Weather, wayward ship delays SpaceX's launch of a satellite from Florida

Agenzia Spaziale Italiana satellite can observe Earth through all weather conditons.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- An Italian Earth-observing satellite will launch on a SpaceX rocket this week from Cape Canaveral, marking the second launch of the next-generation satellites for the COSMO-SkyMed program.

SpaceX originally targeted a Thursday evening launch but were forced to stand down due to weather.

The company reattempted to launch the rocket on Friday at around but the weather was again problematic. Additional attempts to launch over the weekend were also thwarted again by weather and then on Sunday, a cruise ship in the launch hazard area.

A U.S. Coast Guard confirmed it is investigating the incident involving the Harmony of the Seas Royal Caribbean cruise ship.

"The Coast Guard is actively investigating Sunday’s cruise ship incursion and postponement of the SpaceX launch in Port Canaveral," the Coast Guard PADET Jacksonville office said in a statement. "Our primary concern is the safety of mariners at sea and we will continue to work with our federal, state and local port partners to ensure safe and navigable waterways."

Port Canaveral CEO Capt. John Murray said the Canaveral Port Authority fully supports the space industry. 

"This, unfortunately, was an isolated incident that happened outside of our control," Murray said in a statement. "The Coast Guard is conducting a full investigation and we look forward to continuing to work with them and our space partners to ensure the continued success of this important enterprise."

SpaceX is now targeting Monday for liftoff.

Meteorologists say the new launch window could be impacted by a cold front moving through the region with thick clouds and possible rain.

The COSMO-SkyMed constellation is owned and operated by Agenzia Spaziale Italiana or ASI, the Italian space agency. This launch will mark the second spacecraft part of the upgraded spacecraft. Italy has launched five previous COSMO missions, including the most recent in December 2020.

"The launch of the second satellite of the new generation will allow Italy to have an even more advanced and unique system for Earth Observation in the world," ASI said in a news release about the upcoming launch.


According to ASI, the Earth observation satellites can image Earth "meter by meter, day and night, in any weather conditions." The satellite data is used to predict landslides, floods and help with disaster relief efforts. The Earth observations are also used for military defense purposes. 

COSMO-SkyMed data helped track the eruption of the Kīlauea Volcano in Hawaii from late 2020 into early 2021. Radar data was provided to the U.S. Geological Survey and part of international collaboration in volcanic research, according to ASI.

The satellite data is also available to download through a portal on the European Space Agency website.

SpaceX has another launch planned this week with its own payload.

A Falcon 9 will launch with dozens of Starlink internet satellites. The spacecraft are part of SpaceX's space-based internet program, now offering service in more than a dozen countries.