Hawthorne-based SpaceX Friday scrubbed a planned launch of 57 internet satellites to allow more time for “pre-launch checkouts,” but a new date for the mission was not immediately set.
The Falcon 9 rocket had been scheduled to take off from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 1:18 p.m. California time. SpaceX officials announced at about 11 a.m. the mission was being delayed.
“Standing down from today’s Starlink mission; team needed additional time for pre-launch checkouts, but Falcon 9 and the satellites are healthy,” the company announced on Twitter. “Will announce new target launch date once confirmed on the range.”
When launched, the rocket will be carrying 57 Starlink internet satellites as part of SpaceX’s planned worldwide, low-cost internet service. SpaceX also plans to again attempt to recover the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket by landing it on the company’s “Of Course I Still Love You” barge in the Atlantic Ocean.
The company has essentially perfected the recovery process, which was conceived in an effort to slash the cost of launches by allowing rockets to be reused. The first stage of the rocket being used for the latest launch was used in four previous SpaceX missions, including two previous Starlink satellite missions.
For SpaceX, the launch will be the 10th in its effort to build the Starlink worldwide internet array. The array is planned to provide low-cost internet access to people around the globe, particularly in under-served areas.
The latest batch of satellites will increase the Starlink array to nearly 600 satellites in orbit. It’s unclear exactly how many satellites will ultimately be included in the constellation. SpaceX founder Elon Musk has said previously that the service could begin operating when it reaches 1,000 satellites, and the company has already begun soliciting people to be “beta” testers of the service. But the more satellites that are deployed will mean more comprehensive internet coverage.
In addition to the 57 Starlink satellites, the SpaceX rocket will also be carrying a pair of satellites for Spaceflight Industries, on behalf of Earth-observation company BlackSky.
BlackSky is in the process of building its satellite array, with four already in orbit. Friday’s launch would increase the array to six, and the company has an initial goal of launching 16 by early next year. The array could ultimately have as many as 60 satellites, but timing on that expansion hasn’t been determined.
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