SpaceX cancels launch of Boeing unmanned spaceplane atop Falcon Heavy rocket minutes before liftoff, reschedules Starlink launch for Tuesday
SpaceX has scrubbed the dual launch of a Falcon Heavy rocket bearing a Boeing robotic spaceplane and a separate Falcon 9 launch carrying 23 Starlink satellites that had been scheduled to take off less than three hours apart on Monday, rescheduling the Falcon Heavy launch for Tuesday night.
Boeing’s X-37B spaceplane has launched into orbit six times previously, the first five atop United Launch Alliance Atlas V rockets and the sixth aboard a SpaceX Falcon 9.
The upcoming launch, commissioned by the US Space Force and dubbed USSF-52, would be the first time the X-37B has reached orbit atop a Falcon Heavy, SpaceX’s most powerful operational rocket capable of generating more than 5 million pounds of thrust at liftoff.
The Falcon Heavy has flown eight times so far, all successfully.
USSF-52 had been scheduled to liftoff from Florida at 8:24 pm local time, but about half an hour before launch time SpaceX scrubbed the mission due to a ground issue. The Starlink launch was also cancelled.
“Standing down from tonight’s Falcon Heavy launch due to a ground-side issue; vehicle and payload remain healthy,” the company wrote on X, formerly Twitter.
“Team is resetting for the next launch opportunity of the USSF-52 mission, which is no earlier than tomorrow night.”
The vehicle, which military officials say is primarily a testbed for new instruments and other technologies, is powered during missions by an extendable solar array that allows it to remain in orbit for long periods.
Long orbital journeys
The previous X-37B launch took place in May 2020 and the spaceplane returned for a runway landing at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida in November 2022 after 908 days in orbit.
SpaceX said it was planning a new launch for Starlink at 11:02 pm local time on Tuesday night, but did not specify a launch window for USSF-52.