SpaceX delays PAZ, Internet satellites launch until Thursday

By Brooks Hays  |  Updated Feb. 21, 2018 at 10:02 AM
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Feb. 21 (UPI) -- SpaceX is again delaying the launch of its Falcon 9 rocket, this time due to "strong upper level winds."

The new launch time is set for 6:17 a.m. PST on Thursday. The blastoff will take place at California's Vandenberg Air Force Base.

The rocket was originally scheduled to launch on Sunday, but was rescheduled for Wednesday to allow engineers more time to double check all the rocket's systems. Wednesday's weather failed to cooperate.

The rocket's primary mission is to deliver a radar imaging satellite called PAZ into orbit for Spain.

The mission will be broadcast live online.

Also included in the payload are two experimental broadband satellites designed to support SpaceX's Starlink system, the aerospace company's foray into space-based Internet.

As broadband and wireless communications companies grapple over the terrestrial spectrum, SpaceX is making a play for satellite-powered Internet.

The Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b included in this week's launch are only the first of many. SpaceX plans to develop a fleet of several thousand Internet satellites.

SpaceX has not publicly commented on the two satellites, but described them briefly in paperwork filed with the FCC.

According to the Wall Street Journal, SpaceX is aiming to have 40 million Starlink customers and roughly $30 billion in total revenue by 2025.

Thursday's launch will once again use a previously launched Falcon 9 first stage. SpaceX hopes to further boost its reusability technologies -- and lower launch costs -- by capturing and reusing its fairings, the protective casing that surrounds the payload.

To do so, the company has constructed a giant net aboard a floating platform. The netted platform ship, dubbed Mr. Steven, will attempt to capture the two-piece fairing. The descent of each fairing component will be slowed by geotagged parachutes, allowing Mr. Steven's controllers to properly position the netting.

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