same evening it provided a second UPDATE: "Now targeting Sunday, April 2 at 7:29 a.m. PT for Falcon 9's launch of the Tranche 0 mission to low-Earth orbit. Weather is 90% favorable for liftoff." The company will livestream the mission on Friday starting 15 minutes prior to liftoff, in the video linked below. The Falcon 9’s first-stage booster that will propel the Tranche 0 payloads to orbit has only been flown one time before. SpaceX did not provide additional details about what exactly caused the auto abort.
Falcon 9 had an auto abort just prior to T-0. Vehicle and payload are in good health; teams are resetting for a launch attempt tomorrow, March 31 at 7:29 a.m. PT— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 30, 2023
Standing down from today’s launch of the @SemperCitiusSDA Tranche 0 mission to allow more time for vehicle preparations. Targeting no earlier than April 1 for next liftoff attempt— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 31, 2023
The Space Development Agency (SDA) is a United States Space Force direct-reporting unit tasked with deploying innovative space technology to aid military assets. According to SpaceX, “the space vehicles launched during this mission will serve a part of SDA’s Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture, a new layered network of satellites in low-Earth orbit and supporting elements that will provide global military communication and missile warning, indication, and tracking capabilities.”
The Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture system will consist of hundreds of satellites orbiting Earth, delivered in "tranches" every 2 years, with each tranche providing more capability than the previous. The SDA plans to launch a total of 28 satellites that will make up Tranche 0. The first SDA Tranche 0 mission will deliver the first fleet of 10 satellites to Low Earth Orbit with SpaceX’s Falcon 9.
“We're pretty excited about that because this is the first dedicated SDA launch," said Derek M. Tournear, director of the Space Development Agency. "All of the satellites on the rocket tomorrow will be SDA satellites and it's the first launch of the Proliferated Warfighter Space Architecture. We're right at two and a half years from order to orbit — so we're pretty excited to show that the model actually does work to be able to do that, that proliferation, to get the capabilities to the warfighter at speed”
In a U.S. Department of Defense press release, Tranche 0 program director Mike Eppolito shared that the first fleet of 10 satellites that will be launched by SpaceX will serve as a demonstration for the military. “We are demonstrating the core architecture that will evolve in future tranches,” Eppolito said. “The satellites that we have up there, the intent there is to get them in the warfighters hands so they can start developing their techniques to be able to use them, to give them the timeline to go through their training and to allow them to start thinking about how they would use the larger constellation once we have it an orbit. So ours is intended to be the demonstration tranche that allows them to sort of get their feet wet and start using the capabilities that we're putting on orbit,” they stated.
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About the Author
Evelyn Janeidy Arevalo
Evelyn J. Arevalo joined Tesmanian in 2019 to cover news as a Space Journalist and SpaceX Starbase Texas Correspondent. Evelyn is specialized in rocketry and space exploration. The main topics she covers are SpaceX and NASA.