SpaceX halted a scheduled launch of a US military GPS satellite on Friday night with only two seconds left in the countdown. The launch was scheduled for a 15-minute window opening at 6:43 pm. PT. Everything seemed to be running smoothly, up to two seconds before launch. SpaceX was just starting the engine ignition sequence when it stopped the clock.
“Forgoing tonight’s GPS III-4 launch attempt,” SpaceX tweeted a few minutes before 7pm. PT, although he did not say whether a problem with the ground or flight vehicle was to blame. SpaceX has not yet announced a new launch window.
SpaceX and the United States Space Force they are famously getting along. Friday’s launch attempt in Florida follows a Space Force Falcon 9 will be launched in June.
Once Elon Musk’s company launches the GPS satellite, it will attempt to land the first stage of the Falcon 9 on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. The spacecraft is expected to deploy approximately 90 minutes after takeoff.
SpaceX hosted a live stream of the launch on Friday, which you can watch below to see how events unfolded.
Video: NASA Makes Second Attempt to Launch Equipment on the International Space Station (CBS News)
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The GPS III Space Vehicle (SV) 04 is the fourth in a series of GPS satellites operated by the US Space Force, the new branch of the military. It will join a larger constellation of satellites already in orbit.
It’s been a busy week for rocket launches that haven’t actually been launched. SpaceX was supposed to send a new batch of Starlink communications satellites into orbit on a Falcon 9 on Thursday, but that the jump has been canceled and will be rescheduled. United Launch Alliance also intended to send a Delta IV Heavy rocket Wednesday with a classified spy satellite, but a technical problem interrupted the most recent attempt.
SpaceX shared this panoramic view of the Falcon 9 that will carry the Space Force’s GPS satellite into orbit.
The deferred launch of Starlink combined with the Space Force mission created an elegant photo opportunity. SpaceX shared a file view the two Falcon 9s on their separate launch pads on Twitter earlier this week.
We’ll see if SpaceX can escort the GPS mission into orbit as intended. As we saw this week, delays are common.