Cruise ship under rocket flight path forces another SpaceX launch scrub – Spaceflight Now

A Falcon 9 rocket stands on pad 40 at Space Force Station Cape Canaveral on Sunday evening before a launch attempt with an Italian COSMO-SkyMed radar imaging satellite. Credit: Stephen Clark/Spaceflight Now

A cruise ship that ventured under the planned flight path of a Falcon 9 rocket near Cape Canaveral on Sunday forced SpaceX to delay the launch of an Italian Earth imaging satellite for a fourth time, setting the stage for the mission for another test just after sunset on Monday.

SpaceX was scheduled to launch a Falcon 9 rocket into orbit from Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 6:11 p.m. EST (2311 GMT), but the Coast Guard was unable to clear a cruise liner from the danger zone downstream of the rocket in time. for the instant mission launch opportunity.

The launch director paused the countdown at T-minus 33 seconds and announced that the SpaceX launch team would try again Monday at the same time.

The last-minute shutdown marked the fourth delay for SpaceX’s mission to launch Italy’s newest COSMO-SkyMed radar remote sensing satellite. Bad weather prevented the Falcon 9 from taking off on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

The weather conditions were cool but ideal for the launch on Sunday. Similar conditions are expected Monday evening, when there is a 90% chance that winds and clouds will be acceptable for the Falcon 9 liftoff. The rocket’s reusable first stage will return to land at Cape Canaveral around eight minutes. after launch.

SpaceX did not identify which cruise ship caused the delay on Sunday. Royal Caribbean and MSC Cruises cruise liners left Port Canaveral on Sunday evening. The port is located just south of the Cape Canaveral space station.

The COSMO-SkyMed radar satellite will join a fleet of remote sensing spacecraft monitoring maritime traffic, natural disasters and climate change for the Italian military and the Italian Space Agency. SpaceX will launch the 4,850-pound (2.2 metric ton) satellite into a polar orbit, requiring the Falcon 9 to fly south from Cape Canaveral, rather than the east or northeast corridors used by most departing rockets from Florida.

In 2020, SpaceX launched the first polar orbit mission from Cape Canaveral since 1969. The COSMO-SkyMed mission will be the fifth polar orbit mission launched by SpaceX since then, and the second this month, as the launch corridor south is increasingly used.

The launch danger zone for ships and aircraft is different for a launch in polar orbit than a launch to the east or northeast, such as flights heading to the International Space Station.

A Falcon 9 rocket for SpaceX’s upcoming Starlink satellite deployment mission on pad 39A on Sunday. Credit: Stephen Clark/Spaceflight Now

Monday’s launch attempt will be the last for the COSMO-SkyMed mission before SpaceX turns its attention to a higher-priority launch from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California for the National Reconnaissance Office, the US government’s spy satellite agency. .

Sunday’s canceled launch attempt will also cause a delay in SpaceX’s next Starlink satellite deployment mission, which was scheduled to lift off Monday from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, a few miles north of Cape Town Space Force Station. Canaveral.

A new target launch date for this mission was not available Sunday evening. It will carry 49 additional satellites into orbit for the Internet network developed by SpaceX.

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Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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