SpaceX is 'standing down' from its planned launch of another batch of Starlink satellites on Friday due to "severe weather in the recovery area."
The launch was going to add 60 more internet-beaming satellites to the company's mega-constellation to make up for a previous scrubbed attempt on Thursday that would have streamed live on SpaceX's YouTube channel when the launch window opened.
Standing down from tomorrow’s launch of Starlink due to severe weather in the recovery area, which is likely to persist for a couple days. Will announce a new target launch date once confirmed— SpaceX (@SpaceX) September 18, 2020
UPDATE Sept. 18, 1:00 PM EDT: SpaceX 'standing down' from today's launch due to 'severe weather'
SpaceX canceled its planned launch of 60 additional Starlink satellites on Friday due to severe weather forecast in the recovery area — presumably referring to the area in the Atlantic Ocean where the drone ships would have recovered the returning first-stage Falcon 9 rocket.
"Standing down from tomorrow's launch of Starlink due to severe weather in the recovery area, which is likely to persist for a couple days," read a tweet from SpaceX. "Will announce a new target launch date once confirmed."
While this is a downer for space enthusiasts looking to see yet another successful launch from SpaceX, we can take solace in the fact that the launch will go forward soon — but not today.
UPDATE Sept. 17, 2:14 PM EDT: SpaceX scrubs Thursday launch, cites 'recovery issue'
SpaceX has confirmed there will be no Falcon 9 launch today, and cited a "recovery issue" — probably linked to the company's plans to retrieve the first stage (payload) fairing.
However, there is another launch window tomorrow, Sept. 18, at 1:57 PM EDT — if weather permits. There is a 30% chance of favorable conditions — not ideal for launch — according to the 45th Weather Squadron at Cape Canaveral, reports Space Flight Now.
SpaceX launching 60 additional starlink satellites
Based in California, SpaceX aimed to lift 60 more Starlink internet satellites on its tried-and-true Falcon 9 rocket from Kennedy Space Center's Pad 39A in Florida, with a launch window opening at 2:19 PM EDT. However, due to "recovery issues," it aborted the mission and will make another attempt on Friday.
The company is deploying LEO-based satellites to create a new high-speed internet network so people underserved by local internet infrastructures can finally log on via the Starlink mega-constellation.
SpaceX de-orbiting test batch of 60 Starlink satellites
Perhaps surprisingly to many, SpaceX is actually de-orbiting the early batch of 60 satellites launched in May 2019. This is happening because SpaceX intended for them to be a test series, reports Space.com. As of writing, 26 of the initial satellites have entered a deorbit sequence (and burned up), with eight in decaying orbits and 26 still fully operational.
Future users of the Starlink mega-constellation will be able to connect with a small, laptop-sized terminal. SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk has said roughly 500 and 800 satellites must launch before the internet service can go live.
Starlink broadband internet public beta-testing in 2020
So far, SpaceX has launched more than 700 Starlink satellites in a bid to complete its early-stage constellation of 1,440 spacecraft. The company has already started speed-testing its fleet of satellites, and early results of test data is promising.
Engineers have said the service should provide download speeds so fast that it'll allow users to stream several HD movies at once, according to the data so far.
The Starlink broadband internet has entered private beta-testing, and will be open for public beta-testing later this year, according to company representatives, reports Space.com.
SpaceX continues record-breaking Falcon 9 launches
Today's planned launch would have been the 94th flight for SpaceX's two-stage Falcon 9 rocket. If Friday's lifttoff goes well, it will move forward with the B1058 Falcon 9 — which has completed two flights. In the past, the same rocket launched two NASA astronauts to the space station, along with a communications satellite for the military of South Korea.
It's now common for SpaceX to fly veteran boosters, as the company further proves the Falcon 9's reliability. If all goes well today, it will mark the second time one of SpaceX's boosters will shoot for a launch and land for a sixth time.
New drone ship awaits Falcon 9, stole 'most-flown' title
The Falcon 9 recently earned the title of most-flown American rocket earlier in 2020 — a status taken from rival company United Launch Alliance, and its Atlas V rocket.
As of writing, SpaceX has landed its first-stage boosters a total of 60 times. With two fully-functional drone ship landing platforms — "Just Read the Instructions" and "Of Course I Still Love You" — in Florida, the company has a greater technical capacity for launching or landing rockets. Today, "Just Read the Instructions" is stationed in the recovery zone, waiting for a chance to catch the B1051 Falcon 9 rocket after a controlled descent from space.