SpaceX Fails to Launch Broadband Satellites

On Wednesday morning, SpaceX prepared to launch one of its Falcon 9 launch vehicles at Vandenberg Air Force Base. However, due to strong winds, the launch was canceled and rescheduled for Thursday. The partially-reusable Falcon 9 was loaded down with a bevy of satellites, including the Paz military satellite, owned by the Spanish government, and two prototype satellites intended to be the first part of SpaceX’s upcoming broadband internet network.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk first announced his plan for a satellite-based broadband network in 2015. Since then, he has been hard at work seeking approval from the FCC to form his planned satellite constellation. Known as Starlink, the project is slated to have 12,000 satellites orbiting Earth by 2020. One company estimate puts the cost of Starlink at $10 billion. However, they also posited that Starlink could earn them at least $30 billion.

The first models of the Starlink satellites, Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b, were due to go up with the Falcon 9 on Wednesday. The Falcon 9 involved in this mission is reusing the booster used to launch Taiwain’s Formosat-5 observation satellite into orbit in August. The mission’s Paz satellite, constructed by Airbus and operated by Hisdesat for the Spanish military, will collect and transmit 3D images of Earth when it reaches low-Earth orbit.

Typically, Vandenberg Air Force Base’s weather balloon shop will begin sending up weather balloons six hours before launch. The team is then able to measure wind shear levels up to a height of 120,000 feet. They pass the data along to the upper level winds team, who makes the call on whether launch is go for the day. The launch weather officer at the base’s Western Range Operations Control Center makes the final decision.

Due to the weather delay, SpaceX will have to postpone the takeoff until Thursday. The launch will take place at Vandenberg Air Force Base near Mission Hills, California at 9:17 AM Eastern Standard Time. If conditions are not favorable, the launch may be postponed again for Friday. The mission was previously delayed on Tuesday when the crew had trouble with an abnormal rocket fairing.