CAPE CANAVERAL — Air Force weather forecasters are closely monitoring Hurricane Joaquin as United Launch Alliance prepares an Atlas V rocket for an early Friday launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The planned 6:08 a.m. ET launch is still 70% “go” for blastoff from Launch Complex 41 with the Mexican government’s Morelos-3 communications satellite, according to the 45th Weather Squadron.

Forecasters say winds on the Space Coast will intensify as Joaquin skirts by Florida at a distance of 400 miles as a Category 3 hurricane, increasing the possibility of weather rule violations. There was an 80% chance of favorable weather for a Saturday launch in the event of a scrub on Friday, but that has been downgraded to 60%.

Ninety-three million miles away, a sunspot is also causing concerns as it continues to retain enough energy for an X-Class solar flare. NASA defines an X-Class flare as the largest and most powerful type.

The sunspot happens to be in an ideal location — if a flare does occur, it’s likely that it would be directed at Earth. The solar flare issue is present both Friday and Saturday.

This will be ULA’s 100th mission since the joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin was formed in 2006.

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