Just two days after successfully conducting a Crew Dragon test that paves the way to returning people into space from American soil later this year, SpaceX is busy with another ambitious rocket launch. As with the weekend Crew Dragon launch, it looks like this new launch will also be impacted by poor weather.
The 45th Space Wing of the U.S. Air Force has meteorologists responsible for forecasting weather at the Florida launchpads. In their latest update they said, ” An area of low pressure will strengthen just to the east of Florida late Tuesday night into Wednesday, bringing a surge in north-northeasterly winds. The system is forecast to be close enough to Florida to bring an increase in clouds, as well as a threat for low topped coastal showers into the backup launch window on Wednesday.” While they discussed the presence of clouds, winds, and precipitation, the 45th Space Wing didn’t think weather would be an issue at the launch site. In their forecast, they predicted weather to be 80% favorable for launch today and 70% favorable tomorrow. However, SpaceX is planning to recover the launch vehicle in an at-sea landing. Such a landing requires good weather there; while weather may be cooperative at the launch pad, it may not be the same at the recovery site.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 was scheduled to lift off as early as 11:59 am ET today, but SpaceX said the company’s launch team is evaluating the best launch opportunity “due to extreme weather in the recovery area.” While the 45th Space Wing has said there would be no launch today, no one including SpaceX has provided information about a back-up launch date/time due to a weather delay.
This new SpaceX launch is carrying their Starlink satellites to space. The Starlink fleet, which is expected to ultimately number in the thousands of satellites, is designed to beam broadband Internet signals to worldwide consumers. The company, founded and led by Elon Musk, plans to bring affordable high-speed internet into remote regions that currently lack reliable Internet service, plus additional customers such as airlines, ships, and government/military purposes. When fully functionable, the hope is to create an internet connection faster than the current cable internet speed without the need for wires at a fraction of the price. In previous announcements, SpaceX said it hopes to begin regional broadband service in portions of North America during the middle of the year once 12 Starlink launches have occured. They hope to bring global internet on-line after 24 launches. To date, there have been three launches: one last May, one last November, and one just weeks ago in early January. According to the SpaceX launch schedule, 20 more Starlink launches are slated for this year. Each launch brings 60 new satellites into orbit.
Bringing affordable global internet via satellites is one of many ambitious plans Musk has for Space X. Last week he said his company was committed to getting a million people to Mars by 2050 on his new Starship rocket currently under development. That rocket is due to bring commercial flights around and to the Moon in the coming years.