Cruise ship enters launch danger zone, forcing SpaceX to scrub again

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A cruise ship veered into the exclusion zone along the flight path of a Falcon 9 rocket on Sunday night, forcing SpaceX to once again withdraw from the mission and prepare for a 24-hour turnaround .

Launch engineers, counting to a 6:11 p.m. EST liftoff from Space Force Station Cape Canaveral, waited as long as possible for the Coast Guard to resolve the situation, but ultimately ran out of time to meet the instant window deadline. It was the fourth delay for the mission which was previously canceled due to bad weather around Launch Complex 40.

Teams are now targeting 6:11 p.m. EST on Monday, January 31 for the Italian Space Agency’s fifth attempt to launch an Earth observation satellite. If it can’t fly in time, SpaceX will shift its focus to a national defense payload Feb. 2 at Vandenberg Space Force Base in California before refocusing on Cape Town.

The weather for Monday’s attempt, according to Space Force, should be at least 90% “go”.

SpaceX identified the ship only as a “cruise liner” and as of Sunday evening the Coast Guard had not responded to inquiries. A Port Canaveral spokesperson said a Coast Guard investigation is ongoing.

Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas and MSC Cruises‘ Meraviglia were the two ships with scheduled cruises departing Port Canaveral on Sunday.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket stands at Launch Complex 40 at Space Force Station Cape Canaveral with the CSG-2 mission Friday, Jan. 28, 2022. The second launch attempt was canceled due to inclement weather.

Sunday’s launch was to fly southeast, a corridor that hasn’t been used from 1960 to 2020. New technologies have allowed SpaceX to resume polar north-south launches from Florida, which fly almost parallel to the coast but also signify pilots and sailors. should be on the lookout for different exclusion zones. Danger zones, designed to mitigate risk to people in the event of a rocket failure, are issued before each mission.

Earlier this month, Space Launch Delta 45 released a statement and warned pilots and sailors that there would be more than five polar launches in January alone. Sunday’s launch marks the fourth.

“The 2022 launch tempo is going to be exceptionally busy with up to five polar launches and seven total launches scheduled for January alone,” Space Force Maj. Jonathan Szul said in a statement. “Due to the unique southerly trajectories, there will be a greater potential impact on air and sea traffic along Florida’s southeast coast.”

“We ask all pilots and sailors to re-check their Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) and Notices to Mariners (NOTMAR) to ensure they are fully aware of all launch activity taking place during this historic month on the space coast,” Szul said.

Sunday’s scrub also pushed a SpaceX mission originally scheduled for Monday: Another Falcon 9 rocket to pad 39A at Kennedy Space Center will have to wait a bit longer for its task of launching the company’s 37th batch of Starlink internet satellites. Liftoff was scheduled for 2:17 p.m. EST, but will move back approximately 21 minutes for each day of delay.

For the latest, visit floridatoday.com/launchschedule.

Contact Emre Kelly at aekelly@floridatoday.com or 321-242-3715. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and instagram to @EmreKelly.

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