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SpaceX delays launch of Starlink and BlackSky satellites for more rocket checks

A used SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying three Canadian Radarsat satellites stands ready to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The rocket's first stage will launch a new Starlink mission from Florida in June 2020.
A used SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying three Canadian Radarsat satellites stands ready to launch from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The rocket's first stage will launch a new Starlink mission from Florida in June 2020. (Image credit: SpaceX)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX is standing down from the launch of its next batch of Starlink satellites to allow time for additional preflight checks of the Falcon 9. 

The California-based spaceflight company was scheduled to launch another batch of its Starlink internet-beaming satellites and two satellites for BlackSky on a previously flown Falcon 9 rocket at 4:18 p.m. EST (2018 GMT) today from Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. However, the company chose to delay the launch attempt, and a new date has not yet been set.

"Standing down from today's Starlink mission; team needed additional time for pre-launch checkouts, but Falcon 9 and the satellites are healthy," SpaceX tweeted on Friday afternoon. "Will announce new target launch date once confirmed on the Range."  

The "Range" SpaceX mentions is the Eastern Range, which is part of the U.S. Space Force and is the entity that oversees the launches from Florida's Space Coast.  This Starlink launch is one of two launches SpaceX has on the Range's calendar for this week. 

Related: SpaceX's Starlink satellite megaconstellation launches in photos

On June 30, a different Falcon 9 rocket will carry an upgraded GPS satellite into orbit for the U.S. Space Force. That launch is scheduled to fly from SpaceX's other Florida launch site, Space Launch Complex 40. The global positioning satellite is part of an effort to upgrade the aging constellation currently in space. 

SpaceX has already postponed the GPS launch once this year, as the mission was originally scheduled to blast off in April. Concerns over the coronavirus coupled with the fact that the current GPS satellites were very healthy, meant that the launch could be moved back a bit. However, it does get priority over SpaceX's own satellites, so there could be some shuffling in launch dates. 

The rocket featured in this mission will be the third first stage booster to fly five times. It previously launched SpaceX's Demo-1 mission and three Earth-observing satellites for Canada in 2019, and two other Starlink missions this year. 

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The company's previous mission, which lofted 58 Starlinks and three small Earth-observing satellites for Planet, was the first mission SpaceX launched without conducting its traditional prelaunch static fire test. However, the company decided to carry out its traditional checkouts before the launch attempt for this next mission. 

On Wednesday (June 24), the booster's nine engines were briefly fired as part of the routine static fire test. The test is designed to ensure that all the rocket’s systems are working properly prior to lift off.  

By all appearances, the test seemed to go smoothly and SpaceX announced it would attempt the launch today (June 26). But that changed just over two hours before liftoff, with the company ultimately standing down and opting to put the rocket through some more testing. 

Depending on what exactly prompted the delay, SpaceX could wait until after Tuesday's launch to get the Starlink mission off the ground. Both drone ships have left Port Canaveral, so SpaceX is ready no matter which mission goes first. 

Editor's note: This story has been updated with more details on SpaceX's scrubbed Starlink launch.

Follow Amy Thompson on Twitter @astrogingersnap. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.

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Amy Thompson is a Florida-based space and science journalist, who joined as a contributing writer in 2015. She's passionate about all things space and is a huge science and science-fiction geek. Star Wars is her favorite fandom, with that sassy little droid, R2D2 being her favorite. She studied science at the University of Florida, earning a degree in microbiology. Her work has also been published in Newsweek, VICE, Smithsonian, and many more. Now she chases rockets, writing about launches, commercial space, space station science, and everything in between.