The launch of an uncrewed Dragon space capsule on a resupply mission to the International Space Station was aborted just 10 seconds before the launch sequence was expected to commence due to a thruster control issue in the second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket. A SpaceX spokesperson said the launch could have gone forward but the decision to scrub the mission was made “out of an abundance of caution.”
Missions to the ISS require precise timing and must be attempted only when the space station is directly over the launch site. That precision makes it impossible to simply delay the launch until the control issue is researched and resolved, as by then the ISS will have moved on. The next possible launch time will be 9:23 am EST on Sunday. SpaceX has not confirmed at this time that a second launch attempt will be made at that time.
SpaceX will attempt to recover the Falcon 9 rocket following the launch at a landing area nearby. The company’s recovery ship, Of Course I Still Love You is also standing by in the Atlantic down range from Cape Canaveral. A representative from SpaceX explained before the launch that each has advantages and disadvantages.
A landing at sea requires less fuel aboard the rocket, since it does not have to travel as far to return to the point of origin. Less fuel means a heavier payload can be carried into space. On the other hand, the land doesn’t move around like a barge floating in the ocean, increasing the chances of a successful recovery.
We will keep you updated as we get more information about a possible launch tomorrow.
Standing down to take a closer look at positioning of the second stage engine nozzle. 9:38am ET tomorrow is next earliest launch opportunity
— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 18, 2017
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