Every Google Pixel smartphone has been made available to purchase in two sizes. On Monday, that strategy comes to an end with the introduction of the Google Pixel 4a, or at least that’s what everybody thought.
The Google Pixel 4a 5G will undercut the LG Velvet 5G
The smartphone that was previously known as the Google Pixel 5 XL is now understood to be the Google Pixel 4a 5G.
According to information provided by anonymous tipster
Ishan Agarwal, the midrange 5G smartphone will make its international debut this fall alongside the flagship Google Pixel 5.
High-end Pixel devices typically make their debut in early October. But this year virtually every manufacturer is facing COVID-19 delays, so an event in late October or early November seems much more likely.
The Google Pixel 4a 5G should launch shortly after the announcement and, if the information shared today is accurate, it will only cost $499 in the United States. That makes it $100 cheaper than both the LG Velvet 5G and Samsung Galaxy A71 5G.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G and two rear cameras
Despite the branding choice, reports suggest the Pixel 4a 5G will share some of its components with the flagship Google Pixel 5.
Both devices are said to incorporate the Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G chipset, which has an integrated 5G modem. At least 6GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage are to be expected as standard too.
The camera is where things could be different. Although both the Google Pixel 5 and Pixel 4a 5G are expected to feature two sensors on the back, the latter will most likely inherit its cameras from the current Pixel 4 flagships.
More differences can be found in the display department. Whereas the Pixel 5 is going to feature a 5.8-inch screen, the Pixel 4a 5G looks set to adopt a 6.1-inch display and will, therefore, take the place of the canceled Google Pixel 4a XL.
Early on July 23rd, China is slated to launch its most ambitious space mission yet, sending a trio of spacecraft to Mars — including a rover to explore the planet’s surface. If successful, China will become the second nation to land and operate a rover on the Red Planet.
The mission is named Tianwen-1 — after the long poem “Tianwen,” which means “Questions to Heaven” — and it entails sending an orbiter, a lander, and a rover to Mars. The three spacecraft will launch on top of one of China’s most powerful rockets, the Long March 5, and then travel through deep space together to the Red Planet. While the orbiter studies Mars from above, the lander and rover will make the daring plunge to the surface. The lander is tasked with touching down gently on the ground in one piece, keeping the rover safe and providing a platform for the wheeled vehicle to roll out and explore.
Tianwen-1 is the latest in a long line of increasingly complex space projects that China has tackled over the last decade. The country became the first nation in history to land and operate a rover on the far side of the Moon last year. China remains focused on lunar exploration, with plans to launch a mission at the end of this year to bring back samples from the lunar surface.
Now, with Tianwen-1, China is embarking on what could be its first big interplanetary mission. It has even bolder projects planned for the future, such as visiting an asteroid and visiting Jupiter in the 2030s. “They’re definitely on a long-term quest for lunar and planetary Solar System exploration,” James Head, a planetary geoscientist at Brown University who has worked with scientists in the Chinese Space Program, tells The Verge.
Of course, Mars missions are no easy feat, and China’s first attempt to reach the Red Planet didn’t even make it beyond Earth. In 2011, the country attempted to send an orbiter to Mars called Yinghuo-1, piggybacking on a much larger Russian spacecraft bound for the planet called Phobos-Grunt. But the launch of the vehicle on a Ukrainian rocket ultimately failed, destroying Phobos-Grunt and the Chinese spacecraft.
China is handling both the launch and the spacecraft development for Tianwen-1. If the ambitious mission succeeds, China will become one of only a handful of countries to reach and orbit Mars. China’s goal of landing on the Red Planet during this trip is an even bigger move. Only the United States and the Soviet Union have ever landed on Mars, and only the US has successfully operated a rover on the planet. “It will demonstrate that China is a full-spectrum space power,” David Burbach, a professor at the Naval War College who studies China’s space program, tells The Verge, speaking in a personal capacity. “That they’re able to check all the boxes of what a major space power is able to do.”
As is the case with most Chinese missions, details surrounding this launch are relatively scarce. But China has provided some general information about the overall structure of the mission. The three spacecraft will spend about seven months journeying to Mars, reaching the planet sometime in February 2021. That month will also mark the arrival of the United Arab Emirates’ Mars orbiter, which launched on July 19th, as well as the arrival of NASA’s new Perseverance rover, which is set to launch on July 30th.
Once Tianwen-1 arrives, the trio will stay in orbit for about two to three months, while China surveys their potential landing site. “Basically they want to validate with their own data the characteristics of the site,” says Head, adding, “You build up confidence every day that you’re in Martian orbit until you reach a decision about when to proceed down to the surface.” China is aiming to land in an area of Mars known as Utopia Planitia, according to the mission’s chief scientist writing in Nature Astronomy. Utopia Planitia is the same region on Mars where NASA’s Viking 2 lander touched down in 1976.
Tianwen-1’s rover has a long list of scientific tasks ahead of it, including mapping out Martian geography, looking for any water-ice in the Martian soil, measuring the climate of Mars at the surface, and more.The rover is equipped with six instruments, including its most exciting tool, a ground-penetrating radar that may be able to identify different rocks and even search for reservoirs of water-ice underneath the surface.
To get to the surface, the lander and rover pair will perform an audacious seven- to eight-minute descent to the surface of Mars, according to China’s state-run media agency Xinhua News. The process will be similar to how NASA lands its spacecraft on Mars. First, the spacecraft will rely on Mars’ thin atmosphere to cushion their fall, slowing them down substantially after coming out of orbit. They’ll then deploy a parachute for about a minute and a half to slow down even further. Finally, the lander will ignite an onboard engine to hover over the surface for a few moments and then touch down gently.
Confirmation about the landing’s success or failure will likely rely on official word from China. “They make a very big deal when things succeed; they’re relatively quiet until it’s clear that they’ve succeeded,” says Burbach. “If it goes into orbit, they’ll make a big deal about that. If the landing is successful, I’m sure there will be a lot of attention to that.” As for the orbiter, it will serve as a relay, providing communications between Earth and the rover. It’ll also attempt to survey Mars from above with seven of its own instruments.
But first, the mission has to launch successfully. Airspace closures over the launch site at Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in southern China indicate the launch could occur around 12:45AM ET on July 23rd, according to Andrew Jones, a freelance journalist covering China’s spaceflight program. If the launch on the 23rd gets scrubbed, China will have until early August to try again. This launch will be just the fourth launch of the Long March 5, and its track record hasn’t been perfect. While its debut flight went relatively well in 2016, the second launch of the Long March 5 in 2017 ended in failure. China spent up to two years diagnosing the problem and redesigning the machinery in the engines responsible for the failure. Fortunately, the vehicle returned to flight successfully in 2019. If that launch had failed, it’s doubtful Tianwen-1 would have been able to go up this summer.
“This new rocket was designed to take them to the next level,” Jones tells The Verge. “So they’ll be able to launch a space station, carry out a lunar sample return mission and start sending missions to the [lunar] South Pole.” Jones added: “If this launch had failed, they would have a lot of explaining to do as to why basically all these big ambitious space missions which were planned would be delayed again.”
A successful mission would certainly bring even more prestige — and more attention — to China’s blossoming space program. In the US, it will likely renew heated discussions among lawmakers and space policy experts about China’s growing dominance in the space world. However, Burbach says a mission based on science should not be of concern to the US. “If you find a Chinese mission to Mars worrying, it means that you find it worrying that China is a competent science and engineering country, with a capable rocket program overall,” he says. He notes that China has done missions in space that have been cause for concern — such as conducting a test in 2007 to destroy a satellite, creating hundreds of pieces of debris. But a science mission is not something he worries about. “If anything I think it’s an opportunity to allow some additional cooperation with the Chinese technical community,” says Burbach.
While Tianwen-1 could further elevate China on the global stage, the country also sees these missions as a way to inspire youth in the country, according to Jones. “Engaging in these kinds of really challenging high technology areas is something which boosts the economy,” he says. “It also inspires people, just like with the Apollo missions, to get involved in STEM and to pursue these kinds of these kinds of careers that can lead into exploration and all kinds of areas of science and technology.”
Hopefully, if these spacecraft do succeed, we’ll also have a little more insight into Mars. “Every time we go to a different place on Mars we learn something completely new,” says Head. “That’s why it’s so important to have abundant surface exploration and rovers. It just provides a new area; it will be entirely new things, no doubt. And that will complement our overall picture of Mars.”
No matter where you live, choose from a menu of activities to join NASA as we “Countdown to Mars” and launch the Perseverance rover to the Red Planet.
Team with NASA to send off the Perseverance rover to Mars – from the convenience of your own home. The mission launches from Cape Canaveral, Florida, this summer, and you’re invited to participate remotely – with a global, collective launch countdown where you can submit your own videos, take a photo on Mars or next to the rover, dive into an interactive launch packet, and sign up to send your name to Mars on a future space mission.
After a seven-month journey to the Red Planet, the rover will land in Jezero Crater, an ancient lakebed with intriguing geology. In its search for astrobiological evidence of ancient microbial life, Perseverance will gather rock and soil samples there for future return to Earth. It will also characterize the planet’s climate and geology and pave the way for human exploration of the Red Planet.
In addition, Perseverance carries the Ingenuity Mars Helicopter, a technology demonstration that marks the first attempt at powered, controlled flight on another planet.
“During these challenging times, no matter where you are, you can participate in this launch and help send this robotic geologist on a mission to explore worlds beyond our own,” said Michael Greene, the director for communications and education at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, which manages the mission.
With local restrictions on public gatherings in place, NASA recommends watching the launch virtually. To learn how, use our launch toolkit. And here’s a menu of options for sharing in the Perseverance launch:
You know that “5-4-3-2-1” right before a spacecraft blasts off? You can record your own version of a launch countdown video clip and tag it on social media using #CountdownToMars. Your clip may be featured on NASA social media or even on launch day. Here’s how to participate.
Send Your Name to Mars, Again!
Perseverance carries three dime-size chips with 10.9 million names submitted worldwide to travel aboard the rover. The people who already signed up can get a special “Now Boarding” stamp and are ready for launch. If you missed that opportunity, you can soon sign up to send your name on a future mission to Mars.
Mars Photo Booth
While sharing the Mars Launch at Home virtually, take a souvenir photo with our virtual Mars Photo Booth. You can pose next to the mighty Atlas V rocket that will launch the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover, strike a pose on Mars, or put yourself next to the rover in the JPL clean room where it was assembled. Just upload your favorite picture, choose a background, and download the new image.
Virtual Launch Packet
Get an interactive magazine-style booklet to enhance your launch-viewing experience. The flipbook includes information about the Perseverance rover launch and all the print products for the mission. You can also download it as a PDF.
Spacecraft 3D Rover Experience
Zoom in, rotate, and twirl around the Perseverance rover in an interactive 3D experience. Click and select different sections to learn all about the science tools and instruments that make up this mighty rover.
Watch the Launch and Share Your Excitement
Watch the mission briefings and other Mars 2020 programming on NASA TV, culminating with the launch on July 30. See the schedule for Perseverance programming.
However you choose to participate in the Mars Launch at Home, we look forward to seeing you online for launch, which is targeted for July 30: The time in which the Mars 2020 Perseverance mission can launch extends to Aug. 15. Check out this page for the latest launch date and time. Doing a Mars Launch from Home may burn up some energy. Perseverance pancakes, anyone?
More information about the Mars 2020 Perseverance rover is on this mission website.
Rocket Lab’s 13th mission ended in failure on Saturday, after the company’s rocket experienced “an anomaly” after launching to space. As a result, Rocket Lab lost its rocket, as well as all the satellites it carried on board.
The company’s Electron rocket successfully took off at 5:19PM ET from Rocket Lab’s primary launch facility on the Mahia Peninsula in New Zealand. The launch seemed to proceed just fine for the first crucial minutes, but about six minutes into the launch, live video from the rocket stalled. At that point, Rocket Lab’s livestream indicated that the rocket started to lose speed, and the vehicle dropped in altitude.
Rocket Lab eventually cut the livestream. Afterward, the company revealed that the Electron rocket had been lost during flight. The company said in a statement that the still-unidentified issue occurred about four minutes into flight.
An issue was experienced today during Rocket Lab’s launch that caused the loss of the vehicle. We are deeply sorry to the customers on board Electron. The issue occurred late in the flight during the 2nd stage burn. More information will be provided as it becomes available.
Rocket Lab CEO Peter Beck apologized for the failure. “We are deeply sorry to our customers Spaceflight Inc., Canon Electronics Inc., Planet, and In-Space Missions for the loss of their payloads,” Beck said in a statement. “We know many people poured their hearts and souls into those spacecraft. Today’s anomaly is a reminder that space launch can be unforgiving, but we will identify the issue, rectify it, and be safely back on the pad as soon as possible.”
Beck praised the launch team for their “professionalism and expertise,” and for handing the situation safely. “I’m proud of the way they have responded to a tough day. We’re working together as a team to comb through the data, learn from today, and prepare for our next mission.”
The mission, named “Pics Or It Didn’t Happen,” carried mostly Earth-imaging small satellites. The primary payload was Canon Electronics’ CE-SAT-IB, designed to demonstrate Earth-imaging technology with high-resolution and wide-angle cameras. The rocket also carried five SuperDove satellites from the company Planet, designed to image Earth from above. The last payload was a small satellite called Faraday-1, from In-Space Missions, which hosted multiple instruments from startups and other organizations that needed a ride to space.
Planet’s CEO Will Marshall announced the loss of the satellites on Twitter, noting that the company has plans to launch even more satellites this summer on two separate launches. “While it’s never the outcome that we hope for, the risk of launch failure is one Planet is always prepared for,” the company said in a statement. Planet is about to launch up to 26 of its SuperDove satellites on a European Vega rocket in August, from South America.
Since its inception, Rocket Lab has put 53 spacecraft into low Earth orbit on 12 separate missions, with this weekend’s launch the third for Rocket Lab this year. The majority of the company’s flight have been successful. Rocket Lab’s very first flight in 2017, called “It’s a Test,” was the only flight that didn’t operate according to plan; the rocket successfully launched and made it to space, but didn’t reach orbit. All of Rocket Lab’s other missions have been picture perfect since then, making today’s flight the first major failure for the company.
UPDATE July 5th 9:02AM ET: Added statement from Rocket Lab
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The launch of NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover and Ingenuity Mars Helicopter has been delayed two days to July 22 after an issue with ground support equipment at the Kennedy Space Center held up encapsulation of the spacecraft inside the payload fairing of its Atlas 5 rocket.
NASA said officials set a new target launch date for the Mars 2020 mission of July 22 “due to a processing delay encountered during encapsulation activities of the spacecraft.”
There is a two-hour launch window July 22 opening at 9:35 a.m. EDT (1335 GMT). NASA says the mission has until Aug. 11 to launch this year and still reach Mars on a direct seven-month journey, but officials are discussing extending the launch period a few additional days.
“Additional time was needed to resolve a contamination concern in the ground support lines in NASA’s Payload Hazardous Servicing Facility (PHSF),” NASA said in a brief statement Wednesday.
NASA said the spacecraft and launch vehicle are healthy, and encapsulation of the rover is being completed this week inside the PHSF, a climate-controlled clean room where NASA has prepared numerous interplanetary missions for launch.
Mary MacLaughlin, a NASA spokesperson, said Wednesday that the Perseverance rover and launch shroud will be mounted on top of their United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket Saturday inside ULA’s Vertical Integration Facility near the southern perimeter of pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. That will kick off a series of connectivity and interface tests to ensure good data links between the Atlas 5 and the Mars 2020 spacecraft.
ULA teams completed a countdown rehearsal on the Atlas 5 rocket — without its Mars-bound payload — Monday at Cape Canaveral. The launch team loaded kerosene, liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen propellants into the Atlas first stage and the Centaur upper stage, and halted the simulated countdown just before ignition of the Atlas 5’s RD-180 main engine.
ULA returned the rocket to the VIF from pad 41 Wednesday to ready the launcher for the arrival of the Perseverance rover.
In the final weeks before launch, ground crews will install the Perseverance rover’s plutonium-fueled power source through a port in the side of the Atlas 5’s payload fairing.
The Mars rover — about the size of a small car — will be powered by the Multi-Mission Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator, or MMRTG, throughout its mission.
Built at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Perseverance was enclosed within its entry, descent and landing capsule in recent weeks at the Kennedy Space Center. The 1.6-foot-tall (49-centimeter) Ingenuity helicopter, set to become the first aerial vehicle of its type to fly in the atmosphere of another planet, is attached to the belly of the Perseverance rover for the trip to the Martian surface.
Perseverance and Ingenuity are mounted to a rocket-powered descent stage that will set the rover on the Martian surface using a tether. Landing is scheduled for Feb. 18, 2021, and mission managers say the Perseverance rover will attempt the most precise touchdown ever on Mars.
Perseverance carries a cluster of scientific instruments and 25 cameras to explore a region of Mars called Jezero crater, which is home to an ancient dried-up river delta.
The rover will also collect rock core samples for eventual return to Earth on a future mission. Scientists will search for the signatures of ancient life in the rock specimens that come back to Earth.
If you would like to see more articles like this please support our coverage of the space program by becoming a Spaceflight Now Member. If everyone who enjoys our website helps fund it, we can expand and improve our coverage further.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX has launched another 60 internet-beaming satellites, bringing the company’s constellation to around 480.
The latest batch of Starlink satellites marks the eighth launch so far and follows this week’s SpaceX launch of two US astronauts to the International Space Station.
The Falcon 9 rocket, which lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Wednesday, was the first to carry a satellite with a deployable sun visor. The visors are designed to address astronomers’ concerns over solar light reflecting from the spacecraft and impeding space observation from Earth.
SpaceX in March gained approval from the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to deploy a million user terminals, which look like a “little UFO on a stick”, according to Musk, and will be simple for consumers to set up.
The FCC has approved SpaceX to launch more than 12,000 Starlink satellites to provide high-speed, low-latency internet access.
Consistent with previously announced plans, SpaceX last week applied to the FCC to launch 30,000 Gen2 System satellites, with more than 85% operating at below 400km (249 miles), “using eight total orbital altitudes ranging from 328km to 614km [204 to 382 miles]”.
SpaceX said its next-generation constellation will allow it to bring internet services to rural areas at prices previously only available to urban customers.
While Musk has said the satellites will have a latency of 20 milliseconds, SpaceX’s application says it will have latency of below 50 milliseconds, which it says is “nearly unnoticeable to consumers”. The company reiterated Musk’s claim that the user terminal will be easy to install, requiring them to simply “point it at the sky and plug it in”.
The gateway earth stations will use parabolic dishes, which it plans to install at “several hundred” locations within the US. They will be “co-located with or sited near major internet peering points to provide the required internet connectivity to the satellite constellation”.
“OneWeb has already secured debtor-in-possession financing and expects to soon exit the Chapter 11 process in a manner that maximizes the value of OneWeb’s strategic assets and also ensures a viable path forward for its stakeholders and customers,” OneWeb said.
More on Elon Musk’s SpaceX and internet-beaming satellites
Russia has lost its long-held monopoly as the only country able to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station following the flawless manned launch by U.S. company SpaceX.
The Russian space agency congratulated the United States and Elon Musk’s SpaceX on the first crewed flight ever by a private company, but experts said the launch should be a wakeup call for Roscosmos.
“The success of the mission will provide us with additional opportunities that will benefit the whole international programme,” cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev, Roscosmos executive director for crewed space programmes, said in a brief video address.
Saturday’s launch was the first of American astronauts from U.S. soil since the mothballing of the U.S. shuttle programme in 2011 that left Russia’s more basic and reliable Soyuz spacecraft solely responsible for transporting crews.
Astronauts since then have all trained at Star City outside Moscow and studied Russian before blasting off from Baikonur launchpad in Kazakhstan.
“These flights have been an unexpected chance for Moscow to keep producing Soyuz and retain a significant voice in negotiations over the ISS,” said Isabelle Sourbes-Verger, a specialist in space policy at the French National Centre for Scientific Research.
The Russian space agency has also earned large sums by ferrying astronauts: a seat in the Soyuz costs NASA around $80 million.
If SpaceX starts taking up all US astronauts, “the annual losses could be more than $200 million, a significant loss for Roscosmos’s budget of around $2 billion,” said Andrei Ionin, an expert at the Tsiolkovsky Space Academy in Moscow.
While Musk, the ambitious entrepreneur behind SpaceX, has named the price of a seat on his spacecraft as $60 million, Roscosmos chief Dmitry Rogozin has announced Russia is working to cut its price by 30%.
Ionin voiced scepticism over the plan.
“SpaceX is saving money by using cheap engines and manufacturing almost all its own parts,” he said. “To do this, Russia would have to change its production process.”
Another option is a barter system proposed by NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine: for every Russian riding in a US spaceship, one American would take a Soyuz.
In a broader sense, the appearance of a rival such as SpaceX should be a “wakeup call” for the Russian space industry, which is “in far worse shape than those in charge admit,” said Ionin.
A decade ago Russia was behind a large proportion of the world’s launches, but that is no longer the case today due to competition from China and SpaceX.
“When we were losing the launches market, Roscosmos said everything was fine because we were the only ones sending people up to the ISS. Now that fig leaf has fallen off.”
Russia’s space sector is marred by corruption, with multiple scandals over the construction of the new Vostochny launchpad in the Far East.
The country’s space industry has also failed to innovate, concentrating on modifying “Soviet technology without any major evolution,” Ionin said.
The Russian space programme is renowned for having sent the first man into space in 1961 and launching the first satellite four years earlier, and its achievements remain a major source of national pride.
But more recently it has endured a series of setbacks, notably losing expensive spacecraft and satellites in recent years.
The rise of private companies like SpaceX, which has ambitions to conquer Mars, risks leaving Russia irrecoverably far behind, experts said.
For Russia to keep up, a government body independent of the space sector’s main players needs to develop a new strategy, Ionin said.
“U.S. President [Donald] Trump reestablished a body — the National Space Council — to set policy goals. We need to do the same thing.”
Some observers sense a lack of political will from President Vladimir Putin who appears to be more focused on using rocket science to develop military capabilities, particularly hypersonic missiles.
“For Putin, space exploration isn’t a priority when it comes to showing off the might of the state,” said independent space expert Vitaly Yegorov.
For Ionin, reinvigorating the Russian space programme requires international cooperation, too.
Sourbes-Verger suggested any manned international mission to Mars “could be an opportunity for Russia to regain its standing by sharing its skills.”
But, she said, the costs of any such mission would be so high that China — now the world’s second space power in terms of launches — would need to be included.
Yet that prospect seems unlikely, she added, given that “the U.S. Congress refuses any space cooperation with China.”
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NBCUniversal’s Peacock launches today: Here’s what you need to know
The task is especially complicated because, not only does the forecast at the Cape Canaveral launch pad (and the surrounding area) need to meet certain criteria, but so does the weather thousands of feet into the atmosphere along the flight path.
The East Coast and North Atlantic must be free of active weather, in case the astronauts are required to abort the launch and splash down into the ocean.
The factors that go into if a launch can proceed at Cape Canaveral in Florida.
The weather at the ocean’s surface, monitored by buoys, ship data and satellites, can’t be too turbulent.
Residents in Florida are no strangers to daily thunderstorms, especially in summer, with so much sun and moisture in the air.
This tropical air mass and circulation added to the development of thunderstorms, and there were plenty of lightning strikes within 10 miles of the launchpad.
“We had showers and thunderstorms all day yesterday around Cape Canaveral, even a tornado-warned storm before the launch, so obviously they had to scrub it,” Fox News senior meteorologist Janice Dean said on “Fox & Friends” Thursday.
Satellite imagery shows the extent of lightning in the area at the time of the first launch attempt.
Thunderstorms in the vicinity also had outflow boundaries or gusty winds that spread away from it and easily threatened the launch.
And those thunderstorms have cold cloud tops that extend tens of thousands of feet into the atmosphere, where air temperatures are well below freezing and can cause ice crystals to interfere with the rocket.
Saturday afternoon’s forecast is more favorable for launch, but far from perfect.
The forecast for the next SpaceX launch attempt on Saturday. (Fox News)
Scattered thunderstorms will develop in the afternoon as is common this time of year, but should be less numerous than on Wednesday.
Meteorologists will again monitor conditions closely, but a launch is not a sure bet.