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May 19, 2024

SpaceX Postpones Falcon 9 Launch Again, Aims for Sunday Morning Liftoff

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Jan 20, 2024

SpaceX has delayed the launch of a Falcon 9 rocket carrying Starlink satellites yet again, this time targeting no earlier than Sunday morning, January 22nd, from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The delay comes after multiple postponements this week due to technical issues and weather constraints.

High Winds Force Friday Evening Scrub

The two-stage Falcon 9 rocket was originally scheduled to take off on Thursday evening, January 19th. However, high-level winds led SpaceX to call off that first launch attempt. Teams began configuring for a second try on Friday night, January 20th, but weather again interfered. Forecasters predicted high winds and thick clouds over Vandenberg, leading SpaceX to postpone Friday’s launch try about an hour before the planned 9:56pm PST liftoff time.

Technical Issues Crop Up

In addition to troubling weather, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the company was working through some technical problems with the rocket. Specific details were not provided, but resolving these unspecified glitches likely contributed to the slate of delays.

New Sunday Morning Target

With back-to-back weather scrubs on Thursday and Friday, combined with the need to complete pre-flight technical preparations, SpaceX decided to stand down for Saturday as well. Teams are now aiming to launch the mission at 6:42am PST on Sunday, January 22nd.

The launch window that morning extends for an instantaneous moment, meaning the rocket must lift off at that precise targeted time. If any issues arise leading up to or during Sunday’s countdown, a scrub would force yet another postponement.

Mission Overview

When it does get off the ground, the Falcon 9 will deliver 54 Starlink internet satellites to orbit. SpaceX has already deployed over 3,000 of the flat-paneled satellites to beam broadband around the world as part of its ambitious Starlink constellation.

This mission is dubbed Starlink Group 7-11. It will mark the 13th Falcon 9 launch overall specifically dedicated to growing the Starlink network.

The first stage rocket booster supporting this flight is a veteran flier, having already logged seven missions since 2018. Around 8.5 minutes after liftoff, the spent booster will target a landing on the Of Course I Still Love You drone ship stationed out in the Pacific Ocean.

Lead Up to Delayed Launch Campaign

Back on January 12th, SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted that the company had a busy launch manifest lined up – with liftoffs planned from both its Florida and California launch sites.

“Team is making great progress – aiming for up to 3 rocket launches in the next 48 hours!” Musk posted at the time.

The first of those three missions did in fact take off on January 13th from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, delivering a batch of Starlink satellites into orbit. However, the subsequent two planned flights – out of Florida and Vandenberg – ran into delays.

The Falcon 9 on the Vandenberg pad initially had a launch opportunity on Wednesday, January 18th. But SpaceX decided a few days prior to stand down from that attempt to allow more time for pre-launch checkouts and data reviews.

That set the stage for the first try on Thursday evening, January 19th, which the weather prevented from getting off the ground.

What’s Next After Sunday’s Launch

Looking beyond the now-delayed Vandenberg mission, SpaceX has an even higher-profile Falcon 9 launch on tap next from the Kennedy Space Center. That flight is slated to carry a crew of four private astronauts to the International Space Station for Houston-based company Axiom Space.

The Axiom Mission 3 (Ax-3) is scheduled for liftoff on Wednesday, February 1st, from historic Pad 39A. Commanding the Ax-3 flight will be former NASA astronaut Peggy Whitson. She’ll be joined by Emirati astronaut Sultan Alneyadi making his first spaceflight, along with two paying customers who secured seats through Axiom.

The quartet will spend about 10 days aboard the International Space Station conducting scientific research before returning to Earth.

Conclusion

After a long week of delays from both weather and technical factors, SpaceX now has just one more chance on Sunday morning to get this Falcon 9 off the ground from Vandenberg Space Force Base. The rocket has a 54-minute window opening at 6:42am PST to launch the latest batch of Starlink satellites to orbit.

This will mark SpaceX’s first California liftoff of 2024. A successful flight will help further build out global broadband internet connectivity, a priority for Starlink. It will also pave the way for the company to proceed towards the symbolically-important Ax-3 private astronaut launch coming up in just over a week at the Florida spaceport.

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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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