The first big batch of SpaceX internet satellites will have to wait at least another week to get aloft.
Elon Musk’s company scrubbed the launch of 60 Starlink spacecraft tonight (May 16) about two hours before their planned 10:30 p.m. EDT (0230 GMT on May 17) liftoff, citing a desire to update software and perform some more checks.
“Standing down to update satellite software and triple-check everything again. Always want to do everything we can on the ground to maximize mission success, next launch opportunity in about a week,” SpaceX representatives said via Twittter.
Tonight’s scrub was the second in as many days. SpaceX also called off an attempt last night (May 15) because of strong high-altitude winds.
Starlink is designed to provide affordable internet access to people around the world. The first five dozen spacecraft won’t be nearly enough to do this; SpaceX will need about 400 satellites to provide minimal coverage and about 800 for moderate coverage, Musk has said.
The megaconstellation is a key part of SpaceX’s Mars-colonization plans. Revenue generated by the network will help the company develop and fly its next-generation Super Heavy rocket and 100-passenger Starship spaceship, Musk has said.
Other internet-satellite megaconstellations are on the horizon as well. For example, both OneWeb and Amazon plan to launch hundreds of satellites of their own in the near future.
SpaceX has launched Starlink satellites before. In February 2018, the company lofted two prototypes on a test mission that seems to have gone well. The next 60 are operational spacecraft that will be part of the constellation.
Mike Wall’s book about the search for alien life, “Out There” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), is out now. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook.
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