UPDATE, 8 PM: A SpaceX launch from California set for Saturday has been delayed, but maybe only to Sunday instead of next Tuesday.
Space writer Jeff Foust is at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' AIAA SPACE conference this week in San Diego, and reported early Tuesday afternoon via Twitter that SpaceX vice president for government sales Adam Harris had told attendees at a launch vehicle update session that the first liftoff of the company's revamped Falcon 9 rocket had been pushed back to Sept. 17.
But Harris tweeted this Tuesday evening:
@jeff_foust To clarify, I said we will attempt to launch within a week.— Adam Harris (@4adamharris) September 10, 2013
NASA's mission database shows only a day's postponement, from Sept. 14 to Sept. 15. A spokeswoman for Vandenberg said she could not immediately confirm the postponement, but for right now it looks like Sunday is the day.
Harris also said a static fire test — in which engines are briefly lit while the rocket is held down on the launch pad — was set for Wednesday, Foust reported.
The launch would be the first for the next-generation Falcon 9-R, designed not only to be more powerful but to have the potential for re-use — that would be the "R" in "9-R" (which Harris incidentally said is pronounced "niner" according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk).
Space News' Irene Klotz talked to Musk late last week and found some nervousness going into the launch. “We’re being, as usual, extremely paranoid about the launch and trying to do everything we possibly can to improve the probability of success, but this is a new version of Falcon 9,” Musk told her.
Among other things, Klotz reports, that means Cassiope's maker, MacDonald Dettwiler and Associates, got a substantial discount on the launch (which answers the question I've been wondering about for a while: Why with the Falcon 9-R's development delays Cassiope wasn't moved to an older F9 to keep on schedule).
The F9-R is also scheduled for three satellite launches this fall from Cape Canaveral, Fla., that will prove the redesign's flightworthiness for NASA before it's used on the next Dragon cargo mission to the International Space Station, set for early next year.