SpaceX will not attempt a Falcon 9 rocket launch from Kennedy Space Center as planned on Friday due to inclement weather conditions in the booster’s Atlantic Ocean recovery zone.
“Standing down from launch of Starlink due to severe weather in the recovery area, which is likely to persist for a couple days,” the company said late Thursday. “Will announce a new target launch date once confirmed.”
Had Falcon 9 launched as planned at 1:57 p.m., the rocket’s first stage would have targeted an automated drone ship landing in the Atlantic about eight minutes after liftoff. But just like weather has to be ideal for liftoff from pad 39A, so too do at-sea conditions for the booster, which precisely targets the “Just Read the Instructions” ship hundreds of miles off the East Coast.
CEO Elon Musk on Thursday night chimed in on the delay and noted that moving forward, thrusters on the drone ship would be upgraded to help it deal with less-than-ideal conditions. That could help the ship stay in one precise location more easily, which is difficult to do in rough seas.
“Current was too strong for drone ship to hold station,” Musk said via Twitter. “Thrusters to be upgraded for future missions.”
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket remains on Pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020. SpaceX says launch was delayed due to a recovery issue. The rocket is carrying the company’s 13th batch of Starlink satellites.
Packed into the rocket’s payload fairing are 60 Starlink internet satellites, part of the company’s efforts to deliver broadband connectivity from low-Earth orbit. This will mark the constellation’s 13th mission and, if successful, push its size to about 750 satellites.
The booster designated this mission previously flew twice: first with astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley in a Crew Dragon capsule on May 30, then again on July 20 with ANASIS-II, a South Korean military satellite. After landing, it will return to Port Canaveral on the drone ship for checkouts and refurbishment before flying again.
United Launch Alliance is also targeting before the end of the month for the launch of its Delta IV Heavy rocket, a secretive mission from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station that’s been scrubbed twice due to technical issues. Teams are now targeting between 12:01 a.m. and 1:35 a.m. next Saturday for liftoff from Launch Complex 37 with the National Reconnaissance Office satellite.