SpaceX delays historic launch for better weather—to land

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is reading to launch 11 ORBCOMM satellites into space. (credit: SpaceX)

In what may be a first in spaceflight history, SpaceX delayed the commercial launch of a satellite payload on Sunday to wait for better weather not to liftoff, but rather to land the booster of its Falcon 9 rocket.

The rocket company's chief executive, Elon Musk, announced the decision Sunday afternoon via Twitter. According to Musk, "Monte Carlo" simulations of landing weather on Sunday and Monday at a complex along the Florida coast showed better conditions on Monday. "Punting 24 hours," he said. The new launch time is 8:33pm ET on Monday. The forecast calls for an 80 percent chance of acceptable launch weather.

SpaceX is attempting make its return to flight after an accident in June with its Falcon 9 rocket. Not only is the company launching 11 ORBCOMM communications satellites, it is flying an upgraded variant of the Falcon 9 rocket, and trying to return an orbital rocket safely back to the ground for the first time. Previously SpaceX tried to recover the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on autonomous drone ships, without success.

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