On February 18, SpaceX was scheduled to launch the Falcon 9 rocket with its two prototype broadband satellites and PAZ radar-imaging satellite, however, the launch has been postponed to February 21 (Wednesday) citing final checks. The reports suggest that it was already 24 hours delay on Sunday – February 18 and that is when SpaceX decided to take some more time to get the final checks on the newly upgrade payload fairing atop Falcon 9 rocket which was earlier used in August 2017 to launch a Formosat-5 satellite of Taiwan.
SpaceX made it to headlines after successfully launching the most powerful rocket on February 6 named ‘Falcon Heavy’. Other major highlights of the mission were Starman (a mannequin) and Elon Musk’s personal Tesla Roadster along with three boosters that returned to their landing stops without any damage. SpaceX announced the launch of Falcon 9 rocket on February 18 which would carry PAZ satellite and SpaceX broadband satellite into the orbit. However, since SpaceX is looking forward to reducing cost of overall space missions, it has upgraded a previously used payload fairing which is a nose-cone like structure atop rockets that protects the payload or satellites inside the rocket during liftoff and further stages.
Elon Musk had earlier said that the cost of the payload fairing is around $5 million and by reusing it, they can save a substantial amount. He further stated that the fairing recovery process is difficult since the detach fairings fall back to the surface. Although it has parachutes deployed to prevent it from falling into the water and getting damaged, currently the problem is with the parachutes which tend to entangle during descent. He even tweeted that his team will certainly find the solution for the problem in next six months this year. SpaceX has built drone-ships or giant ships that float on water. It has metal arms to catch the fairings touted as ‘Catcher’s mitt in boat form’.
SpaceX has upgraded the nose-cone like payload fairings atop Falcon 9 which will carry Spain-based PAZ radar-imaging satellite sent by Hisdesat and will be used by targeted customers and even the Government of Spain. Another payload on the Falcon 9 is SpaceX’s own two broadband satellites named as Microsat-2a and Microsat-2b. These two satellites are part of Starlink, a 12,000 satellite constellation aimed to provide ultrafast and reliable internet connection across the globe.
After completing all the final checks and inspection, the launch will occur on February 21 from a pad at Vandenberg Air Force Base, California where it is presently stationed. SpaceX will showcase the launch live on its website similar to how it showcased the launch of massive Falcon Heavy rocket last week.