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A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018

SpaceX will try AGAIN to launch U.S. satellite in first national security mission


Billionaire Elon Musk’s SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket launch has been cancelled for a third time due to bad weather.

The rocket will carry a $500 million global positioning system (GPS) satellite built by Lockheed Martin and was expected to take off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral shortly after 9 a.m. local time (1400 GMT), today.

But it was cancelled for a third time, with launches also aborted on Tuesday and Wednesday this week due to technical issues.

In a tweet posted by Space X, it said: ‘Standing down today due to weather. Vehicle and payload remain in good health.

‘Working toward the next best launch opportunity; will announce a new launch date once confirmed on the Range.’ 

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018

SpaceX had earlier sent out a tweet confirming the launch, but said they would continue to monitor the difficult weather conditions. 

The cancellation came as thunderstorms and wind gusts swirled around Florida’s Cape Canaveral.

A successful launch would be a significant victory for Musk, an entrepreneur who spent years trying to break into the lucrative market for military space launches long dominated by Lockheed and Boeing Co.

It was to mark SpaceX’s first so-called National Security Space mission, as defined by the U.S. military, SpaceX said.

SpaceX sued the U.S. Air Force in 2014 in protest over the military’s award of a multibillion-dollar, non-compete contract for 36 rocket launches to United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Boeing and Lockheed. 

It later dropped the lawsuit after the Air Force agreed to open up competition. 

Patrick Burke, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland said: ‘It’s almost a near certainty that Cape Canaveral will get thunderstorms in the morning, with some severe winds,’ 

‘A cold front bringing the rain is moving in from off shore.’

Burke said the weather might not clear up until Saturday.

SpaceX halted the planned launch minutes before lift-off on Tuesday due to a technical issue, although it said later the rocket and payload ‘remain healthy.’

The launch was also cancelled early on Wednesday due to a technical issue with the rocket.

Falcon 9 rocket is flying on its third mission, a first because no SpaceX rocket has ever flown more than twice. SpaceX founder Elon Musk (pictured, November 2018) said the aerospace company is aiming for a 24-hour turnaround in 2019

Falcon 9 rocket is flying on its third mission, a first because no SpaceX rocket has ever flown more than twice. SpaceX founder Elon Musk (pictured, November 2018) said the aerospace company is aiming for a 24-hour turnaround in 2019

It comes as billionaire Musk is in a space race with fellow billionaires Jezz Bezos and Richard Branson.

Both Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Blue Origin, the space firm set up by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, were forced to cancel launches earlier in the week.

Blue Origin, backed by Jeff Bezos, said it was ‘still working through ground infrastructure issues and monitoring incoming weather in West Texas.’

They are going to attempt to launch this weekend.

Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic recently successfully conducted a test flight of the Virgin Galactic’s Unity spaceplane.

THE BILLIONAIRE SPACE RACE

Jeff Bezos in front of Blue Origin's space capsule

Jeff Bezos in front of Blue Origin’s space capsule

Jeff Bezos’ space tourism project with Blue Origin is competing with a similar programme in development by Space X, the rocket firm founded and run by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, and Virgin Galactic, backed by Richard Branson.

Bezos revealed in April 2017 that he finances Blue Origin with around $1 billion (£720 million) of Amazon stock each year.

The system consists of a pressurised crew capsule atop a reusable ‘New Shepard’ booster rocket. 

The richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos is pursuing Blue Origin with vigour as he tries to launch his ‘New Glenn’ rocket into low-Earth orbit by 2020.  

Whilst Bezos is yet to leave the atmosphere of Earth, despite several successful launches, Elon Musk’s SpaceX programme has already sent the Falcon Heavy rocket into space.

On February 6 2018, SpaceX sent the rocket towards the orbit of Mars, 140 million miles away. 

On board was a red Tesla roadster that belonged to Musk himself.

Elon Musk with his Dragon Crew capsule

Elon Musk with his Dragon Crew capsule

SpaceX have won several multi-million dollar contracts from Nasa as the space agency hopes to use the rockets as a fast-track for its colonisation of the red planet. 

Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic recently successfully conducted a test flight of the Virgin Galactic’s Unity spaceplane.   

The flight accelerated to over 1,400 miles per hour (Mach 1.87).

Calling space ‘tantalisingly close’, Branson also said last year that suborbital space in test flights could be happening by this spring. 

More than 700 affluent customers to date, including celebrities Brad Pitt and Katy Perry, have reserved a $250,000 (£200,000) seat on one of Virgin’s space trips, 

The billionaire mogul also said he expects Elon Musk to win the race to Mars with his private rocket firm SpaceX. 

Richard Branson with the Virgin Galactic craft

Richard Branson with the Virgin Galactic craft

SpaceShipTwo will carry six passengers and two pilots. Each passenger gets the same seating position with two large windows – one to the side and one overhead.

The space ship is 60ft long with a 90inch diameter cabin allowing maximum room for the astronauts to float in zero gravity.

A climb to 50,000ft before the rocket engine ignites. Passengers become ‘astronauts’ when they reach the Karman line, the boundary of Earth’s atmosphere, at which point SpaceShipTwo separates from its carrier aircraft, White Knight II.

The spaceship will then make a sub-orbital journey with approximately six minutes of weightlessness, with the entire flight lasting approximately 3.5 hours.  

This marks SpaceX’s first so-called National Security Space mission, as defined by the U.S. military, SpaceX said.

SpaceX won an $83 million Air Force contract in 2016 to launch the GPS III satellite, which will have a lifespan of 15 years.

Thursday’s launch is set to be the first of 32 satellites in production by Lockheed under contracts worth a combined $12.6 billion for the Air Force GPS III program, Lockheed spokesman Chip Eschenfelder said.

Air Force spokesman William Russell said: ‘Once fully operational, this latest generation of GPS satellites will bring new capabilities to users, including three times greater accuracy and up to eight times the anti-jamming capabilities.’

The launch was originally scheduled for 2014 but has been hobbled by production delays, the Air Force said.

The next GPS III satellite is due to launch in mid-2019, Eschenfelder said, while subsequent satellites undergo testing in the company’s Colorado processing facility.



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