Hawthorne-based SpaceX scrapped plans to attempt Wednesday evening to launch the first of what could eventually be thousands of satellites designed to provide space-based internet service around the globe.
The plan to launch 60 “Starlink” satellites aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral in Florida was canceled “due to excess upper level winds,” according to SpaceX.
“Teams are working toward tomorrow’s backup launch window, which opens at 10:30 p.m. EDT,” SpaceX tweeted.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted a photo over the weekend showing the 60 satellites crammed into the fairing atop the rocket, noting it was a “tight fit.” He said the satellites are all “production design,” unlike the two so-called “Tintin” demonstration satellites the company launched last year.
Musk’s goal of creating a space-based internet network will require far more than just 60 satellites. Musk noted that providing “minor” internet coverage would require six more launches of 60 satellites each, while offering “moderate” coverage would require another 12 such launches.
SpaceX has previously estimated that its proposed Starlink array could involve as many as 12,000 satellites in varying orbits to provide global internet coverage, with the project taking at least a decade to implement.
On Twitter, Musk seemed to indicate his hopes weren’t very high for the first batch of satellites, writing, “Much will likely go wrong on 1st mission.”
In a statement, the company noted that the mission “will push the operational capabilities of the satellites to the limit.”
“SpaceX expects to encounter issues along the way, but our learnings here are key to developing an affordable and reliable broadband service in the future,” according to the company.
The first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket to be used in the launch was previously used in missions in January of this year and in September 2018. SpaceX will attempt to recover the first stage again after the launch, guiding it to a barge named “Of Course I Still Love You” floating in the Atlantic Ocean.