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SpaceX Trying Again Early Tuesday to Reach International Space Station


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Falcon 9 rocket on the launchpad

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket at Cape Canaveral. Credit: NASA

SpaceX’s history-making mission to the International Space Station is on hold, following a valve malfunction Saturday morning that caused a last-minute launch abort. But the California company says its rocket is now good to go and will be ready to launch in the early hours of Tuesday, May 22.

If all goes as planned, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will lift off from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 3:44 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time tomorrow. The Falcon 9 will loft the company’s Dragon space capsule into orbit. The Dragon is slated to become the first privately operated spacecraft to rendezvous with the International Space Station, delivering a payload of crew rations and other cargo to the six astronauts on the station.

If the mission unfolds smoothly, SpaceX will begin regular deliveries of supplies to the space station. The company has agreed to send 12 cargo capsules to the space station over the next few years, at a total cost to NASA of $1.6 billion. Someday, a human-rated Dragon capsule could ferry astronauts, not just cargo, to and from orbit. But first the Falcon 9 rocket must get off the ground. The weekend launch attempt was scrapped—after ignition but before liftoff—when a flight computer detected excess pressure in one of the engines’ combustion chambers. SpaceX has blamed the malfunction on a faulty valve, which has now been replaced.

About the Author: John Matson is an associate editor at Scientific American focusing on space, physics and mathematics. Follow on Twitter @jmtsn.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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