A SpaceX satellite launch from Cape Canaveral was scrubbed Thursday morning because of a sensor reading, according to the Hawthorne-based company.
“Standing down from today’s Starlink mission due to an out of family ground system sensor reading,” the company announced, without immediately going into details. SpaceX noted that it “will announce a new target launch date once confirmed on the Range.”
The launch was aborted just 18 seconds before liftoff.
SpaceX had planned to launch two rockets in as many days, beginning with Thursday’s internet-satellite mission from Florida’s Cape Canaveral.
SpaceX made multiple attempts to launch the 60 Starlink satellites into orbit in mid-September, but the missions were delayed due to bad weather on the East Coast generated by Hurricane Sally.
Thursday’s attempt, which had been scheduled for launch at 6:17 a.m. California time, was to have been the 13th mission to carry Starlink satellites into orbit. Nearly 700 such satellites are already circling the planet, with initial plans calling for as many as 12,000, and the ultimate array topping 40,000.
The Starlink system is designed to provide low-cost internet access in traditionally underserved areas around the world. The service is already being tested by some SpaceX employees, with public beta testing anticipated to begin later this year.
When it eventually does launch, SpaceX will attempt to again recover the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket by landing it on a drone ship floating in the Atlantic Ocean. The rocket being used for the satellite launch has flown two previous missions for SpaceX, including its historic launch earlier this year of two astronauts to the International Space Station.
On Friday, SpaceX is scheduled to launch a U.S. Space Force GPS satellite into orbit. The launch of the GPS III Space Vehicle 04 is scheduled for 6:43 p.m. Friday, but it was unclear if that liftoff will move forward.
The launch was originally planned on Wednesday, but it was delayed to make way for a United Launch Alliance mission carrying a satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office. But Wednesday night’s ULA launch also had to scrubbed at the last minute due to an engine-ignition failure. It was not immediately known when that mission will be rescheduled, and whether it will impact SpaceX’s planned Friday launch.
If successful, Friday’s U.S. Space Force launch will be the third National Security Space Launch by a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. SpaceX will also attempt to recover the first stage of the rocket being used in that mission, continuing the company’s efforts to reuse rockets to slash costs of future missions.
The GPS satellite will be added to an array that already includes 31 satellites orbiting at a rough altitude of 12,550 miles above the Earth.
“Our GPS III team is excited to be here once again,” Col. Edward Byrne, Medium Earth Orbit Space Systems Division chief, said in a statement. “Less than three months ago, we successfully launched GPS III SV03. Since then, the team has successfully delivered the satellite to its final orbit, performed on-orbit testing and delivered the satellite to operations, while executing a mature satellite production line. I can’t be more proud of everyone involved in this mission.
“The launch of GPS III SV04 will continue to modernize our GPS constellation by increasing our capabilities with advanced features for both our civil and military users across the world,” he said.
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