SpaceX Calls Off Starlink Launch Due To Weather, Reschedules For June 14

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By Lydia Amazouz Published on June 14, 2024 08:00
SpaceX Calls Off Starlink Launch Due To Weather, Reschedules For June 14

SpaceX's attempt to launch 22 Starlink satellites was thwarted by unfavorable weather conditions, leading to a last-minute cancellation.

The mission, originally set to lift off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, has been rescheduled for today, June 14. This delay underscores the challenges faced in space operations and highlights SpaceX's adaptability in rescheduling and preparing for subsequent launches.

Launch Delay Due To Weather

SpaceX's attempt to launch a Falcon 9 rocket carrying 22 Starlink satellites from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station was called off minutes before liftoff on June 13 due to unfavorable weather conditions. The launch was initially postponed multiple times throughout the day, with the final cancellation occurring at 8:22 p.m. EDT.

The decision to scrub the launch was influenced by the Space Force's 45th Weather Squadron, which reported only a 25% chance of favorable weather due to the presence of anvil clouds, cumulus clouds, and surface electric fields. This postponement came after a similar delay the previous day, as thick cloud cover and showers shrouded the Cape.

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Dr. Mary Barsony, the lead astronomer, explained, "The weather conditions at Cape Canaveral were less than ideal, with significant cloud cover and the threat of lightning. We had to prioritize safety and the integrity of the mission, leading to the difficult decision to call off the launch."

New Launch Schedule And Preparations

The new target liftoff time is set for 4:35 p.m. EDT on Friday, June 14. SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket will deploy the 22 Starlink internet satellites, which are packed inside the fairing atop the 230-foot rocket.

The first-stage booster, marking its 16th flight, is expected to land on the drone ship "Just Read the Instructions" in the Atlantic Ocean approximately 8.5 minutes after liftoff. Previous missions for this booster include the SES-22, ispace's HAKUTO-R MISSION 1, Amazonas-6, CRS-27, Bandwagon-1, and 10 Starlink missions.

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SpaceX's ground teams are meticulously preparing for the new launch attempt, ensuring that all systems are checked and ready to go. The launch window spans four hours, providing some flexibility in timing to account for any further weather delays. The company has emphasized the importance of this launch for the continued expansion of the Starlink constellation, which aims to provide global broadband internet coverage.

SpaceX's High-Frequency Launches

SpaceX has maintained a high launch frequency in 2024, with this mission set to be the 45th orbital launch of the year from Florida's Space Coast. This pace is on track to surpass the previous year's record of 72 launches. Of the 60 orbital missions conducted by SpaceX in 2024, 43 have been dedicated to building out the Starlink megaconstellation, which currently consists of nearly 6,100 operational satellites. This relentless launch schedule underscores SpaceX's commitment to rapidly deploying its satellite network to achieve widespread internet coverage.

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The frequent launches not only demonstrate SpaceX's operational capabilities but also its ability to innovate and improve upon each mission. The reusability of the Falcon 9's first stage, which has now become a routine part of SpaceX's operations, significantly reduces the cost and time associated with launching new satellites. This has enabled SpaceX to maintain a high cadence of launches, keeping pace with its ambitious deployment goals.

Technical And Operational Details

The launch window for the rescheduled mission opens at 4:35 p.m. EDT and spans four hours. The Falcon 9's first stage will return to Earth for a landing on the drone ship, while the upper stage will continue to carry the 22 Starlink satellites to low Earth orbit, deploying them approximately 53 minutes after liftoff. SpaceX plans to stream the launch live via its account on X (formerly Twitter), beginning about five minutes before liftoff.

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The detailed timeline of the launch includes the commencement of second-stage liquid oxygen loading at T-minus 16 minutes, followed by the chilling of the Falcon 9's engines at T-minus 7 minutes. Final prelaunch checks will be conducted at T-minus 1 minute, with the propellant tanks pressurized to flight pressure. The launch director will give the final go for launch at T-minus 45 seconds, leading to the engine ignition sequence at T-minus 3 seconds and liftoff at T-minus 0 seconds.

Challenges And Future Prospects

The persistent weather challenges at Cape Canaveral underscore the difficulties of scheduling and executing space missions. Despite these setbacks, SpaceX's ability to rapidly reschedule and prepare for subsequent launch attempts highlights the company's operational resilience and technological proficiency. As SpaceX continues to expand the Starlink network, the high frequency of launches is expected to maintain momentum, supporting the goal of global broadband internet coverage.

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The upcoming launch will not only advance the Starlink project but also contribute to the broader understanding of space operations and satellite deployment. With each successful mission, SpaceX pushes the boundaries of what is possible in commercial spaceflight, paving the way for future innovations and explorations. The company's ambitious plans include further enhancing the Starlink network, exploring new opportunities for commercial space travel, and continuing to develop technologies that will support future missions to the Moon, Mars, and beyond.

Dr. Barsony concluded, "Each launch brings us one step closer to achieving our vision of a globally connected world. Despite the challenges we face, our commitment to innovation and excellence remains unwavering." This dedication to overcoming obstacles and pushing the limits of space exploration ensures that SpaceX will continue to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of space travel and satellite technology.

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An editor specializing in astronomy and space industry, passionate about uncovering the mysteries of the universe and the technological advances that propel space exploration.

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