SpaceX Falcon rocket aborts launch in last second


Saturday's attempt was aborted just as the rocket was about to lift off

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The launch of the American SpaceX company's re-supply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) has been delayed by at least three days.

The company was forced to abort the flight just as its Falcon rocket was about to leave the pad at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Early data indicated unusual pressure readings in one of the nine engine combustion chambers under the vehicle.

The company says it hopes to try again on Tuesday or Wednesday.

"We had a nominal countdown, right until about T-minus point-five-seconds," explained SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell.

"The engine controller noted high chamber pressure in engine five; software did what it was supposed to do - aborted engine five, and then we went through the remaining engine shut-down," she told reporters.

"We need to lift off with all nine [engines], which is why we aborted. You can lose up to two engines and still make your mission, just not at lift-off."

The next earliest launch opportunity is 03:44 EDT (07:44 GMT; 08:44 BST) on Tuesday.

SpaceX is attempting to become the first private company to send a cargo craft to the ISS; and its Dragon ship, which sits atop the Falcon rocket, has been loaded with half a tonne of food and spares for the purpose.

Such unmanned freighter missions have traditionally been performed by government-owned vehicles. But by buying in this service, Nasa aims to save money that can then be spent on exploration missions far beyond Earth, at asteroids and Mars.

Both SpaceX and another private firm, Orbital Sciences Corp, have been given billion-dollar contracts by Nasa to keep the space station stocked with supplies. Orbital expects to make its first visit to the international outpost with its Antares rocket and Cygnus capsule system later this year.

SpaceX's mission - when it does eventually get under way - will be the final demonstration of its freight service. If all the mission goals are met to Nasa's satisfaction, the company's $1.6bn (£1bn; 1.3bn euros) re-supply contract with the agency will kick in.

SpaceX wants eventually also to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS.

To that end, Dragon has been designed from the outset to carry people; and under another Nasa programme, the company is working to develop the onboard life-support and safety systems that would make manned flights feasible.

Following the retirement of the shuttles last year, America has had no means of launching its own astronauts into space - rides must be bought for them on Russian Soyuz rockets at more than $60m (£38m; 47m euros) per seat. SpaceX says Dragon could be ready to carry people in 2015 at a seat price of $20m (£13m; 16m euros).

"In order for Nasa to be able to afford any programme of exploration in the future given the fiscal realities of the government, it has to transition away from high-cost services that are procured by and for the government into shared-use services that are competitively sourced," observed Jeff Greason, the president of XCOR Aerospace and a leading proponent of commercial space activity. and follow me on Twitter


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  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    @Keith B have you seen number of fireballs NASA produced in the early days. Not to mention the Shuttle killing 2 crews.

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.


    I agree with what you say, although I'm more concerned with resource depletion on earth than the longer term threats. It seems likely that if we dont leave the planet in the next ~300 years, we probably never will due to rampant consumption.

    I wish this all could be done as a pan-human mission. If we escape earth just to send our profiteering tentacles into space, what was the point?

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    The fact that private companies are launching space missions does not change the funding of the activity. It is still the US government/taxpayer paying for this. They have just employed contractors to do the work for NASA.

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    As a young man I watched with awe the development of the Space Shuttle programme, the initial and following launches and the building of the ISS. It was with sadness that I watched as the Shuttle fleet were one by one taken out of service. I know they cost a fortune but what a fantastic legacy. Now all we have are unmanned commercial rockets. Sign of the times and austerity we now live in.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    It's amazin init, you still can't get "white goods" to work straight out of the box!

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    At least the fault was discovered in time; it may have been rather embarrassing if the engine had blown on the ground or in mid flight. I wish them a better outcome next time around.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    @comment 18 Mustafa Yorumcu
    People complain about everything, they have nothing better to do

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Let's hope there's a planet out there with a bank willing to give us a loan.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    I wonder how the safety record of space exploration and exploitation will change over the coming months and years. We've moved from an era where government agencies were under political pressure to keep things "safe" (relatively speaking), to an era where companies are trying to maximise profits and cut costs to the bone. My bet is that we should watch out for some fireworks!

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    People used to complain that taxpayer's money is being wasted on space missions. This mission is privately funded. Is this not what people wanted ? Why does anyone complain ?

  • Comment number 17.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    Proof again that socialism works better than capitalism!
    North Korea at least got their's into the air :-)
    Seriously nice to see space becoming a real goal of humanity again. Good luck on Tuesday

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.

    Tabell - Financial turmoil, crisis and poverty appear to be a permanent condition and we need to develop the will to deal with them. Meanwhile, the killer asteroid, lethal supernova radiation, an expanding sun and unknown other forces are fatal conditions - all guaranteed and all terminal for the species - we need to develop the skill to deal with them. Procrastination means extinction.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    @sameoldfaeces: Space provides us with GPS and Comms to help in disasters. It provides weather picture allows us to monitor nature and a very large percentage of what is sent up is looking down for earth based science.

  • rate this

    Comment number 13.

    Surely this aborted launch is a sign of the second coming. God's got to get his act together, he's been dawdling for far too long, and rapture us all up into heaven (and dump the sinners in eternal hell, of course) and he can't do that if some of his flock are off galavanting about some other planet.

  • rate this

    Comment number 12.

    I bet somebody is going to get a rocket over this, after all it's not rocket science, oh it is! Hope the residents of the ISS aren't too desperate for that delivery of loo rolls.

  • rate this

    Comment number 11.

    I predict the future of this earthly human race, is that having made a mess of Earth they'll move to outer space.

    Well there goes the neighborhood
    Totally, completely, absolutely, irrevocably, highly illogical

  • rate this

    Comment number 10.

    Space technology has been tied to the military industrial complex for too long. SpaceX is a good thing. Look at how all of the nuclear power systems of the world are based on the technology used to make nuclear weapons to see just one example why space technology needs to be a commercial technology. Go Falcon 9!

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    Corporations have destroyed one planet, let's not give them the opportunity to do so again.
    We now have a limited chance to become a truly inter-planetary species. Let's not blow it, eh?

  • rate this

    Comment number 8.

    Good luck to SpaceX on their next launch attempt.

    Although I do wish we hadn't given up on Bluestreak. We could have showed them how to do it first time, every time!


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