SpaceX cancels first US national security mission

Cristina Cross
December 20, 2018

The rockets include one made by Elon Musk's Space X and another by Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, but both have now been put off until Wednesday.

SpaceX is scheduled to launch a new Global Positioning System satellite for the U.S. Air Force sometime after 9:11 a.m. ET; Blue Origin will follow with a NASA payload at 9:30 a.m. Blue Origin, too, said it meant to fly the tenth mission of its New Shepard Launch system from West Texas.

SpaceX sued the U.S. Air Force in 2014 in protest over the military's award of a multibillion-dollar, non-compete contract for 36 rocket launches to United Launch Alliance, a partnership of Boeing and Lockheed.

In 2017, the Hawthorne, California-based company launched payloads for the Department of Defense that were not designated as a National Security Space missions. 2 is also scheduled to launch a communications satellite for the Indian Air Force on Wednesday, from the Satish Dhawan Space Center.

According to a press release from SpaceX, "The United States Air Force's first GPS III satellite will augment the current constellation of 31 operational GPS satellites".

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Blue Origin's New Shepard (named for astronaut Alan Shepard) will carry nine different NASA-sponsored research and experimental projects that have come from five colleges and several agencies and engineering firm Controlled Dynamics.

"Still working through ground infrastructure issues and monitoring incoming weather in West Texas", Blue Origin representatives wrote on Twitter. The long-awaited flight already had slipped to almost the end of the available launch window because of high upper level winds when the issue cropped up.

France's Arianespace is the third to launch. As of publication, three of the four rocket launches are canceled. It will now try again to launch the Air Force GPS III satellite tomorrow, Wednesday, December 19.

Russian recovery forces in Kazakhstan, meanwhile, pressed ahead with preparations for the planned re-entry and landing of the Soyuz MS-09/55S spacecraft carrying vehicle commander Sergey Prokopyev, flight engineer Alexander Gerst and NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor back to Earth.

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