Historic SpaceX launch postponed after last-second abort

A record-setting flight has been moved to Wednesday.

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Eric Mack
2 min read

It's one postponement that has nothing to do with the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic: SpaceX scrubbed its latest launch of 60 Starlink satellites Sunday morning and will try again Wednesday.

Just as the countdown clock hit zero at Florida's Kennedy Space Center and the Falcon 9 rocket's engines began to fire for a split second, the system shut down as an automated abort was triggered.

"Standing down today; standard auto-abort triggered due to out of family data during engine power check," the company said via Twitter.

The rocket loaded with the latest batch of the company's broadband satellites was set to make its fifth flight, more than any single SpaceX rocket has ever performed. 

SpaceX announced Monday morning that the launch has been rescheduled for 5:16 a.m. Pacific on Wednesday.

The company has so far launched over 300 of the nascent nodes to low-Earth orbit, with plans to have over 1,500 in space by the end of the year. The long-term plan for the mega-constellation could see an astounding 42,000 satellites circling the planet, beaming high-speed internet to just about anywhere. 

Almost from the moment the first satellites deployed in May 2019, astronomers began sounding the alarm about the surprising brightness of the robotic routers, which can interfere with scientific observations of space. A study released last week from the European Southern Observatory declared that the National Science Foundation's upcoming Vera C. Rubin Observatory (now under construction in Chile) would be "severely affected" by mega-constellations including Starlink and others planned by OneWeb, Amazon and more. 

Watch this: Are SpaceX Starlink satellites ruining the night sky?

But SpaceX and Elon Musk have been steadfast in their assurances that the brightness problem will be addressed and there will be "zero" impacts to scientific discoveries, as Musk said during his Satellite 2020 keynote interview Monday. 

Regardless, for now, SpaceX is continuing to ramp up Starlink launches to stay ahead of the competition and meet an FCC milestone requirement that at least 2,212 of the satellites be up and running by 2024. 

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