SpaceX Is Struggling to Launch a Much-Anticipated Moon Mission

The company has now failed to launch its Falcon 9, carrying a private lunar lander and NASA probe, on two occasions due to unspecified technical problems.

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alcon 9 is vertical on pad 40 in Florida ahead of launch of the  iSpace HAKUTO-R Mission 1
Falcon 9 was propped up on Pad 40 ahead of the launch.
Photo: SpaceX

The launch of a Falcon 9 rocket has been delayed for the second time due to an unspecified issue, postponing a private Japanese mission that is poised to make history should it safely reach the Moon’s surface.

SpaceX had originally planned to launch its rocket on Wednesday morning, but initially pushed it to Thursday to “allow for additional pre-flight checkouts.” Later on Wednesday, the company announced that it was delaying the launch indefinitely without providing a specific reason.

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SpaceX’s workhorse rocket has lifted off more than 50 times this year alone. But Falcon 9 has had some issues in the past couple of months, suffering eight delays since early October, according to Teslarati. Most recently, SpaceX had to stand down from launching a new batch of Starlink satellites on November 18 to “take a closer look at data from static fire,” the company wrote on Twitter, in reference to the static fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket. A new date for that mission has yet to be announced.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk had previously stated that he’s aiming for a record-breaking 60 launches of the Falcon 9 rocket this year. The company has planned for eight launches in December, which would achieve Musk’s Falcon 9 goals. Given recent events, however, it’s now not clear if the company will be able to go through with all of its scheduled Falcon 9 launches for 2022.

More on this story: SpaceX Set to Launch Private Moon Lander, Along with NASA ‘Flashlight’ Probe

This week’s launch was packed with a historical payload that includes ispace’s Hakuto-R spacecraft. The Tokyo-based company will attempt to deploy Hakuto-R’s Mission 1 (M1) lander to the lunar surface, which would make it the first private mission to land on the Moon. The Hakuto-R M1 lander will also attempt to deliver its own payloads to the Moon, including the 22-pound (10-kilogram) Rashid rover built by the United Arab Emirates and a transformable ball-like robot, named SORA-Q, developed by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) and the TOMY toy company.

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The Falcon 9 rocket is also carrying NASA’s Lunar Flashlight, a probe that’s designed to search for water ice in permanently shadowed craters on the Moon from a near-rectilinear halo orbit (NRHO).

Ahead of the scheduled launch, Falcon 9 had been propped up on its launchpad at Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. However, sources told SpaceflightNow that SpaceX is planning to lower its rocket to a horizontal position and roll it back to the hanger to conduct more tests.

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We’ll have to wait and see whether this rocket makes it off the ground soon, carrying unprecedented and important packages to the Moon.

More: SpaceX Cargo Capsule Arrives at ISS With Tomato Seeds, Moon Med Kit, and More