SpaceX says weather forces cancellation of launch of US satellite

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US Vice President Mike Pence tours the SpaceX hangar at Launch Complex 39-A where the Dragon crew module and Falcon 9 booster rocket are being prepared for a January 2019 launch at Cape Canaveral, Florida, in this Dec. 18, 2018 file photo. — Reuters

LOS ANGELES — Rain and wind forced the cancellation of a scheduled morning launch of a Falcon 9 rocket that was to carry a global positioning system satellite into space for the US Air Force, SpaceX said on Thursday.

The company founded by billionaire Elon Musk said the rocket’s payload, a roughly $500 million GPS satellite built by Lockheed Martin Corp, was “in good health” and that it was planning to announce a new launch date.

“Standing down today due to weather,” SpaceX said on Twitter a little more than 30 minutes before its scheduled liftoff of shortly after 9 a.m. EST (1400 GMT).

It said it was “working toward the next best launch opportunity.”

The cancellation, which followed two previous failed launch attempts this week, came as thunderstorms and wind gusts swirled around Florida’s Cape Canaveral.

Patrick Burke, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland, said the weather might not clear up until Saturday.

On Tuesday, SpaceX halted a planned launch minutes before liftoff due to a technical issue.

A second launch attempt was canceled early on Wednesday due to a technical issue with the rocket.

A successful launch would be a significant victory for Musk, an entrepreneur who spent years trying to break into the lucrative market for military space launches long dominated by Lockheed and Boeing Co.

It marks SpaceX’s first so-called National Security Space mission, as defined by the U.S. military, SpaceX said.

SpaceX won an $83 million Air Force contract in 2016 to launch the GPS III satellite, which will have a lifespan of 15 years.

The launch would be the first of 32 satellites in production by Lockheed under contracts worth a combined $12.6 billion for the Air Force GPS III program, Lockheed spokesman Chip Eschenfelder said.

Air Force spokesman William Russell said: “Once fully operational, this latest generation of GPS satellites will bring new capabilities to users, including three times greater accuracy and up to eight times the anti-jamming capabilities.”

The launch was originally scheduled for 2014 but has been hobbled by production delays, the Air Force said.

The next GPS III satellite is due to launch in mid-2019, Eschenfelder said, while subsequent satellites undergo testing in the company’s Colorado processing facility. — Reuters


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