SpaceX experiences a rare mission scrub of its Falcon 9 rocket at the moment engine ignition

A rare abort of a Falcon 9 launch at the moment of engine ignition. The Starlink 10-2 mission was called off on its third launch attempt in as many days. Image: Spaceflight Now

Update 5:40 p.m. EDT: SpaceX aborted the mission as the Falcon 9’s engines began to fire.

SpaceX struck out for a third time in as many days attempting to launch the Starlink 10-2 mission. After pushing back the launch time a few times within their window of availability on Friday, an abort was called just as the Merlin engines at the base of the 70-meter-tall (299 feet) rocket ignited.

In a statement posted to X (formerly Twitter), SpaceX said that it was “Standing down from today’s Falcon 9 launch,” adding that its “new target launch date will be shared once available.” The company made no mention of what may have led to the scrub.

Prior to the Friday night scrub, the most recent instance of a Falcon 9 aborting a mission at the moment of engine ignition was back on Oct. 3, 2020, when SpaceX was attempting to launch a GPS satellite.

The mission abort came after two previous and unsuccessful attempts to launch the mission. Their first launch attempt on Wednesday was called off for reasons that SpaceX didn’t clarify. That was followed by an evening of persistently poor weather, which caused SpaceX to stand down from a Thursday night Falcon 9 launch.

Central and southern Florida have been hammered by rounds of thunderstorms and heavy tropical downpours expected to last several days.

Assuming SpaceX doesn’t shift its launch calendar order following this scrub, the Starlink 10-2 mission will be the 61st Falcon 9 flight for the company in 2024, which will tie the total number of orbital launches it achieved in all of 2022.

Heading into the Friday launch opportunity, the 45th Weather Squadron forecast a roughly 30 percent chance of favorable weather at the start of the launch window, which was set to improve to 70 percent favorable by the end.

Meteorologists expressed concerns about anvil clouds and cumulus clouds, which factor into the possibility of the rocket generating lightning if it were to launch in suboptimal conditions.

When the mission moves ahead, the Falcon 9 first stage booster supporting Starlink 10-2, B1073 in the SpaceX fleet, will launch for a 16th time. It previously supported the launches of ispace’s HAKUTO-R lunar lander, the Bandwagon-1 rideshare mission and 10 previous Starlink missions.

A little more than eight minutes after liftoff, B1073 will land on the SpaceX droneship, ‘Just Read the Instructions.’ This will be the 84th landing on this droneship and the 319th booster landing to date.

The mission comes at a busy time for SpaceX and NASA. This week, the two along with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and other federal agencies hosted a series of in-person meetings to inform the public about and take feedback regarding the proposal for SpaceX to launch Starship missions from Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

SpaceX also recently sent off the last two tower segments along with the chopstick arms for its second Starship tower for its Starbase facility in southern Texas.

A Starship tower segment along with the chopstick elevator system rolls to the turn basin near the Press Site at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center on Saturday, June 1, 2024. The components were some of the cargo bound for Starbase in southern Texas to erect a second launch tower. Image: Will Robinson-Smith/Spaceflight Now