US private firm aborts launch to space station

Last Updated: Sat, May 19, 2012 10:40 hrs

Washington, May 19 (IANS) Private American spaceflight company SpaceX Saturday aborted the lift-off of its Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule to the International Space Station (ISS) due to technical problems.

A NASA spokesman said the engine ignition sequence started, but there was an automatic shutdown by on-board computers. So instead of blasting off, the rocket remained on its launch-pad amid a cloud of engine exhaust.

"We are now reviewing the data, the vehicle is being safed by the crew. We won't be trying to launch again this morning (sic)," Xinhua quoted SpaceX as writing on its Twitter page.

Preparations for the California-based company's trial cargo run to the ISS had been proceeding smoothly till 4.55 a.m.

This was the first launch attempt by a private US company hoping to take over the job of delivering cargo and eventually astronauts to the space station for NASA.

Up to now, flights to the space station have always been a government-only affair.

Elon Musk, the firm's chief executive officer, said the problems were likely related to "slightly high combustion chamber pressure" on an engine.

Saturday's flight was originally scheduled to take place April 30, but was delayed several times to complete final checks of the spacecraft's flight software.

The next launch attempt will be made May 22, if the problem is resolved in time.

Until their retirement last year, US space shuttles carried most of the gear and many of the astronauts to the orbiting station. Since then, US astronauts have been taken on Russian capsules which have also been delivering cargo.

The report said it will take at least four to five years before SpaceX or any other private operator is capable of flying astronauts.

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