Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: SpaceX was planning on launching a suite of 60 communications satellites last night but it was forced to scrub the mission and push it to a later date. That should probably sound familiar since that’s exactly what happened on Wednesday evening, and then again last night.
Wednesday night’s delay was weather-related, with less-than-ideal high level winds that made a rocket launch particularly risky. SpaceX did the smart thing and pushed the launch to the following day in the same time window, but things fell apart for an entirely different reason.
Japan just sent a privately-funded rocket into space for the first time ever
Watch SpaceX try to launch 60 satellites tonight after yesterday's scrub
SpaceX is going to launch 60 satellites at once, and you can watch it live here
SpaceX reportedly decided to scrub the launch due to issues with the software that makes the satellites tick. It’s unclear if a glitch was detected or if the company was just being particularly cautious, but SpaceX did tweet out a brief explanation:
Standing down to update satellite software and triple-check everything again. Always want to do everything we can on the ground to maximize mission success, next launch opportunity in about a week.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) May 17, 2019
That seems reasonable enough, especially considering how complicated the entire Starlink project is. While 60 satellites in a single launch is an incredible feat, SpaceX will need thousands of the Starlink devices in order to ensure the new communications network works as intended, and that means many more launches in the future.
As SpaceX eludes to in the tweet announcing the delay, there’s no immediate backup launch window scheduled, and the company will have to confirm that all is well with the satellite software before scheduling the debut Starlink launch once again.
SpaceX is obviously eager to get the Starlink mission off the ground, but it’s important that everything is working as intended when you’re about to release dozens of tiny spacecraft into Earth orbit. Going by the vague “about a week” estimate, we can still expect to see the Starlink hardware take to the skies before the end of the month.
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