SpaceX Satellite Liftoff Planned For Tuesday, Delayed Again As Company Tries To Stake Claim In Commercial Launch Industry

By Ben Wolford on December 2, 2013 4:34 PM EST

SpaceX
The SpaceX launch of its first commercial satellite was delayed until Tuesday. (Photo: SpaceX)

As the company SpaceX tries to break up established monopolies in the commercial space industry, the launch of its Falcon 9 rocket was further delayed on Monday to give engineers more time to resolve technical problems. The company says it has rescheduled the launch for Tuesday evening.

"All known rocket anomalies [are] resolved," said SpaceX CEO Elon Musk in a tweet. "Will spend another day rechecking to be sure." He added that the third launch attempt will be Tuesday, but that they've planned a Wednesday launch time as a backup. The California space freight company tried on Thursday to send its first commercial satellite into orbit but abandoned the launch at the last minute. An onboard computer detected lower-than-normal thrust in the first-stage engine and automatically aborted the liftoff.

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Musk sent out a tweet earlier that day saying, "15 minutes to takeoff," with a picture of the rocket on the Cape Canaveral, Fla., launch pad. Minutes later, the computers noticed the engines weren't ramping up fast enough. "Seems OK on closer inspection," he tweeted. And they resumed the countown. He said if it aborts again, they would take the rocket back down and check it out. After a second countdown, the company decided to abort manually. "Better to be paranoid and wrong." Musk reported there was oxygen in the rocket engine.

SpaceX first tried to launch the Falcon 9 on Nov. 25. According to Reuters, "several technical glitches" grounded that one. Falcon 9, the company's flagship rocket, has completed six successful missions between 2010 and 2013. Reuters reports that SpaceX is trying to wedge itself into the business of transporting U.S. military satellites, currently a monopoly held by United Launch Alliance, a joint enterprise of Boeing and Lockheed Martin. A successful launch on Tuesday would be the second of three needed to qualify for such a contract.

So far, the company's customers have been mainly commercial, though it has flown supplies for NASA to the International Space Station. Although SpaceX is solely involved in the cargo business these days — and for the foreseeable future, according to its manifest — its long-term plan is much bolder. "The company was founded in 2002 to revolutionize space technology, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets," they say.

On Tuesday, workers will again load the Falcon 9 onto the launchpad. If all goes well this time, at 5:41 p.m. or soon after, the rocket will blast off into space on behalf of SES, a Luxembourg-based satellite company. The orbiter Falcon 9 is to carry will help broadcast television signals to people in India, China, Southeast Asia and points in between. For all the high-tech rocket science, though, the SpaceX business model isn't much different from any shipping company. They even list their pricing on their website. If you pay in full, you can send 29,000 pounds of anything into space — all you need is $56.5 million cash.

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