Californian company SpaceX aborted the landmark launch of its Dragon capsule to the International Space Station (ISS) at the last second early Saturday due to technical problems.
The unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 was due to blast off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 4:55am local time, but was halted with 0.5 seconds to liftoff after one of the rocket’s nine engines exceeded a technical limit.
SpaceX president, Gwynne Shotwell, said at a news conference that high combustion chamber pressure on engine five kept the cargo-carrying rocket grounded. The capsule needs “all nine engines to lift off” successfully, Shotwell said.
She confirmed the launch was rescheduled for 3:44am local time Tuesday.
NASA’s Alan Lindenmoyer added that a backup launch date was booked for Wednesday at 3:21am local time in case further problems occur.
Fueled by a taxpayer investment of nearly $400 million, SpaceX was bidding to become the first private firm to send its own capsule to the ISS amid a high-stakes commercial space race.
But its failure to launch looked likely to spark further criticism of the enterprise and call into question NASA’s continuing attempts to fund private companies to replace Russian crafts in transporting American astronauts to the space hub.
Yet Shotwell told reporters, “This is not a failure. We aborted with purpose. It would have been a failure if we had lifted off [with engine problems].”