SpaceX delays its Falcon 9 rocket launch, carrying Starlink and Paz satellites, to February 21

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After the huge success of Falcon Heavy rocket, Space scheduled a Falcon 9 launch on February 18, Sunday. But, the launch has been delayed and is being postponed to February 21 to allow engineers do final checks of Falcon 9’s upgraded nose cone. SpaceX had earlier planned to launch the Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Starlink internet broadband satellites and Spain’s Paz satellite from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California on February 18.

But now, due to the need of some final checks for the upgraded Falcon 9 fairing, the launch has been delayed. SpaceX officials tweeted that the Team at Vandenberg is taking additional time to perform final checkouts of the upgraded fairing. “Payload and vehicle remain healthy. Due to mission requirements, now targeting February 21 launch of PAZ,” they added.

SpaceX is doing final checks of the Falcon 9’s upgraded clamshell-like nose cone that is fitted at the top to protect the payload during flight. Earlier Elon Musk had informed that they are working on upgrading the fairing of their Falcon 9 boosters so that their components can be recovered and reused efficiently. According to Elon Musk, each fairing of Falcon 9 costs SpaceX around $5 million and that is why their company is trying to reuse the components of the fairing to make substantial savings. Musk said that they are getting closer to recovering the payload fairings and have been experimenting with parachutes on its fairings. Musk has also built a huge drone ship with metal arms to catch and reuse the rocket fairings.

Earlier Musk had said that recovering payload fairing is pretty difficult because the parachutes fitted to them tend to get twisted during descent. But Musk has not lost hope and is on the verge of making fairing recovery a success. Musk said, “I’m pretty sure we’ll solve fairing recovery in the next 6 months.” Coming to Wednesday’s launch, SpaceX will use a previously flown first stage booster for its Falcon 9 rocket. That first stage booster had carried the Taiwanese Formosat-5 satellite to space in August 2017. On February 21, the Falcon 9 will deploy SpaceX’s own set of Starlink satellites, Microsat 1a and 1b that aims to provide low-cost internet globally. Along with that, a Spanish radar observation named Pax will also fly to space aboard the Falcon 9 rocket.

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