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SpaceX delays mount as Elon Musk says company is ‘paranoid’

Published Jul 14th, 2020 4:32PM EDT
spacex delays
Image: Alex Gallardo/AP/Shutterstock

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  • SpaceX delays begin to pile up as a trio of missions are waiting to launch but continue to get pushed back.
  • SpaceX’s launch schedule is packed, and delays can have dramatic effects on future launches.
  • The fifth launch of SpaceX’s Starship could still happen this week, but it’s up in the air.

For much of 2020, SpaceX has stuck to a packed schedule of rocket launches, rarely missing a date and even sending its first human travelers to space via its Crew Dragon spacecraft. It’s been a big year for the company, but the past couple of weeks have been marked by multiple launch delays that are now beginning to mount.

SpaceX recently delayed its next Starlink mission — which also includes the deployment of a satellite for a company called BlackSky — for the third time. There’s no new launch date for that mission as of yet, but another delay has come in the meantime. The launch of a South Korean military satellite that was scheduled for this week has also been delayed, and those two delays sit on top of the fifth Starship launch which has seen repeated delays but could still launch this week.

Weather delays are one thing, and SpaceX has had to deal with more than its share of those in recent weeks, but delays due to hardware issues are rare for the Falcon 9 these days. The most recent delay of the Starlink mission was due to the need for additional “checkouts,” while the South Korean satellite launch was scrubbed after the company decided it needed to inspect the rocket’s upper stage.

So why is this all happening at the same time? Elon Musk decided to hop on Twitter to offer a brief, vague insight into the company’s line of thinking.

“We’re being extra paranoid,” Musk said in the tweet. “Maximizing probability of successful launch is paramount.” The tweet was in response to a link to a news story about the delay of the South Korean satellite launch, but it would seem to apply to the other delayed missions as well.

SpaceX has been hugely successful and much of that success is due to the company’s reliability. The early days of reusable rocket testing led to some pretty awesome blooper reels, but the years since the company perfected its strategy has seen countless missions go off without a hitch.

There’s been nothing to indicate that the trend will change, and obviously, SpaceX deciding to delay its missions to ensure everything goes according to plan is the right move, especially if it suspects that something isn’t quite right with its high-priced hardware. Still, it’s curious to see so many delays pile up, and it’s certainly out of the ordinary as far as SpaceX is concerned.