SpaceX delays the launch of Starlink until Sunday – Spaceflight Now

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket sits upright on Platform 39A on Friday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Credit: Space Flight Now

SpaceX removed the planned launch from the Kennedy Space Center of a Falcon 9 rocket on Friday with the company’s next 57 Starlink Internet satellites and a pair of commercial Earth-imaging surveillance satellites. Authorities did not immediately confirm a new launch date, but SpaceX is expected to try again on Sunday.

Launch teams at NASA Kennedy Space Center in Florida were counting down for the takeoff of a 229-foot (70-meter) Falcon 9 rocket at 4:18 pm EDT (2018 GMT) on Friday from Platform 39A at Kennedy Space Center, but Authorities said the launch would be postponed a few hours before the scheduled takeoff time.

In a tweet, SpaceX said it was “pulling out of today’s Starlink mission.” The company said its “team needed additional time for pre-launch payments, but Falcon 9 and the satellites are healthy.”

SpaceX said it will announce a new launch target date once confirmed by the U.S. Space Force Eastern Range, which provides launch support for all space missions taking off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the Kennedy Space Center.

The schedule slip sets the stage for two Falcon 9 launches from different platforms in Cape Canaveral in the coming days.

SpaceX is preparing to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from Platform 40 at Cape Canaveral on Tuesday at 3:55 pm EDT (1955 GMT) with the upcoming U.S. Army GPS navigation satellite.

In a conference call with reporters on Friday to discuss the launch of the GPS, a SpaceX official said the company was still evaluating when the Falcon 9 rocket with Starlink broadband satellites and BlackSky Earth image payloads could be ready to fly.

An updated airspace warning notice posted on a Federal Aviation Administration website last Friday suggested that SpaceX might try again to launch the Starlink / BlackSky carpool mission on Sunday.

If the Starlink launch is ready to start in a few days, SpaceX could choose to continue that mission before the GPS launch on Tuesday. The notice to pilots released on Friday suggests that SpaceX aims to do just that.

In the event of a further delay, managers are expected to prioritize the launch of the GPS on Tuesday because the mission is for the US Space Force, a key client for SpaceX. SpaceX did not reveal the reason for the launch delay on Friday, but the problem takes more than a few days to resolve, the Starlink launch could be delayed until after the GPS launch.

Lee Rosen, vice president of operations and customer integration for SpaceX, said Friday that SpaceX could make two launches from different platforms in Cape Canaveral in a relatively short time. He said SpaceX could go ahead with another Falcon 9 release after a review of data from the previous mission, which he says generally takes half a day to a day to complete.

Launch companies generally examine the flight data of all launches to look for nearby calls or any other unusual behavior that may affect future missions.

Brig. General Doug Schiess, commander of the 45th Space Wing, said the Eastern Range could also support two Falcon 9 launches 24 hours apart, if necessary.

Send an email to the author.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @ StephenClark1.