Spaceflight Insider

High winds force scrub of 1st SpaceX Starlink mission

The payload fairing for the first Starlink Falcon 9 mission. Photo Credit: Michael Howard / SpaceFlight Insider

The payload fairing for the first Starlink Falcon 9 mission. Photo Credit: Michael Howard / SpaceFlight Insider

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — SpaceX’s first batch of Starlink satellites need to wait another 24 hours before taking flight due to “excess upper level winds.”

The weather for the May 15, 2019, launch attempt was expected to have a 20% chance of unacceptable conditions, however, that did not take into account upper level winds, which was ultimately out of limits. The team is expected to try again at the beginning of another 90-minute window opening at 10:30 p.m. EDT May 16 (2:30 GMT May 17).

According to the 45th Space Wing, the weather for the May 16 attempt is expected to also have an 20% chance of unacceptable conditions with the primary concern being cumulus clouds. Additionally, upper level winds are expected to be a little calmer.

When it does launch, the Falcon 9 will send 60 Starlink satellites, each at 500 pounds (227 kilograms), into an initial 270-mile (440-kilometer) orbit. After deployment, each spacecraft is expected to use its own propulsion to reach an operational altitude of 340 miles (550 kilometers).

The Starlink constellation is ultimately planned to be up to 12,000 satellites with the first phase including the first 1,600. It is expected to provide high-speed, low-latency connectivity. According to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, at least six more launches of 60 satellites are required for initial activation and 12 for significant coverage.

This particular Falcon 9 is sporting a flight-proven first stage, which previously supported the Telstar 18V and Iridium-8 missions in September 2018 and January 2019, respectively. While initially thought to sport the recovered payload fairing from the Arabsat 6A mission earlier this year, the Starlink-1 mission is utilizing a new fairing.

The Falcon 9 with 60 Starlink satellites encapsulated on top stands vertical at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida. Photo Credit: Michael Howard / SpaceFlight Insider

The Falcon 9, with 60 Starlink satellites encapsulated on top, stands vertical at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 in Florida. Photo Credit: Michael Howard / SpaceFlight Insider

 

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Derek Richardson has a degree in mass media, with an emphasis in contemporary journalism, from Washburn University in Topeka, Kansas. While at Washburn, he was the managing editor of the student run newspaper, the Washburn Review. He also has a blog about the International Space Station, called Orbital Velocity. He met with members of the SpaceFlight Insider team during the flight of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 551 rocket with the MUOS-4 satellite. Richardson joined our team shortly thereafter. His passion for space ignited when he watched Space Shuttle Discovery launch into space Oct. 29, 1998. Today, this fervor has accelerated toward orbit and shows no signs of slowing down. After dabbling in math and engineering courses in college, he soon realized his true calling was communicating to others about space. Since joining SpaceFlight Insider in 2015, Richardson has worked to increase the quality of our content, eventually becoming our managing editor. @TheSpaceWriter

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