SpaceX and the US Space Force have encountered technical issues that have resulted in a delay of the military’s X-37B spaceplane launch. The Falcon Heavy rocket, which is required for the launch, needs to undergo servicing and has been rolled back into its hangar in Florida. Consequently, the launch has been pushed back until at least late December. The specific problems causing the delay have not been disclosed by SpaceX and Space Force officials.
Initially, a ground equipment problem prevented liftoff on Monday. Although this issue could potentially be resolved by Wednesday, additional complications require further analysis and more time to resolve. SpaceX has stated that the delay is necessary to perform additional system checkouts.
However, the delay in the Falcon Heavy launch with the X-37B spaceplane could potentially have a ripple effect on other SpaceX missions that are scheduled for January. One of these missions involves the launch of the first commercial Moon lander from Intuitive Machines. The launch window for this mission is limited due to orbital mechanics and lighting conditions. LC-39A, the launch site for the Intuitive Machines mission, has specific capabilities necessary for the launch and is the only pad capable of supporting Falcon Heavy missions. Reconfiguring LC-39A between Falcon Heavy and Falcon 9 launches typically takes a couple of weeks, adding further complexity to the scheduling.
Additionally, another commercial lunar lander mission from Astrobotic, scheduled for liftoff in January, may also be affected. The timing of these missions is crucial due to the limited launch windows.
Even Axiom Space’s private astronaut mission, Ax-3, scheduled for January, may face delays. This significant mission aims to carry four commercial astronauts to the International Space Station. SpaceX is currently evaluating whether to launch Ax-3 from LC-39A or Space Launch Complex 40. The availability of a second launch pad allows SpaceX to be more responsive to customer needs and the growing demand.
Due to infrastructure constraints and limitations imposed by orbital mechanics, one or more of these missions may experience further delays. SpaceX and the US Space Force are diligently working to resolve the technical issues and minimize any potential impact on future launches.
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