SpaceX delays next Starlink satellite fleet launch due to rocket 'recovery issue'

SpaceX called off the launch of a new fleet of Starlink internet satellites on Thursday (Feb. 17) due to a “recovery issue” related to the mission’s Falcon 9 rocket.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was scheduled to launch 60 new Starlink satellites for the company’s growing megaconstellation at 2:19 p.m. EDT (1819 GMT) Thursday from Pad 39A of NASA’s historic Kennedy Space Center in Florida. But 15 minutes before the planned liftoff, SpaceX scrubbed the mission. 

“Standing down from today’s Starlink launch due to recovery issue; vehicle and payload remain healthy,” SpaceX representatives announced in a Twitter update. “Next launch opportunity is tomorrow, September 18 at 1:57 p.m. EDT, but we are keeping an eye on the weather.”

You’ll be able to watch the launch live here and on the homepage, courtesy of SpaceX, beginning about 15 minutes before liftoff. You’ll also be able to watch the launch directly via SpaceX here

SpaceX did not specify the nature of the “recovery issue,” but it is presumably related to the company’s plan to recover the first stage of the two-stage Falcon 9 rocket by landing it on the company’s drone ship “Just Read the Instructions” in the Atlantic Ocean. Good weather at the floating landing pad is required to ensure a safe landing. 

Today’s launch had a 30% chance of bad weather affecting a liftoff from Pad 39A, according to the U.S. Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron. The weather forecast grows grim on Friday, with a 70% chance of unfavorable conditions due to thick clouds.

Recovering Falcon 9 rocket boosters is a key part of SpaceX’s plan to reduce the cost of spaceflight while scaling up the company’s launch pace. The Falcon 9 first stage on this mission has already flown twice before this year. It launched SpaceX’s Demo-2 astronaut mission for NASA in May, then flew again in July to deliver the South Korean military satellite ANASIS-II into orbit. 

SpaceX has launched 16 missions so far in 2020, with this flight, called Starlink 12, set to be the 13th Starlink mission since 2019. 

SpaceX has launched more than 700 Starlink satellites into orbit to build a massive constellation designed to provide high-speed broadband internet access around the world. The company initially plans to build a constellation of 1,400 satellites, with a core of between 500 and 800 required for initial service, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has said.


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