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July 25, 2024

SpaceX Falcon 9 Launch Delayed Again from California Base, Now Targeting Friday Evening Liftoff

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Jan 20, 2024

SpaceX has delayed the next launch of its Falcon 9 rocket carrying a batch of Starlink internet satellites yet again, this time until Friday evening, January 20th. The mission will lift off from Space Launch Complex 4E (SLC-4E) at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California.

Reasons For Latest Delay

The launch was originally slated for Thursday night, then got pushed to Friday night before getting delayed again until Sunday morning. The official reason given by SpaceX for the latest delay was to allow more time for pre-launch checkouts.

High winds in the upper atmosphere may also be a factor, as the Falcon 9 rocket would fly through such winds on its way to orbit which could force it off course. Weather is currently 80% favorable for the new Friday evening target launch time according to the latest forecast.

This will be the third launch attempt of this particular mission named “Starlink Group 7-11”. The Falcon 9 first stage set to fly is tail number B1063 on its seventh flight to space and back.

Overview of Starlink Mission

The goal of the Starlink Group 7-11 mission is to deliver another batch of SpaceX’s own Starlink internet satellites to orbit. This will grow the existing constellation which already numbers over 3,000 satellites launched to date.

SpaceX intends to use this satellite constellation to provide high-speed broadband internet access to customers around the world, especially those in remote and rural areas not well served by traditional ground-based communications infrastructure.

Customers access the network using small user terminals installed at their home or business to link to the satellites passing overhead. Beta testing of the Starlink service is already underway in certain regions.

The Falcon 9 rocket will be carrying 52 Starlink satellites for this mission. After a successful launch, the satellites will be deployed in a 290 x 340 km orbit inclined 53.2 degrees to the equator.

They will then use their onboard ion thrusters to raise their altitude to the 550 km operational orbit for the broadband internet constellation.

Launch Delay Impacts

While frustrating, such delays are not uncommon in the launch business given the complexity of these vehicles and operations. The good news is that the Falcon 9 rocket and payload remain healthy and SpaceX feels confident of just a brief postponement.

The delay will likely not impact the downstream launch manifest substantially. The next SpaceX mission – the AX-3 commercial crew rotation flight to the International Space Station launching from Florida – remains on track for a Wednesday morning liftoff.

Should this Starlink mission suffer any additional delays though, it could force the next Vandenberg launch to be postponed depending how much rework is needed. That flight is slated to launch in early February with NASA’s SWOT ocean observation satellite onboard.

What To Expect on Launch Day

Whenever Falcon 9 lifts off, it puts on an impressive show. The rocket will ignite its nine Merlin main engines at T-3 seconds, generating 1.7 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.

The booster will propel Starlink Group 7-11 straight upward for a minute or two, accelerating rapidly to over 3,500 mph and past the speed of sound. Viewers can expect to hear sonic booms rolling across the launch viewing sites.

Just over 2.5 minutes into flight, the first stage will shut down and separate, headed back toward Landing Zone 4 situated a few miles south of the launch pad. The Falcon 9 upper stage continues driving into orbit with the Starlink stack.

Approximately 62 minutes after liftoff, SpaceX will begin deploying the satellites one at a time. Onboard cameras should provide spectacular live views as the Starlinks slowly tumble away from the rocket, unfurl their solar arrays, and glint in the sunlight.

Meanwhile, the Falcon 9 booster will target a pinpoint propulsive vertical landing back at LZ-4 to achieve the milestone of its seventh successful flight and recovery.

What Comes Next

Once this launch is finally checked off, SpaceX has an exceptionally busy manifest in the weeks and months ahead. The aforementioned AX-3 astronaut flight to the ISS comes first from Kennedy Space Center.

Beyond that are commercial resupply launches, additional Starlink missions, Space Test Program payloads for the Defense Department, the first tests of the next-generation Starship vehicle, and more.

SpaceX continues to dominate the commercial launch industry. While fans eagerly await the highly delayed California Starlink launch to actually get off the ground, the company just keeps pushing forward developing and flying its innovative rockets and spacecraft systems.

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Launch Attempt Date / Time Target Outcome
1 Jan 19 6:12pm PST Scrubbed
2 Jan 20 6:12pm PST Delayed
3 Jan 22 8:00am PST Delayed
4 Jan 27 6:12pm PST TBD
AiBot

AiBot

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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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