The tenth Falcon 9 lifted off under mostly sunny skies from Cape Canaveral on 14 July, 2014 at 15:15 UTC. The much delayed flight suffered from a number of delays, including some from summer Florida weather, maintenance occurring on the Eastern Range, and two requests by Orbcomm to look into possible satellite anomalies.
SpaceX attempted to conduct a static fire twice, on May 8 & 9 without success, resulting in delays. A static fire was finally completed on the June 13, and the launch was rescheduled for June 20. However, a second stage issue resulted in an abort inside the terminal count, and the launch was postponed a day. Additional issues with a helium leak and a Thrust Vector Control (TVC) actuator issue on the second stage successively pushed the launch back on June 21, 22 & 23. On June 24, SpaceX decided to stand down and begin a new launch campaign, targeting July 14, to let the range conduct maintenance.
Up until the attempt on June 22, SpaceX had streamed each launch opportunity without fail, but on June 22, SpaceX spokesperson Emily Shanklin caused a stir in the spaceflight community by announcing that “launches are becoming more routine” and because of this, “the full webcast isn’t really appropriate anymore”. This lead to a host of criticism towards SpaceX, resulting in COO Gwynne Shotwell appearing on the John Batchelor Show, clarifying that they were not scrapping public coverage, rather transitioning away from the traditional webcast format, with Shotwell commenting “public opinion was pretty strong on that”.
Finally, a static fire was completed on July 11, and launch prepped for July 14. Prior to flight, the launch had a 70% chance of favourable weather conditions, which dropped to 50% as the launch neared. This marked the second flight to be appended with four carbon landing legs near the first stage’s base, following on from the successful splashdown of CRS-3 in the Atlantic. Whereas CRS-3 simply aimed for demonstrate safe return from hypersonic velocity possible, Orbcomm OG2 was targeted towards a specific area to develop the tools required for an accurate landing.
Much noted during the launch was the steep trajectory the rocket took, heading almost directly upwards, reaching 13km altitude, 2.5km downrange 90 seconds into flight; stage separation and ignition of the Merlin Vacuum engine occurred just before the vehicle was at an altitude of 112km, 51km downrange, and at a speed of 1700m/s; this unique trajectory was more of a function of the high 715x650km orbit the satellites were to be placed in. Following second stage shutdown, the six 172km Orbcomm OG2 satellites, the first of a total of 17 for the constellation, separated one by one from the vehicle. Upon success of the final separation, CEO Marc Eisenberg tweeted “6 for 6! Thanks SpaceX! Thanks Moog! We'll take it from here”. He later revealed he was “extremely pleased” with the performance of the Falcon 9 rocket, which managed to place the satellites into an initial orbit that was half a kilometer off prelaunch predictions, and only five one-thousandths of a degree off the target inclination of 47 degrees.
On 22 July, SpaceX, to much anticipation, released video footage taken from the first stage of it returning to Earth, showing the rocket begin the three engine reentry and boostback burn; and then, through the now ice and soot covered camera, the landing burn, leg deploy, and splashdown; which coincided with second stage engine shutdown and end of the webcast. After splashdown, the rocket (as expected) tipped over and broke apart due to the forces involved in a body slam (something Musk called a “kaboom”). The accompanying press release announced that flights 14 & 15 were to have landing legs and would attempt to land on a solid surface.