SpaceX’s Transporter-2 launch has been called off at the last moment, with Elon Musk blaming an intrusion into the so-called “keep out zone” around the site. The company had planned to launch its second dedicated SmallSat Rideshare Program mission from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, today.
Indeed, the launch window opened at 2:56pm EDT, shortly before Musk made the announcement on his Twitter. It was due to run for 58 minutes; SpaceX had already earmarked a backup opportunity on Wednesday, June 30 with the same 58-minute window.
Now, it looks like that will be necessary after all. The restricted zones around launch sites are designed to ensure safety on all counts, both of the SpaceX mission and of those who might inadvertently be near to it. Different zones are blocked out depending on different launch plans.
SpaceX uses a series of Automatic Identification System Private Aids to Navigation, otherwise known as AIS PATON, to flag the keep-out zone to others. They’re designed to stop vessels and other craft from coming into the launch area, and adapt dynamically to suit each mission. At other times, outside of launch periods, alternate use of the areas is permitted.
However though the alert system may be running, it doesn’t actively prevent others from coming into the launch area. Should that happen, the whole thing has to be shut down. Unsurprisingly, Elon Musk isn’t happy about that.
“Unfortunately, launch is called off for today, as an aircraft entered the “keep out zone”, which is unreasonably gigantic,” he tweeted. “There is simply no way that humanity can become a spacefaring civilization without major regulatory reform. The current regulatory system is broken.”
Transporter-2 has 85 commercial and government spacecraft onboard, along with three Starlink satellites. One interesting element is that, while there are few spacecraft overall compared to Transporter-1, the mission is scheduled to launch more mass into orbit in sum total.
When it does take off, it’ll be a demonstration not only of SpaceX’s ability to put cargo into space, but to further reuse its launch hardware. The first stage booster for the Falcon 9, for example, was previously used for five different Starlink missions, among others; it’s scheduled to touch down again, at Landing Zone 1 (LZ-1) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
Half of the Falcon 9’s fairing, meanwhile, was used on the Transporter-1 mission, and on a Starlink mission. The other half was used on SAOCOM 1B and a further Starlink mission.
How amenable regulators might be to softening the restrictions as per Musk’s suggestions remains to be seen. As for SpaceX, it says that the Falcon 9 teams are now setting up, ready for the backup launch on Wednesday.