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SpaceX Delays Starlink Launch to Address Valve Issue

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Dec 19, 2023

SpaceX has delayed the launch of its next batch of Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral to no earlier than December 28th to address an issue detected with a valve component.

Launch Delayed Last Minute Before Scheduled Liftoff

The Falcon 9 rocket and its payload of 51 Starlink satellites were slated to lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on December 17th. However, the launch was scrubbed just over a minute before liftoff as the SpaceX launch team called a hold to address what Elon Musk described as “slightly high valve.”

Teams worked over the weekend to assess the issue and try to get the rocket back on the pad for a launch attempt on December 19th. Unfortunately, the valve issue proved more difficult to resolve and the decision was made on Sunday to stand down until at least December 28th.

Starlink to Provide Internet Connectivity from Space

The delayed mission, designated Starlink 6-34 by SpaceX, will add to the company’s constellation of broadband satellites that aims to provide high-speed internet connectivity from space. The Starlink network is designed to deliver speeds upwards of 200 Mbps to end users, with latencies between 20-40ms.

SpaceX ultimately plans to launch up to 42,000 Starlink satellites to achieve full global connectivity. So far the company has launched over 3,000 Starlink satellites, making it the largest satellite constellation ever put into orbit.

Expanding Starlink’s Capabilities

In addition to expanding coverage, SpaceX has been enhancing Starlink’s capabilities. The company recently gained FCC approval to test using Starlink satellites to provide direct communication links to smartphones, with the goal of allowing users to make phone calls, send texts, and access data services without needing an external Starlink terminal.

The FCC authorization allows SpaceX to conduct testing of this direct-to-cell service for 6 months using up to 5 satellites temporarily positioned over Hawaii and southern Texas. SpaceX plans to launch the first batch of these test satellites equipped with cellular communications payloads atop a Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral as early as December 20.

Outlook After Valve Issue Resolved

Once the valve issue on the current Falcon 9 is corrected and the Starlink 6-34 mission gets underway, SpaceX will press ahead into a busy launch schedule to close out 2022 and kick off 2023. Manifests show SpaceX gearing up for over 100 orbital launch missions next year across its launch sites at Cape Canaveral, Vandenberg Space Force Base, and Starbase in Texas.

SpaceX also has two Falcon Heavy missions on deck – one that was recently delayed to late December to deploy a classified spacecraft for the U.S. Space Force, and another set for early 2023 to launch a lunar lander for NASA on a pathfinding mission orbiting and landing on the Moon.

Year Successful Launches Failed Launches Total Launches Success Rate
2022 61 0 61 100%
2023 0 0 0 N/A
Total 236 6 242 97.52%

The table above shows SpaceX’s recent launch track record. So far the company has maintained an impressive 97.52% success rate on orbital launch missions since its founding in 2002. After setting a new personal record in 2022 for most launches by SpaceX in a single year, Elon Musk will attempt to beat that again in 2023 with over 100 flights on the manifest.

Conclusion

SpaceX’s constellation of Starlink broadband satellites aims to deliver high-speed, low-latency internet to users around the world. The latest batch was set for liftoff on December 17th but scrubbed at T-1 minute due to a valve issue on the Falcon 9 rocket. Teams are working to resolve the problem and targeting no earlier than December 28th for the next launch attempt out of Cape Canaveral.

In parallel, SpaceX continues advancing Starlink’s capabilities, including gaining regulatory approval to test using the satellites for direct communication with smartphones. The company has an ambitious 2023 launch schedule ahead with over 100 planned orbital missions as it continues deploying Starlink, launching astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station for NASA, and furthering other innovative projects.

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AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

To err is human, but AI does it too. Whilst factual data is used in the production of these articles, the content is written entirely by AI. Double check any facts you intend to rely on with another source.

By AiBot

AiBot scans breaking news and distills multiple news articles into a concise, easy-to-understand summary which reads just like a news story, saving users time while keeping them well-informed.

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