SpaceX’s latest attempt to put miniature satellites into orbit to create global internet coverage stalled over the weekend as the launch was cancelled at the last second.
A reusable Falcon 9 was halted on the launch pad after the onboard computer triggered the abort. It detected a power issue with one of the nine engines on board the rocket.
SpaceX has become so adept at launching these rockets that it’s rare for launches to not go as planned. This specific Falcon 9 has already flown four flights before – had this launch gone ahead it would have been the first Falcon 9 to fly five times.
The abort happened at the very last second with the countdown having hit T-0. The smoke had begun to billow as the engines ramped up and then quickly shut down as the abort was automatically triggered.
‘Keep in mind, the purpose of the countdown is to help us catch potential issues prior to flight.’
The payload on board the rocket was more Starlink satellites – which will eventually number 12,000 in orbit and help to beam down internet signal to Earth as a whole.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk has previously claimed that once active, the network will deliver ‘one terabit of bandwidth’ to Earth, with the aim of using the new network to provide better internet access to under-served parts of the world.
The Starlinks are initially placed in a relatively low orbit of 180 miles (290 kilometeters), easily visible as a long, strung-out cluster parading through the night sky. Over a few months, krypton-powered thrusters raise the satellites to a 340-mile (550-kilometer) orbit.
The higher the orbit, the less visible the satellites are from the ground, according to SpaceX. Even so, SpaceX said it’s supplying astronomy groups with the satellite coordinates in advance, so they can avoid the bright flyover times.
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