Fresh from the memory of self-detonated failed rocket launch Antares in October last year, SpaceX had abandoned Tuesday’s early morning bid to launch a Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station and attempt a historic return to land a floating platform on the sea.
Since the sea landing was too risky and the main thrust of the mission is to send replenishment material and supplies to the ISS, the liftoff was aborted just one-and-a-half minute before the launch.
“The main mission is absolutely to get cargo to the station,” Hans Koenigsmann, vice president of mission at SpaceX told reporters at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. However, NASA commentator George Diller has attributed the problem to an actuator drift on the Falcon 9’s second stage rocket.
If weather permits, the next launch will be attempted at 5:09 a.m. ET on Friday morning.
The SpaceX mission has been contracted by NASA to undertake supplies to the ISS and its 6 inmates. It was a $1.6 billion contract with 12 flights and the failure of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares launch in October has necessitated the current Dragon mission to cover up the loss of supply chain.
Otherwise, the Dragon launch is carrying 5,200 pounds of supplies and scientific equipment to study the fruit flies’ immune systems and the wound-healing capabilities of flatworms in the space, among others.
But more than NASA supplies, the SpaceX is hoping that the risky landing on a sea platform would make its future launches more re-usable.
The design of the Falcon 9’s liftoff was made to return to safe-landing too. After the three minutes, the second stage will carry the trip to ISS while the first stage will detach and fire up its own rocket to realight and come down to land on a sea platform of a 300-foot-long, 170-foot-wide “autonomous spaceport drone ship” in the Atlantic.