Coast Guard investigates Royal Caribbean ship that blocked SpaceX launch

A Coast Guard investigation is underway after the Royal Caribbean Harmony of the Seas cruise ship was responsible for cleaning up a SpaceX launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Sunday night.

The ship veered into the exclusion zone along the flight path of a Falcon 9 rocket just before the 6:11 p.m. EST launch, forcing SpaceX to pull out of the mission and prepare for a 24-hour turnaround. time. Harmony of the Seas is the third largest cruise ship in the world at 226,963 gross tons. It has 2,747 cabins, a capacity of 6,687 passengers and a crew of 2,200.

In a statement on Monday, US Coast Guard spokesman David Micallef said: “We can confirm that the cruise ship was Harmony of the Seas. The Coast Guard is actively investigating the vessel’s incursion from Sunday cruise and the postponement of SpaceX’s launch.”

“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,” Micallef added.

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A Royal Caribbean spokesperson did not respond to a FLORIDA TODAY request for comment.

Port Canaveral General Manager John Murray said: “Port Canaveral fully supports the space industry in our region. Unfortunately, this is an isolated incident that happened beyond our control. The Coast Guard is conducting a thorough investigation and we look forward to continuing to work with them and our space partners to ensure the continued success of this important undertaking.

Launch engineers waited as long as possible for the Coast Guard to resolve the situation, but ultimately ran out of time to meet the instant window deadline. It was the fourth delay for the mission which was previously canceled due to bad weather around Launch Complex 40.

Teams then targeted 6:11 p.m. Monday for the fifth launch attempt of an Italian Space Agency Earth observation satellite, and it launched at that time Monday.

The launch trajectory was to the southeast, a corridor that was unused from 1960 to 2020. New technologies have allowed SpaceX to resume polar north-south launches from Florida, which fly almost parallel to the coast, but also mean pilots and sailors need to be on the lookout for different exclusion zones.

Danger zones, designed to mitigate risk to people in the event of a rocket failure, are issued before each mission.

Earlier in January, Space Launch Delta 45 released a statement and warned pilots and sailors that there would be more than five polar launches in January alone. Sunday’s scheduled launch marked the fourth.

SECOND SCRUB MISSION: SpaceX scrubs Cape Canaveral launch and landing a second time, citing weather

FOURTH SCRUB MISSION: Cruise ship enters launch danger zone, forcing SpaceX to clean up mission a fourth time

ROCKET FINALLY L: SpaceX launches into stunning skies on fifth try and lands at Cape Canaveral

“The 2022 launch tempo is going to be exceptionally busy, with up to five polar launches and seven total launches scheduled for January alone,” Space Force Maj. Jonathan Szul said in a statement. “Due to the unique southerly trajectories, there will be a greater potential impact on air and sea traffic along Florida’s southeast coast.”

“We ask all pilots and sailors to re-check their Notices to Airmen (NOTAM) and Notices to Mariners (NOTMAR) to ensure they are fully aware of all launch activity taking place during this historic month on the space coast,” Szul said.

The delay pushed back the launch of Starlink

Sunday’s scrub also pushed another SpaceX mission originally scheduled for Monday. In that mission, another Falcon 9 rocket at Kennedy Space Center pad 39A was to launch the company’s 37th batch of Starlink internet satellites. SpaceX is now targeting no earlier than 4:51 p.m. Wednesday for that launch.

The Harmony of the Seas left Port Canaveral on Sunday for a seven-night cruise, with stops in St. Maarten, St. Thomas and Perfect Day at CocoCay, which is Royal Caribbean’s private island in the Bahamas.

Five cruise ships left Port Canaveral Monday afternoon and early evening, and none violated the exclusion zone, allowing SpaceX’s launch to continue.

Contact Emre Kelly at [email protected] or 321-242-3715. Follow him on TwitterFacebook and Instagram at @EmreKelly.

Dave Berman is a business writer at FLORIDA TODAY. Contact Berman at [email protected] Twitter: @bydaveberman.

This article originally appeared on Florida Today: Coast Guard investigating role of cruise ship in SpaceX launch cleaned up

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