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SpaceX aborts launch of Air Force GPS satellite 2 seconds before liftoff

Crew Dragon Launch Escape Demonstration file photo from January 19, 2020. (SpaceX/TNS)

SpaceX aborted a Friday night attempt to launch a next-generation GPS satellite for the U.S. Air Force, continuing an unlucky streak that has postponed launches this week for both SpaceX and United Launch Alliance.

It was not immediately clear what caused the rocket to abort. With less than 45 seconds to launch, the mission director said everything was “go for launch.”

But then, with just two seconds left in the countdown, “five, four, three … we have an abort,” a voice said over mission control.

Friday’s launch involved the GPS III SV-04 satellite, built by Lockheed Martin, that was scheduled to go up around 9:43 p.m. Instead, it remained on pad 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

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SpaceX only had a 15-minute window to attempt the launch and propellant had already been loaded, so the company could not try again Friday night. If it’s rescheduled for Saturday night, the 45th Weather Squadron has put the forecast at only 20% “go.”

SpaceX’s next Starlink mission, part of Elon Musk’s plan to create a constellation of satellites to deliver the internet to the planet, has also been postponed three times this week. It’s now tentatively scheduled for Monday at 7:51 a.m.

Right now, there are about 700 Starlink satellites in orbit, and Musk hopes to have 1,500 in place by the end of the year in order to provide coverage for all of North America.

United Launch Alliance, which has also had to delay its Delta IV Heavy launch, has not announced a new date to send up a classified spy satellite for the National Reconnaissance Office.

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© 2020 The Orlando Sentinel