SpaceX scrubbed a mission Monday morning to launch a batch of 60 Starlink satellites due to bad weather at the launch site. A veteran Falcon 9 rocket was scheduled to lift off from NASA’s Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 10:22 a.m. EDT.
“Unfortunately, it looks like due to weather violations, we’re going to to have to scrub today,” Alex Seigel, a senior material planner with SpaceX, said during a webcast. “We currently don’t have a backup launch scheduled yet.”
The cancelled mission was supposed to be the 13th launch of SpaceX’s Starlink project. To date, SpaceX has launched more than 700 internet-beaming satellites into orbit. About 650 of them are operational, making the constellation large enough to provide internet access in some areas on Earth.
The company has already been testing the service with some SpaceX engineers and Elon Musk himself. A larger-scale beta testing with the public will begin later this year. Selected users will receive a small terminal that looks like a “little UFO on a stick,” Musk said in July, to connect to the satellite network.
SpaceX plans to provide basic internet services in the U.S. and Canada by the end of 2020 and achieve global coverage next year.
Last week, a senior U.S. Air Force official suggested that the military is interested in Starlink as well. “What I’ve seen from Starlink has been impressive and positive,” Air Force acquisition chief William Roper said during a roundtable with reporters last Wednesday. “They’re cleverly engineered satellites cleverly deployed. So, there’s a lot to learn from how they’re designed, and I think that there’s a lot we can learn from them.”
In other news, NASA on Monday announced that SpaceX was the winner of a $109 million contract to launch its Interstellar Mapping and Acceleration Probe (IMAP) spacecraft in 2024. The IMAP is part of NASA’s Solar Terrestrial Probes program, which aims to send a probe to the L-1 Lagrange point, which is about 1.5 million kilometers from Earth and face the sun, so as to study its cosmic rays and boundaries with the rest of space.
As with its previous NASA missions, SpaceX will launch the probe using a Falcon 9 rocket. The mission will also carry several secondary payloads to fill the excess capacity. Those payloads include NASA’s Lunar Trailblazer smallsat, NOAA’s Space Weather Follow-On L-1 mission and two NASA heliophysics missions that have yet to be selected.
NASA science contracts are a regular source of revenue for SpaceX. In February, the private space company won a $117 million contract to launch NASA’s Psyche asteroid mission in July 2022 using the Falcon Heavy rocket. The same month, SpaceX was commissioned to launch NASA’s Plankton, Aerosol, Cloud, ocean Ecosystem (PACE) spacecraft using Falcon 9 for $80.4 million.