Sunday, May 20, 2012

First SpaceX launch to ISS aborted, at last second

Those waiting for the first commercial space - and cargo - flight to the International Space Station(ISS) will continue to wait. Saturday's SpaceX flight was scrubbed, literally at the last second.

At three seconds before launch, the SpaceX Falcon 9 booster began firing up. However, the spacecraft's onboard computers aborted the flight at one second before launch, due to "slightly high combustion chamber pressure on engine No. 5," as SpaceX co-founder Elon Musk Tweeted after the launch was aborted at about 4:55 a.m. EDT, adding "Will adjust limits for countdown in a few days."

A SpaceX spokesperson said on Saturday that "due to the instantaneous launch window, we are not able to recycle and re-attempt the launch today." While reiterating Musk's statement about the problem with engine No. 5, she added that NASA and SpaceX continue to review data.

The re-launch is now scheduled for 3:44 a.m. EDT on Tuesday.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 booster was to carry a Dragon capsule laden with supplies for the ISS. However, SpaceX has only launched its current booster once before, for a December 2010 test flight carrying a Dragon capsule into orbit and back again as part of NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. That launch made SpaceX the first privately funded company to successfully launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft.

Although NASA awarded SpaceX a COTS contract in 2006, this flight - despite it being an actual "useful mission" to the ISS - will be a test flight, only. If the flight is successful, SpaceX will then enter into a $1.6 billion contract for a dozen cargo flights to the ISS.

The mission will carry 1,150 pounds of cargo and deliver it to the ISS. The return flight will carry a 1,455-pound payload back to Earth.

Watch the slightly depressing video of the aborted launch, below.

No comments: