SpaceX To Attempt ISS Launch On Tuesday

By Amir Khan on May 21, 2012 9:56 AM EDT

SpaceX Launch Fails
SpaceX Falcon 9 test rocket seen at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on May 18, 2012. (Photo: Reuters)

After its launch was aborted at the last minute on Saturday, SpaceX is aiming for a Tuesday launch of its Falcon 9 rocket. The company's is slated to become the first private spaceflight company to dock with the International Space Station when its Dragon capsule delivers supplies to the ISS.

"We had a nominal countdown right until about T minus 0.5 seconds," SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said during a news briefing following the abort. "Software did what it was supposed to do, aborted engine five, and we went through the remaining engine shutdown."

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The rocket was scheduled to launch early Saturday morning, but the launch was aborted at the last second due to a faulty release valve. Engineers replaced the valve and are confident that they will be able to launch soon.

"During rigorous inspections of the engine, SpaceX engineers discovered a faulty check valve on the Merlin engine," SpaceX said in a statement Saturday evening   "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 22, at 3:44 A.M. Eastern."

The Dragon capsule will be completely unmanned like the Russian, European and Japanese capsules that currently run supply missions to the space station.

SpaceX engineers designed the Dragon capsule to be used multiple times, unlike conventional supply ships which burn up while reentering the atmosphere. Using the Dragon capsule costs NASA per $133 million per delivery, far less than the $300 million it costs just to build a conventional capsule, according to ArsTechnica.

The Dragon capsule is part of the 2006 Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) directive designed to coordinate supply and passenger delivery by private companies to the International Space Station. NASA signed agreements with three companies, but SpaceX is the closest to reaching the space station.

Orbital Sciences, another company that is a part of the COTS program, will launch its unmanned spacecraft for the first time later in 2012.Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX, said he hopes to bring astronauts aboard the Dragon capsule within the next few years, according to Forbes.

NASA currently relies on Russian capsules to transport crew to the ISS.

© 2012 iScience Times All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.

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