A cruise ship veered into the exclusion zone along a Falcon 9 rocket’s flight path on Sunday, prompting SpaceX to halt the mission again and prepare for a 24-hour turnaround.
Launch engineers waited as long as could for the Coast Guard to address the matter but eventually ran out of time to fulfil the immediate window’s deadline of 6:11 p.m. EST from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The fourth postponement for the mission was previously cancelled due to severe weather near Launch Complex 40.
The sixth attempt to launch an Italian Space Agency Earth observation satellite is scheduled for 6:11 p.m. EST Monday, January 31. If it cannot fly on schedule, SpaceX will cancel the flight.
According to the Space Force, the weather for the Monday attempt will be at least 90% “go.” However, the ship was only named as a “cruise liner” by SpaceX, and the Coast Guard has not replied to enquiries as of late Sunday. According to a Port Canaveral official, a Coast Guard investigation is ongoing.
On Sunday, the two ships having planned sails out of Port Canaveral were Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas and MSC Cruises’ Meraviglia.
On Friday, January 28, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket stands at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s Launch Complex40, ready to launch the CSG-2 mission. Unfortunately, due to poor weather, the second launch attempt was cancelled.
The launch on Sunday was supposed to travel toward the southeast, along a path that was inactive from 1960 to 2020. New technology has allowed SpaceX to continue north-to-south polar launches from Florida, which fly parallel to the coast but still need pilots and sailors to be aware of several exclusion zones. Before each flight, unstable regions are assigned to reduce the hazards to humans in the case of a rocket failure.
Space Launch Delta 45 released a statement earlier this month warning pilots and mariners that up to five polar launches in January alone. The fourth launch will take place on Sunday.
“The 2022 launch pace is going to be exceptionally busy with up to five polar and seven total launches, projected for the month of January alone,” Space Force Maj. Jonathan Szul said in a statement. “Due to the unique southerly trajectories, there will be a larger potential impact to air and sea traffic along the southeast coast of Florida.”
“We ask that all pilots and mariners double-check their Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) and Notices to Mariners (NOTMAR) to ensure they are fully aware of all pending launch activities in this historic month on the Space Coast,” Szul said.
The cancellation of Sunday’s flight also pushed back a SpaceX mission scheduled for Monday: another Falcon 9 rocket at Kennedy Space Center’s pad 39A will have to wait a bit longer to launch the company’s 37th batch of Starlink broadband satellites. Liftoff was scheduled at 2:17 p.m. EST but will be delayed by around 21 minutes for each day it is postponed.