After numerous delays, SpaceX’s 12th dedicated Starlink launch remains grounded today after rain poured on Kennedy Space Center this morning. The previously-flown Falcon 9 rocket, core B1058, and its sparkling-new upper stage have been waiting to deliver the next batch of 60 Starlink internet communications satellites into low-Earth orbit now for over two weeks, having initially been targeted to fly on 17 September.
That first launch attempt was postponed by 24 hours in response to the indirect threat posed to the Space Coast by Tropical Storm Sally. Although SpaceX noted that it would be closely “watching the weather” on the 18th, it ultimately opted to stand down from further launch preparations, pointing to predicted poor sea conditions in the booster recovery area.
This likely would have hampered the efforts of the Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship (ASDS), “Just Read the Instructions”, to safely execute its third East Coast “catch” of a returning Falcon 9 core. “Current was too strong for drone ship to hold station,” SpaceX founder Elon Musk tweeted on the 18th. “Thrusters to be upgraded for future missions.”
As such, this is one of very few occasions where SpaceX has prioritized the safe return of a booster as a deciding factor in scrubbing a launch. Of course, Starlink is an in-house SpaceX program and on a commercial or government launch the safe return of the booster ordinarily would not be prioritized over the safe delivery of the payload.
Following the scrub, JRTI returned to Port Canaveral on 20 September and a few days later her sister ASDS, “Of Course I Still Love You”—veteran of over 30 successful Falcon 9 recoveries since April 2016—put to sea in her stead, bound for a position about 390 miles (630 km) off Cape Canaveral in the Atlantic Ocean.
Another launch attempt aimed for Oct 1 at 9:17 a.m. EDT, and all seemed well as the countdown entered high gear about 35 minutes before T-0, when SpaceX engineers began loading liquid oxygen and a highly refined form of rocket-grade kerosene (known as “RP-1”) into the Falcon 9 propellant tanks.
Then, with picture-perfect skies and all seemingly going smoothly, the countdown stopped abruptly at T-18 seconds and the launch attempt was aborted, due to an “out-of-family” ground sensor reading according to SpaceX, followed shortly after by SpaceX declaring a scrub for the day.
Then came another attempt today, Oct 5, although this morning’s scrub was quite predictable for anyone in Central Florida, as rain made it clear early on that this would not be a launch day. SpaceX will try again Tuesday, Oct 6, with a much better weather forecast currently predicted at 70% favorable for a liftoff at 7:29am EDT.
As always, you can follow updates and watch the launch on our Launch Tracker HERE