Attempts to launch the latest batch of SpaceX Starlink Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites were derailed, first by a launch delay for the Air Force’s X-37B reusable space vehicle, bad weather and finally to focus its efforts on its first launch of humans into space onboard a Crew Dragon capsule.
SpaceX had originally scheduled its eighth Starlink launch to take at 3:10 AM ET on May 18, 2020 from its Cape Canaveral launch pad, but its first attempted was bumped by bad weather delaying the launch of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V on May 16. Since the Atlas launch was being conducted for the U.S. Air Force, it had priority over the range for another attempt which successfully took place on May 17.
The second window for the SpaceX launch was to take place on May 18, but bad weather pushed the launch back to May 19 and then resulted in a cancelation due to high winds from Tropical Storm Arthur. SpaceX announced on May 18 it would not try to launch the Starlink mission until after the launch of its Crew Demo-2 mission on May 27, 2020.
With the eyes of the world watching for the U.S.’s crewed return to flight from Kennedy Space Center, SpaceX is focusing all of its attention on the Crew Demo-2 mission. It will be the first crewed launch any commercial company has conducted with its own hardware and the first crewed flight for NASA from Kennedy in nearly 9 years.
If Crew Demo-2 is successful, SpaceX will the second means of getting to the International Space Station, supplementing Russia’s venerable Soyuz system. Boeing is also working on being able to conduct crew launches from Kennedy, but it must first redo an unmanned flight test since the first launch of its CTS-100 Starliner vehicle went wrong. The test revealed at least two software bugs and larger issues with Boeing’s software certification processes. Boeing agreed to do redo the unmanned flight test out of its own pocket and it is expected to take place later this year.