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SpaceX launch put off for a week

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The history-making launch of SpaceX's Dragon capsule to the International Space Station has been delayed by up to a week so that the space firm's engineers can do some more testing.

The Dragon was all set to soar atop a Falcon 9 rocket, also made by Elon Musk's SpaceX, on 30 April, but the blast-off has now been moved to 3 May or 7 May.

Elon Musk tweeted overnight that he was pushing the launch back approximately a week "to do more testing on Dragon docking code".

That was followed by an emailed update from the civilian space company:

After reviewing our recent progress, it was clear that we needed more time to finish hardware-in-the-loop testing and properly review and follow up on all data. While it is still possible that we could launch on May 3rd, it would be wise to add a few more days of margin in case things take longer than expected. As a result, our launch is likely to be pushed back by one week, pending coordination with NASA.

The long-awaited and hopefully successful test flight of the Dragon to meet and berth with the ISS in order to drop off some cargo and pick up some more has been hailed as the start of a new age of private space travel.

If all goes smoothly, the Dragon cargo capsules will start making regular trips to restock the station and Musk's firm is likely to move on to adapting the ship for human use. ®

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