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SpaceX delays launch to ISS


May 20, 2012

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on its pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida (Photo: SpaceX/Roger Gilbertson)

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on its pad at Cape Canaveral, Florida (Photo: SpaceX/Roger Gilbertson)

SpaceX has suffered another hitch in its quest to become the first commercial company to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS). The launch scheduled for May 19 from Cape Canaveral was cancelled due to a potential problem with one of the engines aboard the Falcon 9 launch vehicle, but all systems should be go on May 22.

Here's the official SpaceX statement:

Cape Canaveral, Fl -- Today SpaceX Exploration Technologies, (SpaceX) issued the following statement on today’s launch attempt.

Today’s launch was aborted when the flight computer detected slightly high pressure in the engine 5 combustion chamber. We have discovered root cause and repairs are underway.

During rigorous inspections of the engine, SpaceX engineers discovered a faulty check valve on the Merlin engine. We are now in the process of replacing the failed valve. Those repairs should be complete tonight. We will continue to review data on Sunday.

If things look good, we will be ready to attempt to launch on Tuesday, May 22nd at 3:44 AM Eastern.

The latest Twiiter update from the company confirms a faulty check valve on engine #5 as the issue. A replacement is being fitted and the revised launch time still stands.

We'll keep you posted throughout the week.

Source: SpaceX

About the Author
Noel McKeegan After a misspent youth at law school, Noel began to dabble in tech research, writing and things with wheels that go fast. This bus dropped him at the door of a freshly sprouted Gizmag.com in 2002. He has been Gizmag's Editor-in-Chief since 2007. All articles by Noel McKeegan

The problem with the engine cluster model is that 9 engines give you 9 times the number of possible faults, but designing an engine that is 9 times as powerful could vary well give even more difficulties. And of course there is the advantage that with multiple engines you can loose one in flight and still potentially reach your destination.


There have been hints that SpaceX may indeed be developing a much more powerful engine. However, that's still in the future if it arrives at all.

As for the current Falcon 9, yeah, there are 9 times the moving parts, but that's why you do engine testing. And the Merlin rocket engine has proven to be fairly reliable so far.

Jon A.

Go SpaceX! The USA is back in space, and with private enterprise in the driving seat, efficiency and innovation will rule all the way> Congrats to SpaceX on the successful launch of this mission!!

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