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SpaceX has delayed the planned liftoff of a long-awaited space weather satellite and an ambitious rocket landing attempt another 24 hours, to Tuesday evening, due to weather concerns at its Florida launch site.
On Sunday, a U.S. Air Force ground radar malfunction delayed SpaceX's launch of Deep Space Climate Observatory, or DSCOVR, atop the private spaceflight company's Falcon 9 rocket. At first, liftoff was rescheduled for Monday — but launch managers said on Monday morning that the attempt would be pushed back to Tuesday at 6:05 p.m. ET.
"Weather for an attempt on Monday, Feb. 9, is unfavorable. If that attempt were to scrub for weather, we would lose either the Tuesday or Wednesday launch opportunity due to crew rest requirements for the Air Force," the launch team explained in a statement. "Teams will target launch on Tuesday with a backup of Wednesday, as weather is more favorable on both of those days. While it is not required for flight, SpaceX will leverage the extra time to replace a video transmitter on the first stage in advance of the next attempt."
The $340 million DSCOVR mission is a partnership involving NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Air Force. The spacecraft is designed to alert scientists 15 to 60 minutes before a potentially dangerous solar storm could impact Earth.
Once SpaceX delivers DSCOVR satellite to space, the company will attempt to land the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean. Representatives with the company attempted to perform a landing like this during an earlier launch, but the rocket stage exploded when it impacted the ship.
Tuesday will be a busy day for SpaceX: The company's robotic Dragon cargo ship is expected to leave the International Space Station on that day and carry cargo back down to Earth. If all goes according to plan, SpaceX will launch a rocket from Florida, attempt to land the first stage of that rocket in the Atlantic and have a capsule splash down in the Pacific, all in a matter of hours.