SpaceX halts launch of its internet satellite after an issue with engine power is detected

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ORLANDO, Fla. — “Liftoff!” came the call at T-0 minutes, and then … nothing.

SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket sat at Kennedy Space Center’s launch pad 39A just before 9:30 a.m. Sunday and did not clear the gantry, ending the day’s attempt to carry 60 of the company’s own Starlink internet satellites to orbit.

It appears the culprit was an issue with engine power, the company said, which triggered the auto-abort.

“There are a thousand ways a launch can go wrong and only one way it can go right,” said Michael Andrews, a supply chain supervisor at SpaceX. “Overall the vehicle appears to be in good health.”

SpaceX said it’ll announce a new launch date once it gets a new date approved with the Air Force’s Eastern Range.

Sunday’s attempted mission featured a Falcon 9 rocket that was on its fifth reuse, what would have been a record for SpaceX, as well as reused fairing, the nose cone of the rocket that carried 60, 570-pound Starlink satellites.

Starlink is SpaceX’s entry into the telecommunications industry, a move that could help fund the company’s loftier goals of reaching the moon and Mars.

Starlink missions are becoming a regular occurrence in 2020. Sunday’s attempt, the third this year, was the first mission to be scrubbed in this manner. It would have been Starlink’s sixth flight to low-Earth orbit.

The goal for SpaceX is to provide service to the Northern United States and Canada by 2020.

Because the satellites are so close to Earth, which gives them higher reliability and better connectivity speeds, there have to be thousands of them in orbit to provide worldwide coverage. SpaceX has about 300 Starlinks in orbit. Sunday’s launch would have taken that count to 360.

SpaceX would need about 1,500 orbiting by the end of 2020 to reach its goal of North American connectivity. It’s hoping for global coverage by the end of 2021.

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©2020 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.)