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Double scrubs: SpaceX, ULA launches both delayed continuing streak

Weather, technical issues cause multiple scrubs this week

Two SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets on two launch pads awaiting liftoff. (Image: SpaceX)
Two SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets on two launch pads awaiting liftoff. (Image: SpaceX) (WKMG 2020)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – Will the Space Coast have a launch this week? It started out with the chance for three launches but as of Thursday morning, after two scrubs in less than 12 hours from ULA and SpaceX, it’s down to one remaining Falcon 9 liftoff.

There are three rockets waiting to launch on Florida’s coast, a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy and two SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rockets.

SpaceX tried Thursday morning to launch the 13th batch of Starlink satellites from Kennedy Space Center with better weather in the forecast but 18 seconds before liftoff the launch was aborted due to a ground sensor reading.

A Falcon 9 rocket was set to liftoff at 9:17 a.m. from launchpad 39A at KSC but it wasn’t meant to be.

The company has not officially announced a new launch time but according to the 45th Space Wing, there is an opportunity Saturday morning between 8:29 and 8:40 a.m. with a 60% chance of favorable weather.

“Standing down from today’s Starlink mission due to an out of family ground system sensor reading; will announce a new target launch date once confirmed on the Range,” the company said in a tweet.

The rocket booster for this mission has previously launched twice, including this summer when SpaceX launched Dragon Endeavour with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station, marking the first human spaceflight from Florida since 2011.

When it does launch, the booster will likely make a fourth or fifth flight at some point. The first stage will land on a droneship called Of Course I Still Love You in the Atlantic Ocean about 8 minutes after liftoff.

Half of the rocket’s nosecone is also recycled hardware. One of Falcon 9′s fairing halves was used during two previous Starlink launches, according to SpaceX.

This launch will send the Starlink satellite constellation near 800 spacecraft in low-Earth orbit. Eventually, the company plans to have a fleet comprised of more than 40,000 satellites providing internet to even remote areas of the world.

Starlink is undergoing beta testing before it will be available to the public, according to SpaceX. Some of the first to benefit from the internet service has been first responders in areas impacted by wildfires in Washington state. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk said in a tweet the company is “prioritizing emergency responders and locations with no Internet connectivity at all” for its first customers.

“The way that emergency responders deployed Starlink is the way, and in fact, representative of the way that Starlink works best in rural or remote areas where connectivity is limited,” Siva Bharadvaj, SpaceX integration and test engineer, said during the countdown Thursday.

SpaceX’s launch attempt Thursday came the morning after a fifth attempt by United Launch Alliance to launch a national security payload on its Delta IV Heavy rocket from Cape Canaveral. The attempt late Wednesday was scrubbed about 7 seconds before liftoff. A new launch date has not been announced as teams are reviewing data from the automatic abort.

On Friday, SpaceX also plans to launch a satellite for the U.S. Air Force and Space Force. A Falcon 9 rocket will blast off carrying the GPS III satellite from Cape Canaveral’s Launch Complex 40.

The 15-minute launch window opens at 9:43 p.m. Friday. Weather is 70% “Go," per the 45th Space Wing.

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