Historic SpaceX Launch Scrapped


The Dragon capsule is rotated into position during processing ahead of its demonstration mission to the International Space Station. (Photo credit: Jim Grossmann/NASA)

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From John Zarrella, CNN

(CNN) — SpaceX aborted the historic launch of its Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station on Saturday at the last second because of a rocket engine glitch.

The launch would the first attempt to send a private spacecraft to the space station. SpaceX and NASA officials say the next launch attempts could come Tuesday or Wednesday in the early morning hours at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

As the countdown reached zero, the engines began firing — but then shut down, NASA and SpaceX officials said.

SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said “high chamber pressure” was detected in Engine 5 of the Falcon 9, the rocket to carry the Dragon spacecraft. She said technicians will inspect the engines later on Saturday and is looking forward to another takeoff soon.

“This is not a failure,” Shotwell told reporters. “We aborted with purpose. It would have been a failure if we lifted off with an engine trending in this direction.”

NASA’s Kennedy Space Center also posted a Twitter message Saturday saying “early data shows that the chamber pressure on Engine 5 of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket was high, causing the abort.”

The mission is designed to establish whether SpaceX can deliver cargo to the station.

NASA and SpaceX envision the unmanned Dragon docking at the station, with the station crew recovering food, water and other provisions from inside the Dragon.

If the mission succeeds, SpaceX will try to undertake other cargo missions as part of a contract with NASA. SpaceX hopes the experience with the cargo flights will help it reach its goal of carrying astronauts aboard the Dragon.

“The flight is an ambitious test for the company,” NASA said.

— CNN’s John Couwels contributed to this report.

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