Coast Guard starts investigation of Royal Caribbean ship that caused SpaceX launch delay

SpaceX launched its Falcon 9 rocket with an Italian satellite on board Monday

After four attempts, including one delayed because of a cruise ship, a SpaceX rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station Monday evening.

The Falcon 9 rocket carried an Italian satellite into orbit. It was SpaceX’s fifth attempt at launch.

Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas was responsible for Sunday evening’s scrub of the SpaceX launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, according to News 6 partner Florida Today.

The ship veered into the exclusion zone along a Falcon 9 rocket’s flightpath Sunday evening, forcing SpaceX to stand down from the mission and prepare for a 24-hour turnaround.

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In a statement issued Monday, U.S. Coast Guard spokesman David Micallef said: “We can confirm the cruise ship was Harmony of the Seas. The Coast Guard is actively investigating Sunday’s cruise ship incursion and postponement of the SpaceX launch.”

“Our primary concern is the safety of mariners at sea, and we will continue to work with our federal, state and local port partners to ensure safe and navigable waterways,” Micallef added.

A Royal Caribbean spokeswoman did not respond as of Monday afternoon to a request from FLORIDA TODAY for comment.

Port Canaveral spokesman Steve Linden said the port did not have any comment, because “it was an offshore incident outside of port jurisdiction,” as the ship already had left the port, and the matter is being investigated by the Coast Guard.

Launch engineers, counting down to a 6:11 p.m. EST Sunday liftoff from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, waited as long as possible for the Coast Guard to resolve the situation, but ultimately ran out of time to meet the instantaneous window’s deadline.

It marked the fourth delay for the mission that was previously scrubbed due to inclement weather around Launch Complex 40.

Teams then targeted 6:11 p.m. Monday for the fifth attempt at launching an Italian Space Agency Earth observation satellite.

Sunday’s launch was slated to fly toward the southeast, a corridor that went unused from 1960 to 2020.

New technologies have enabled SpaceX to resume north-to-south polar launches from Florida, which fly almost parallel to the coast, but also mean pilots and mariners need to be on the lookout for different exclusion zones.

Hazard areas, designed to mitigate risks to people in the event of a rocket failure, are issued before every mission.

Earlier in January, Space Launch Delta 45 issued a statement and warned pilots and mariners that there would be upwards of five polar launches in January alone. Sunday’s scheduled launch marked the fourth.

“The 2022 launch pace is going to be exceptionally busy with up to five polar, and seven total launches, projected for the month of January alone,” Space Force Maj. Jonathan Szul said in a statement. “Due to the unique southerly trajectories, there will be a larger potential impact to air and sea traffic along the southeast coast of Florida.”

“We ask that all pilots and mariners double-check their Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) and Notices to Mariners (NOTMAR) to ensure they are fully aware of all pending launch activities in this historic month on the Space Coast,” Szul said.

Sunday’s scrub also pushed a SpaceX mission originally slated for Monday: Yet another Falcon 9 rocket at Kennedy Space Center’s pad 39A will have to wait a little longer for its task of launching the company’s 37th batch of Starlink internet satellites.