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SpaceX Launch Aborted


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Report this May. 19 2012, 6:48 am

(May 19, 2012)

The private rocket company SpaceX will have to wait at least three more days to send its Dragon space capsule on a debut flight to the International Space Station after unexpected engine pressure readings forced a last-second abort of Saturday's launch attempt.

The launch countdown reached zero and the engines of the Falcon 9 rocket carrying Dragon ignited, only to be cut off seconds later because of an excessive pressure reading in one of the engines.

"3, 2, 1, 0, and liftoff … we've had a cutoff," NASA launch commentator George Diller announced. "Liftoff did not occur. We have a launch abort."

A news conference after the attempted launch was told the flight aborted at T minus 0.5 seconds.

The unmanned Dragon capsule was due to lift off from the Cape Canaveral AirForce Station here at 4:55 a.m. EDT, but the engine sensor reading forced the vehicle's computer to perform an automatic abort, NASA officials said.

"Launch aborted: slightly high combustion chamber pressure on engine 5. Will adjust limits for countdown in a few days," SpaceX founder and chief designer Elon Musk wrote on Twitter just after the abort.

The commercial space capsule is due to make its inaugural flight to the orbiting space laboratory, becoming the first non-government craft to do so.

Now Dragon's next launch opportunity is Tuesday at 3:44 a.m. EDT.

Weather forecasters predict a 60 percent chance of good conditions for liftoff then. Saturday's launch abort followed several earlier launch delays due to extra time needed to review the Dragon capsule's flight software. [Photos: SpaceX Poised for Historic Launch]

This SpaceX mission is flying under the auspices of NASA's COTS program, which stands for Commercial Orbital Transportation Services.

The Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corp.) has received $1.6 billion from the initiative to develop Dragon and to eventually fly 12 cargo delivery runs to the space station.

If the upcoming final test flight goes well, the first of those delivery flights could launch in early fall, with two more to fly next year.

SpaceX is one of two companies NASA has funded to develop robotic spacecraft capable of delivering supplies to low-Earth orbit in the wake of the space shuttle retirement (the other is Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va.).

The deals are part of the space agency's scheme to outsource space station transportation to the private space sector, allowing NASA to work on a new spacecraft and heavy-lift rocket for deep space.

Ultimately, SpaceX plans to outfit Dragon to carry crew as well as cargo.

 For the full uncropped graphic:

As Americans, we sometimes suffer from too much pluribus and not enough unum. - Arthur Schelsinger, Jr.


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Report this May. 19 2012, 12:48 pm

Oh well, there's always a next time.

He felt that his whole life was some kind of dream and he sometimes wondered whose it was and whether they were enjoying it. -Douglas Adams (1952-2001)


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Report this May. 22 2012, 6:12 pm

There was indeed a next time - last night!  Success!!


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Report this May. 22 2012, 7:33 pm

Quote: padracin @ May. 22 2012, 6:12 pm


>There was indeed a next time - last night!  Success!!



As Americans, we sometimes suffer from too much pluribus and not enough unum. - Arthur Schelsinger, Jr.


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POSTS: 325

Report this May. 23 2012, 6:31 pm

Underflight of the International Space Station is early tomorrow morning.  Possible docking is Friday I think.


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Report this May. 25 2012, 8:51 am

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) -- The privately bankrolled Dragon capsule arrived at the International Space Station for a historic docking Friday, captured by astronauts wielding a giant robot arm.

It succeeded in making the first commercial delivery into the cosmos.

U.S. astronaut Donald Pettit used the space station's 58-foot robot arm to snare the gleaming white Dragon after a few hours of extra checks and maneuvers. The two vessels came together while sailing above Australia.

"Looks like we've got us a dragon by the tail," Pettit announced from 250 miles up once he locked onto Dragon's docking mechanism.

"You've made a lot of folks happy down here over in Hawthorne and right here in Houston," radioed NASA's Mission Control. "Great job guys."

NASA controllers clapped as their counterparts at SpaceX's control center in Hawthorne, Calif. - including SpaceX's billionaire maestro, Elon Musk, of PayPal fame - lifted their arms in triumph and jumped out of their seats to exchange high fives.

This is the first time a private company has attempted to send a vessel to the space station, an achievement previously reserved for a small, elite group of government agencies. And it's the first U.S. craft to visit the station since the final shuttle flight last July.

The astronauts wasted no time getting the Dragon capsule into position for actual docking to the space station. The unmanned capsule is carrying 1,000 pounds of supplies on this unprecedented test flight.

On Thursday, the capsule came within 1 1/2 miles of the space station in a practice fly-by. It returned to the neighborhood early Friday so Pettit, along with Dutch astronaut Andre Kuipers could capture it with a robot arm. First, the capsule went through a series of stop-and-go demonstrations to prove it was under good operating control.

NASA ordered extra checks of the Dragon's imaging systems as the capsule drew ever closer to the space station, putting the entire operation slightly behind schedule. At one point, SpaceX controllers ordered a retreat because of a problem with on-board tracking sensors.

Given that the Dragon is a brand new type of vehicle and this is a test flight, the space agency insisted on proceeding cautiously.

A collision at orbital speed - 17,500 mph - could prove disastrous for the space station.

SpaceX - officially known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp. - is one of several companies vying for the chance to launch Americans from U.S. soil. That ability ended with NASA's final shuttle flight last summer. To get to the space station, NASA astronauts must go through Russia, an expensive and embarrassing situation for the U.S. after a half-century of orbital self-sufficiency.

President Barack Obama is pushing commercial ventures in orbit so NASA can concentrate on grander destinations like asteroids and Mars. Once companies master supply runs, they hope to tackle astronaut ferry runs.

Musk, who founded SpaceX a decade ago and helped create PayPal, said he can have astronauts riding his Dragon capsules to orbit in three or four years. His Falcon 9 rockets lift off from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

The space station has been relying on Russian, Japanese and European cargo ships for supplies ever since the shuttles retired. None of those, however, can bring anything of value back; they're simply loaded with trash and burn up in the atmosphere.

By contrast, the Dragon is designed to safely re-enter the atmosphere, parachuting into the ocean like the Mercury, Gemini and Apollo capsules did back in the 1960s. Assuming all goes well Friday, the space station's six-man crew will release the Dragon next Thursday after filling it with science experiments and equipment.


AP Photo

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