November 30, 2022

SpaceX delays launch of Starlink satellites to make way for Crew-5 astronaut flight

SpaceX delays launch of Starlink satellites to make way for Crew-5 astronaut flight
SpaceX delays launch of Starlink satellites to make way for Crew-5 astronaut flightSpaceX delays launch of Starlink satellites to make way for Crew-5 astronaut flight

SpaceX has delayed the liftoff of its next Starlink satellite fleet in order to launch four astronauts to the International Space Station for NASA on Wednesday (Oct. 5). 

In what appears to be a rocket traffic jam for SpaceX, the company announced Tuesday that it pushed back the planned launch of 52 Starlink internet satellites from California’s Vandenberg Space Force Base to no earlier than Wednesday (Oct. 5) — a one-day delay — to make way for the launch of  the Crew-5 mission for NASA, the company’s next astronaut mission. That flight is also scheduled to launch on Wednesday. Liftoff is scheduled for 12 p.m. EDT (1600 GMT) and you can watch it live online, courtesy of NASA TV, beginning at 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230GMT). 

More: SpaceX’s Crew-5 astronaut mission for NASA: Live updates

“Falcon 9 and Dragon are looking good for tomorrow’s Crew-5 launch at 12:00 p.m. ET; teams are keeping an eye on winds along the ascent corridor,” SpaceX wrote in a Twitter update (opens in new tab) Wednesday afternoon.

“Targeting later that day, at 4:10 p.m. PT, for Falcon 9’s launch of Starlink from California,” SpaceX wrote (opens in new tab) in another message. That update refers to SpaceX”s Starlink launch from Vandenberg, which was originally slated to launch on Monday (Oct. 3), but was delayed to Tuesday to allow extra time for prelaunch rocket checks. The shift to Wednesday is its second delay in as many days.  You can watch a livestream of SpaceX’s next Starlink launch about 15 minutes before liftoff on Wednesday night at 7:10 p.m. EDT (2310 GMT).

The Starlink delay, however, allows SpaceX to fully focus on the launch of Crew-5, its fifth operational astronaut flight for NASA. The mission will launch American astronauts Nicole Mann, Josh Casada, Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata and Russian cosmonaut Anna Kikina to the International Space Station from Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. They will arrive at the station on Thursday. 

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule that will fly the Crew-5 mission to the International Space Station stand on Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida shortly after rolling out on Oct. 1, 2022.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule that will fly the Crew-5 mission to the International Space Station stand on Launch Pad 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida shortly after rolling out on Oct. 1, 2022. (Image credit: SpaceX via Twitter)

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Late Monday, SpaceX and NASA said the private spaceflight company founded by billionaire Elon Musk was tackling three issues ahead of the Crew-5 launch. Those issues included the replacement of a suspect thrust valve actuator on one of the Falcon 9 rocket engines for the mission, a leaky portable fire extinguisher that needed repairs and a communications glitch on the drone ship Just Read The Instructions, where the Falcon 9 first stage will land after the flight. 

SpaceX said Monday that its engineers were expected to complete all the work by Tuesday in time for launch. With SpaceX’s latest update, that appears to be the case. 

Meanwhile, SpaceX has yet a third Falcon 9 rocket launch waiting in the wings to follow Wednesday’s Crew-5 and Starlink doubleheader. 

That third Falcon 9 rocket is currently scheduled to launch two communications satellites for Intelsat, Galaxy 33 and Galaxy 34, on Thursday (Oct. 6) at 7:07 p.m. EDT (2307 GMT). It will lift off from SpaceX’s pad Space Launch Complex 40 of the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station near the Kennedy Space Center. 

Email Tariq Malik at tmalik@space.com or follow him @tariqjmalik. Follow us @SpacedotcomFacebook and Instagram.