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US Coast Guard Changes Course On Satellite Launch

Space-X’s Falcon 9 Halts Launch When Cruise Ship Enters Zone

In early February 2022, the United States Coast Guard (USCG) opened an investigation following the incursion of a cruise ship into the ‘no launch zone’ less than 30 seconds prior to the launch of a Space-X rocket. 

The Royal Caribbean cruise ship, ‘Harmony of the Seas’ was returning to port Canaveral, which is approximately 10 miles south of the launch site of the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Apparently, the February launch was the 4th attempt in as many days that SpaceX tried to launch the ‘COSMO-SkyMed Second Generation FM2’ mission to put the Italian Space Agency’s observation satellite into space. Despite the delay, Space-X was still on track to meet its goal of launching 52 missions in 2022. We’ve observed that besides technical challenges, weather is a regular factor that interferes with rocket launches, and that numerous cancellations and rescheduling leads to a tuning out of communications, and that the maritime community is very paper-driven in that regard.

Subsequently, the USCG implemented three changes they hope will avoid or reduce future occurrences: 1) electronic dissemination of information, 2) downsized “keep-out zones” that permit maritime activity to proceed despite an ‘active launch’ status, and 3) USCG to study historical maritime traffic to determine consistent.

The USCG sector in Jacksonville Florida, in addition to its regular ‘maritime’ duties is tasked with overseeing space-related operations, particularly since the launch site is surrounded by ongoing unscheduled seafaring activity, except perhaps for the cruise ships as they do come and go on a schedule. The USCG is responsible for making sure the immediate launch areas are clear, provide search and rescue (SAR) support if a launch aborts over water in any one of seven zones (if they fall on target).




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