SpaceX Scrubs Falcon Heavy Spaceplane Launch At Last Minute

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.

US Space Force X-37B. Image credit: Boeing

Experimental spaceplane

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.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launches Starlink satellites into orbit. SpaceX

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.

US Space Force X-37B. Image credit: Boeing
Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

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