Early this morning, SpaceX was supposed to launch an unmanned vehicle to hook up with the International Space Station, but due to minor technical problems, the launch was scrapped. The earliest SpaceX will be able to try again will be Tuesday.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 booster carrying a Dragon capsule laden with supplies for the ISS had actually started firing up on a Cape Canaveral launch pad at the three-second mark of the countdown. But the spacecraft’s onboard computers shut down due to “slightly high combustion chamber pressure on engine No. 5,” SpaceX co-founder Elon Musk said on Twitter after the launch was aborted at around 4:55 a.m. ET. “Will adjust limits for countdown in a few days.”
A SpaceX spokesperson said Saturday that “[d]ue to the instantaneous launch window, we are not able to recycle and re-attempt the launch today.” She reiterated Musk’s statement about the issue with engine No. 5, but noted that SpaceX and NASA are still reviewing the data to determine what went wrong.
NASA and SpaceX were scheduled to hold a briefing on the aborted launch at 6:30 a.m. Eastern.
All appeared to be going well until the rocket engines cut off, leaving the spacecraft on the launch pad at Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station “amid a plume of engine exhaust,” according the Associated Press.
The Dragon’s computer systems have checked out following a longer-than-expected software validation process that delayed the mission’s earlier May 7 launch date. Other technical issues that have caused months of delays to the first commercial flight to the ISS were also resolved.
But SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell told reporters Friday that SpaceX has never managed a liftoff of a Falcon 9 on the very first try. In fact, SpaceX has only launched its current booster rocket once before, on a December 2010 test flight that carried a Dragon capsule into orbit and back again as part of NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program.