After a six-week delay for undisclosed reasons, SpaceX raised a Falcon 9 vertical on its launch pad Thursday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for another try early Friday to send into orbit the company’s next batch of Starlink Internet relay stations and a pair of commercial BlackSky Earth-imaging microsatellites.
NASA officials said Thursday the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope will be delayed seven months to Oct. 31, 2021, a schedule slip that takes into account work slowdowns caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the amount of testing required on the observatory before its shipment to French Guiana for liftoff on a European Ariane 5 rocket.
A nearly three-month stoppage of on-site work due to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus at NASA’s Marshall Space Fight Center in Alabama is expected to push back the launch of the IXPE X-ray astronomy satellite from May 2021 until some time later next year, a senior space agency official said.
Despite a growing number of rocket options, the availability of on-time launch services remains a key factor in getting BlackSky’s constellation of Earth-imaging smallsats into orbit. SpaceX’s rideshare launch service will give BlackSky a chance to add two more spacecraft to its fleet on a Falcon 9 rocket with the next batch of Starlink Internet payloads.