SpaceX rocket tracking satellite launch delayed by at least three months

With the launch of a new missile defense system, the US will have to wait.

SpaceX’s projected launch of the first part of the anti-satellite weapons tracking system, called Tranche 0, will reportedly be pushed back from at least late September to December due to supply chain issues and the fallout from rate protests.

Tracking hypersonic weapons, such as those being developed by China and Russia, is a DoD priority, but the director of its acquisition unit for Tranche 0 told reporters at a conference in Washington, D.C. that the launch timing was optimistic.

“This is more of a blow to our egos than anything else,” Derek Tournir, director of the Space Development Agency, said at a Washington space business roundtable, according to Defense News. (will open in a new tab).

See also: Russia first used a hypersonic missile in Ukraine

The news comes amid numerous recent developments in US hypersonic weapons (commonly defined as weapons that fly at least Mach 5). New US military work includes flight testing of air-breathing hypersonic weapon concepts and new prototypes for defense against hypersonic weapons. In addition to Tranche 0, the United States also launched six satellites to make up its new Space Infrared System in Geosynchronous Earth Orbit (SBIRS GEO) constellation.

SDA planned to launch all 28 satellites of its first layer of missile tracking system in about two weeks, including 20 communications payloads from Lockheed Martin and York Space, as well as eight infrared-sensored missile tracking satellites from SpaceX and L3 Harris, SpaceNews reported. (will open in a new tab).

Tournear largely blamed the supply chain problems on microchips, citing a shipping problem caused by COVID-19 that has crippled industries ranging from video game consoles to car manufacturing. (The US is counteracting this by seeking to produce more microchips domestically under the Chip Act, which just passed last month.)

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hypersonic weapons flying above the clouds

Hypersonic weapons are the subject of close attention by the US military, along with tracking enemy weapons. (Image credit: Northrop Grumman)

The SDA director also pointed to the delay in the launch of Tranche 0 following protests against proposals from Raytheon and Airbus, contested L3Harris and SpaceX awards, and problems with software development. But, most likely, everything would be in order if it were not for problems with the supply chain, he noted.

“The longest pole in the tent that caused these satellites to slip was actually a component delay, largely due to microelectronics,” he said in a SpaceNews report. “It’s been very difficult for us to get microelectronics, especially microelectronics suitable for space use, for components like radios.”

Tournear added that there are no projected delays for future launches of the system; The SDA Missile Tracking System is currently developing and contracting for the Tranche 1 tracking level, due to be launched around the middle of the decade.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace (will open in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (will open in a new tab) and on facebook (will open in a new tab).

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