High winds have forced SpaceX to postpone its launch of the EchoStar 23 communications satellite, a mission requiring so much oomph that the company won’t even try landing the first-stage booster afterward.
The Falcon 9 rocket was due to lift off early Tuesday from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, but SpaceX decided to wait out the winds.
Standing down due to high winds; working toward next available launch opportunity.
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) March 14, 2017
In advance of tonight’s countdown, the next opportunity for launch was listed as 1:35 a.m. ET Thursday (10:35 p.m. PT Wednesday). The forecast calls for a 90 percent chance of acceptable weather.
The 6-ton satellite is due to go into a spot in geostationary orbit, more than 22,000 miles above Earth, to provide video and data services for Colorado-based EchoStar’s customers.
Because of the requirements for getting such a heavy satellite to such a high orbit, the rocket’s first stage won’t have enough propellant remaining on board to attempt a landing, on sea or on land. Instead, the booster will fall into the Atlantic Ocean. That’s typical for expendable rockets, but SpaceX’s landing attempts have become so routine that what used to be typical is now worthy of note.
SpaceX is aiming to lower the cost of access to space by retrieving and reusing its boosters. Last year the company’s president, Gwynne Shotwell, said such reuse could bring about a 30 percent reduction in price, which is already low by industry standards ($62 million, according to SpaceX’s online menu).
Later this month, the company plans to launch a previously flown booster for the first time, with the aim of putting the SES 10 communication satellite into orbit.