Pad Abort for sixth Starlink launch, first fifth booster flight

SpaceX was preparing its Falcon 9 to launch the Starlink V1.0 L5 mission from LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center on Sunday. However, Falcon 9 (B1048.5) – marking the first time a Falcon 9 core flies for the fifth time – suffered an abort at T-0. A new launch date is yet to be announced.

Image by Julia Bergeron

Starlink launch:

The countdown was proceeding as planned until T-0 when the engines fired up, only for the flight computer to abort the launch. The vehicle is in a safe condition and is likely to be recycled for a launch next week, pending a review of the abort parameters, deemed to be “High Engine Power” over the loop.

This mission will launch the 5th batch of 60 fully-operational Starlink satellites – the sixth batch overall – to a Low Earth Orbit (LEO). This will also be the first Starlink launch from the historic Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at Kennedy Space Center. Previous Starlink missions launched from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40), just over three miles south of LC-39A.

Now, as SpaceX starts ramping up the Starlink launch frequency, there may be a new bottleneck – launch pad availability.

LC-39A has been the sole starting point for Falcon Heavy and Crew Dragon missions. Those two capabilities make it unique among SpaceX’s launch pads, as the other two can only support uncrewed Falcon 9 rockets.

However, SpaceX is now starting to use LC-39A for commercial launches during downtime between Falcon Heavy and Crew Dragon launches. This will help relieve the new strain on SLC-40 from the increased Starlink launches, allowing for more time for refurbishment and launch preparations.

Starlink V1.0 L5 will be the first commercial Falcon 9 launch from LC-39A since the Es’hail-2 mission in November 2018.

This Starlink mission is the only one expected to launch in March. The next will likely launch in April from SLC-40.

SpaceX hopes to launch two batches of satellites per month this year.

written by Ian Atkinson

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