SpaceX barges evade tropical storm amid delayed launch of Starlink

US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Over the past 24 hours, the SpaceX fleet has been forced to abruptly change course to avoid a tropical storm, weather that partially delays the next launch of Starlink satellites.

Initially, the launch was scheduled for no earlier than 11:00 on the ISS on May 17 – less than 24 hours after the Joint Launch Alliance (ULA) planned to launch the US military spacecraft X-37B. ULA launch was delayed due to weather at the last second, postponing the launch of Starlink SpaceX to May 18. Nine hours later, SpaceX announced that it had postponed its eighth Starlink launch for another 24 hours to avoid the effects of the tropical storm that began when the company’s missile-catching fleet was gathering at a point in the Atlantic Ocean.

At the moment, Starlink-7 is scheduled to launch on the Falcon 9 rocket at 10:10 Moscow time on Tuesday, May 19.

The Falcon 9 mission with the first stage of Block 5 B1049 will be the fifth since its debut in September 2018 and the second launch this year. Most recently, B1049 successfully launched the third Starlink-2 mission on January 7th.

The B1049 will be the second SpaceX accelerator to launch in its fifth flight. Intended for at least 10 flights each, five flights mark halfway on the way to this ambitious goal in design, which in itself is only a preliminary stage, for an even more ambitious goal – 100 flights to the accelerator (with regular overhauls). It remains to be seen whether SpaceX and CEO Elon Musk will continue to pursue the goal of 100 launches with the same level, but with several accelerators, this question will have to be answered much earlier.

Unfortunately, during the first fifth flight of the Falcon 9 booster rocket with the B1048 accelerator, a critical engine failure occurred in the rocket stage with an emergency shutdown, shortly before the main engine shut down and the booster compartment. The failure of the B1048 engine also prevented the accelerator from landing successfully, which led to its destruction. Eventually, SpaceX came to the conclusion that the cause of the failure was incorrect recovery (TO), and not a hardware problem.

As a result, this fifth launch of the B1049 is much more important than it could be. If successful, the launch will demonstrate that nothing (except poor-quality maintenance) should restrain the reuse of the Falcon 9 booster stages. However, if the crash reoccurs, it may start to look like Falcon 9 and Block 5 hit the wall with the point of view of the possibility of reuse, a potentially observable milestone of five flights per life.

In any case, the mission of SpaceX Starlink-7 will be decisive for the company – the next will be the launch of NASA’s Crew Dragon spacecraft.

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