One Falcon 9 rocket that was shuttling Starlink satellites into orbit for SpaceX has encountered problems before launch on Sunday night. The launch was aborted just 90 seconds away from taking off.
The veteran rocket was scheduled to take 60 new Starlink satellites to orbit, helping the company establish its fleet of internet-providing orbiters. Still, not everything went according to plan and the launch was postponed to later today, March 1st.
“Overall, the vehicle and payload are healthy and remain in good health,” SpaceX production supervisor Andy Tran explained during live launch commentary. “The next launch opportunity is tomorrow, March 1, at 8:15 Eastern time.”
Safety systems aboard the Falcon 9 rocket activated just 90 seconds before the scheduled launch at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, Pad 39A. While nothing went really wrong, which would probably involve an explosion, this event doesn’t bode very well for SpaceX.
This was the latest in a series of delays for this particular mission (Starlink 17). It was originally slated for earlier in February but delayed due to poor weather and hardware issues. There are already around 1,000 Starlink satellites in orbit, which will work together to deliver high-speed internet coverage around the world, particularly to remote areas.
Today’s launch will be SpaceX’s 20th Starlink mission, and their sixth launch of 2021. The same rocket will be used as yesterday, a tried and tested veteran whose first-stage booster has launched off seven times to date — five times for Starlink, and once each to launch the Iridium-8 and Telstar 18 Vantage satellites.
If everything goes well this time, the rocket will touch back down on the drone ship “Of Course I Still Love You” in the Atlantic Ocean. SpaceX’s current Block 5 Falcon 9 rockets are designed to fly 10 missions before replacement — so its first-stage booster is nearing the end of its service life.
According to the U.S. Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron, there is a 70% chance of good weather for a SpaceX launch on Monday night. Hopefully that forecast proves to be right so we can watch the rocket blast off on SpaceX’s live stream.