SpaceX Postpones Launch of 1st Falcon 9 Rocket to Fly 3 Times for Booster Checks

SpaceX's first Falcon 9 rocket destined to fly three times is rolled out to its launch pad at the Vandenberg Air Force Station in California on Dec. 1, 2018. The rocket is scheduled to launch 64 satellites into orbit on Dec. 3.
SpaceX's first Falcon 9 rocket destined to fly three times is rolled out to its launch pad at the Vandenberg Air Force Station in California on Dec. 1, 2018. The rocket is scheduled to launch 64 satellites into orbit on Dec. 3. (Image credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX is now aiming to launch a reusable Falcon 9 booster on its third flight, a first for the company, no earlier than Monday (Dec. 3) to allow time for additional checks. 

The Falcon 9 rocket, the first of SpaceX's upgraded "Block 5" series, was slated to launch Sunday, but will now lift off from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base Monday at 1:32 p.m. EST (1832 GMT; 10:32 a.m. PST). The mission has been delayed since mid-November over booster checks and bad weather at the launch site.

"Standing down from tomorrow's launch attempt of Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express to conduct additional inspections of the second stage," SpaceX representatives said in a Twitter update Sunday. "Working toward a backup launch opportunity on December 3." [The Evolution of SpaceX's Rockets in Pictures]

SpaceX's upcoming launch is a milestone of sorts for the company in a few different ways.

First, there's the resuability aspect. So far, SpaceX's Falcon 9 first stages have made at most two flights before being retired. But the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket launching Monday is making its third flight to space after launching the Bangabandhu-1 communications satellitefor the government of Bangladesh in May and the Merah Putih satellitefor PT Telkom Indonesia in August. That May launch marked the first of a Block 5 Falcon 9, an upgraded version of SpaceX's workhorse booster designed for at least 10 flights, if not more, as part of the company's reusability program to drive down the cost of spaceflight. As on its two previous flights, the Falcon 9 first stage is expected to return to Earth. It will land on SpaceX's drone ship "Just Read the Instructions" in the Pacific Ocean.

A close look at SpaceX's first Falcon 9 rocket first stage booster to make a third flight. The Block 5 booster launched two satellites into orbit in summer 2018 and is the first to fly a third time. (Image credit: SpaceX)

There's also the number of SpaceX launches this year. SpaceX closed out 2017 with 18 launches, a record at the time and a significant step up from its previous record of eight flights. Monday's launch will mark SpaceX's 19th launch of 2018, setting a new record that the company will then break on Tuesday (Dec. 4) when it launches a Dragon cargo ship to the International Space Station for NASA from Cape Canaveral, Florida. More SpaceX launches are scheduled for this month, so expect that record to be just over 20 by the end of the year.

And finally, there's the payload. The Falcon 9 launch will be dedicated rideshare mission for the company Spaceflight, which is sending up 64 different small satellites on this flight. So there's literally a lot (of satellites) riding on this mission for SpaceX and its customer. 

You can watch SpaceX launch its milestone Block 5 Falcon 9 mission live on Monday. SpaceX will webcast the launch live here, and you can see it on here, courtesy of the company. The webcast will begin about 15 minutes before liftoff at 1:17 p.m. EST (1817 GMT; 10:17 a.m. PST).

Email Tariq Malik at or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @Spacedotcom and FacebookOriginally published on

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Tariq Malik

Tariq is the Editor-in-Chief of and joined the team in 2001, first as an intern and staff writer, and later as an editor. He covers human spaceflight, exploration and space science, as well as skywatching and entertainment. He became's Managing Editor in 2009 and Editor-in-Chief in 2019. Before joining, Tariq was a staff reporter for The Los Angeles Times covering education and city beats in La Habra, Fullerton and Huntington Beach. In October 2022, Tariq received the Harry Kolcum Award for excellence in space reporting from the National Space Club Florida Committee. He is also an Eagle Scout (yes, he has the Space Exploration merit badge) and went to Space Camp four times as a kid and a fifth time as an adult. He has journalism degrees from the University of Southern California and New York University. You can find Tariq at and as the co-host to the This Week In Space podcast with space historian Rod Pyle on the TWiT network. To see his latest project, you can follow Tariq on Twitter @tariqjmalik.