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Sunday SpaceX Canceled Launch At T-Minus 33 Seconds--Boat Hazard

Cruise Ship Sails Into Restricted Area, Invoking Danger Of Launch Debris

SpaceX has experienced an irritating delay to their launch schedule, caused by cruise liners sailing into the restricted zone off the coast of Florida's Cape Canaveral.

The launch was 33 seconds from ignition only to be canceled in the interest of safety should the worst come to pass. The now-delayed launch is anticipated to make the attempt sometime on the evening of the 31st. 

The region closed off to maritime traffic is different from the usual hazard areas seen for ISS-bound launches. The polar orbit required for the Italian COSMO-SkyMed delivery requires SpaceX to send the 2.2-ton satellite to the south, as opposed to the more commonly used eastern corridor. The Coast Guard attempted to divert the Royal Caribbean’s Harmony of the Seas as it steamed into the no-go zone, but cruise ships are not particularly given to rapid, immediate directional changes. The Harmony is now the subject of a Coast Guard investigation over the incursion, as the captain failed to heed the Notice to Mariners. (NOTMARs, much like NOTAMs, are a vital part of the preflight process for ships, too). The warning closing the safety zone to passage makes mention of civil penalties up to $97,000, with willful violations punishable by up to $250,000. 

The change could result in a stack of delays for its own Starlink deployment missions, which were set to launch following the SkyMed mission on January 31. Later in the week, the company will pivot to a high-priority spy satellite launch for the National Reconnaissance Office from the Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. SpaceX has scheduled the livestream to begin at 18:00 EST, with an expected launch within 15 minutes after. 



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