Feeds

SpaceX Dragon chokes at the last second

Computer said no: New attempt expected on Tuesday

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

The Falcon 9 rocket from private space company SpaceX, intended to launch this morning and send a Dragon capsule loaded with supplies to the International Space Station, has failed to take off. The rocket's computer aborted the launch automatically at almost the final possible moment, when its engines had already ignited but the vehicle had not yet been released from the pad.

"The computer saw a parameter it didn't like," commented launch controllers after the abort, which saw the Falcon's 9 main engines flare briefly into life as the countdown reached zero before cutting out again.

The rocket is not thought to have been damaged by the aborted launch, and controllers announced a provisional plan to check the craft, refuel it and make another launch attempt on Tuesday morning at 03:44 AM local time (08:44 UK time).

NASA issued a brief statement:

The Falcon 9's computers picked up an anomaly with the rocket and aborted the launch just before liftoff. Early data shows that the chamber pressure on Engine 5 was high. The teams will continue to look at the data and assess a launch attempt on May 22.

The Dragon's cargo is composed of supplies and non-essential items for the ISS. The mission is intended to prove the viability of the Falcon and Dragon for the task of supporting the station. Dragon has only been launched once before, in a successful test flight to orbit on which it carried only a large cheese. A similar secret spoof cargo, along with the regular supplies and experiments, is thought to be aboard the Dragon now.

As and when SpaceX can prove the Dragon's capability, it will be a major milestone for commercial space. Existing Progress and ATV supply ships from the Russian and European space agencies cannot return to Earth for re-use, and are much more expensive.

Tech multimillionaire Elon Musk, founder and initial bankroller of SpaceX, also intends that the Falcon and Dragon should carry people as well as cargo in coming years, restoring America's manned space capability and ending the ISS' dependence on old-fashioned Russian Soyuz capsules to carry its crews up and down. Musk has even stated that the Dragon, once upgraded with the planned "Draco" retro-rockets, could land on other planets including Mars (though as yet there is no rocket package and other necessary hardware officially on the drawing boards which could send it there).

For now though, Musk and his SpaceX colleagues will be hoping simply that they can get the Falcon off the ground on Tuesday. ®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
prev story

Whitepapers

Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.