(Reuters) – Billionaire Elon Musk, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to blast off on Thursday, after two cancelled launches earlier this week by looking at the last-minute technical problems, but bad weather is looming as a potential problem.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, the planned launch of a U. S. Air Force navigation satellite, sits on Launch Complex 40 after the launch was delayed after an aborted procedure was set in motion by the on board computer, on Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA, 18 December 2018. REUTERS/Steve Nesius/File Photo
The rocket will carry about a $500 million global positioning system (GPS) satellite built by Lockheed Martin Corp, and is due to take off from Florida Cape Canaveral shortly after 9 a.m. local time (1400 GMT).
A challenge will be on Thursday morning, with only a 20 percent chance of favorable conditions because of heavy thunderstorms and winds are predicted for southern and central Florida ‘ s so-called Space Coast on Thursday, said Patrick Burke, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center in College Park, Maryland.
“It is almost a near certainty that Cape Canaveral gets thunderstorms in the morning, with a number of serious wind,” Burke said. “A cold front brings the rain is moving off the coast.”
Burke said that the weather may not clear until Saturday.
SpaceX halted the planned launch minutes before lift-off on Tuesday due to a technical problem, although it later said the rocket and the payload ” healthy.”
The launch was also cancelled early on Wednesday due to a technical problem with the rocket.
A successful launch would be a major victory for Musk, an entrepreneur who spent years trying to break into the lucrative market for military space launches long dominated by Lockheed and Boeing Co.
It marks SpaceX’s first so-called National Security Space mission, as defined by the U.S. military, SpaceX said.
SpaceX has won an $83 million air force contract in 2016 and the launch of the GPS III satellite, which have a lifespan of 15 years.
Thursday start is set, the first 32 satellites in production by Lockheed under contracts worth a combined $12.6 billion for the air force GPS III program, Lockheed spokesman Chip Eschenfelder said.
Air Force spokesman William Russell said: “Once fully operational, this latest generation of GPS satellites brings new opportunities to users, including three times better accuracy and up to eight times the anti-jamming capabilities.”
The launch was originally scheduled for 2014, but has been hobbled by production delays, the air force said.
The next GPS III satellite is due to launch mid-2019, Eschenfelder said, while in later satellites are undergoing testing in the company’s Colorado processing facility.
Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Additional reporting by Eric M. Johnson and Joey Roulette in Seattle; Editing by Paul Tait