NEW YORK — SpaceX delayed launching a new satellite Wednesday that could bring more people online in India, where about 1 billion people don’t have internet access.
The private space exploration company headed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk didn’t immediately say why the launch was put off, but Florida was in the path of storm Wednesday that brought high winds and tornado alerts from Florida and as far north as the Mid-Atlantic states.
Liftoff from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station was originally scheduled for Wednesday evening, but SpaceX announced via Twitter just after 6 p.m. that the “team [is] opting to hold the launch” but the “rocket and spacecraft remain healthy.”
It has tentatively rescheduled the launch for Thursday at 6:49 pm ET.
SpaceX is working with SES to send up a 11,620-pound satellite, called SES-9. The company says it can bolster mobile network coverage and bring high-speed broadband internet access to remote areas in Asian-Pacific countries like India and the Philippines.
It will also allow 22 million homes in the region to get more local and HD channels from their TV providers, and the satellite will be “ideal for providing seamless in-flight connectivity for domestic Asian flights operating in countries like Indonesia and the Philippines.”
SES-9 is part of a $1.8 billion investment by SES — which is traded on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange — that includes seven new satellites.
The satellite is destined for what’s called geostationary orbit — following a path about 22,400 miles directly above the equator. That will put SES-9 in sync with the Earth’s rotation, giving ground-level antennas a fixed target to point toward in order to get the satellite’s signal.
SpaceX, which completed a similar mission for SES in December 2013, will also be attempting to safely land part of its $61.2 million Falcon 9 launch rocket after it catapults the spacecraft toward orbit.
The ability to safety land and reuse launch rockets is key to making space travel and exploration less expensive.
Musk and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos have both successfully landed a rocket on land, but Musk has been trying to land a rocket on a sea-borne platform. Musk’s rocket exploded after one of its landing legs malfunctioned during the last attempt in January.
Missions destined for orbit require the spacecraft to travel at an angle, so those rockets typically wind up over a body of water when they return to Earth.
But SpaceX isn’t hopeful that Wednesday will mark their first water-landing success. The company said a mission to geostationary orbit presents additional challenges, and ” a successful landing is not expected.”