If you happen to mess up at your job today, at least take solace in the fact that you didn’t ruin a SpaceX rocket launch. That is unless you were driving the cruise ship that entered their launch zone on Sunday. Typically, a cruise ship will follow a designated route and just head that way throughout the ride. This cruise ship, however, seemed to go a little off course and that course led them straight to a SpaceX launch exclusion zone. The exclusion zone is located in Port Canaveral, Florida and the launch was going to happen from the Kennedy Space Center launchpad.
The ship in question was Harmony of the Seas, which is the third-largest cruise ship. in the world. The launch engineers waited as long as they could, waiting for the Coast Guard to resolve the issue and get the ship out of the path, but they ended up scrubbing the flight at the last minute and rescheduling. This delay also caused a delay to the Monday launch of more SpaceX Starlink satellites. The Coast Guard is currently investigating the incident to find the cause.
Luckily, SpaceX has been staying busy regardless of the delays. On Monday they launched the COSMO-Skymed Second Generation FM2. They managed to launch a National Reconnaissance Office satellite into orbit on Wednesday. On Thursday, they were able to launch 49 Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit. So, while they didn’t quite pull off their scheduled launch on Sunday, at least they were able to send plenty more satellites up in the wake of the mishap.
Though the cruise ship incident is certainly less than desirable, it’s not like it’s the first instance of a SpaceX launch having to get rescheduled. Weather delays can often cause a launch to get pushed. With that being said, an errant cruise ship is definitely one of the weirder reasons for a launch to get called off.
Most of the launches were Falcon 9 launches, which is one of SpaceX’s primary assets. The Falcon 9 is a reusable two-stage rocket. It’s capable of transporting people and payloads into orbit. What makes Falcon 9 special is the ability to recover the most costly parts of the rocket and refly them, making these orbital launches much more cost-effective. SpaceX is also well-known for Starlink, which is capable of providing internet access to nearly anywhere on Earth. Of course, the enigmatic and sometimes controversial founder of SpaceX, Elon Musk, might be the most famous aspect of the company overall in the general public eye.
While the cruise ship issue probably won’t happen too often, SpaceX has been in the news for some other mishaps lately. Namely, one of their old rockets is going to smack into the Moon pretty soon. Luckily, they’ve advanced their tech since then and there probably won’t be too much more of that either. In any case, they’re probably going to be glad to move on from the cruise ship incident and get more rockets up in orbit.