SpaceX’s retry at milestone launch aborted at the last second

Scott Sutherland

SpaceX Corporation's latest rocket launch, rescheduled from Monday evening, was aborted again on Thursday due to technical difficulties.

The countdown got all the way down to T-0 for the launch of SpaceX's upgraded Falcon 9 rocket on Thursday evening, but just as the engines flared to life, the launch sequence was called off. Apparently, the amount of thrust produced by the engines wasn't building fast enough for the launch computer's liking, so it immediately shut everything down.

The clock was reset, but a second try was manually aborted, since the engineers still didn't like what they were seeing. Elon Musk, SpaceX's founder and CEO/CTO, said on his Twitter account: "Better to be paranoid and wrong."

Musk and his team at SpaceX have good reason to be cautious as well. Not only have they been entrusted with multimillion dollar satellite perched atop their rocket, but this is the first time they are attempting to launch something beyond low-Earth orbit. This launch will first boost the satellite into orbit, and then a second rocket burn will put it onto a 'geostationary transfer orbit' that will take it all the way out to roughly one-fifth the way to the moon. After that, the satellite is on its own to join the ring of spacecraft about 36,000 kilometres out.

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This might be played up as a big failure for SpaceX by some. However, when it comes down to it, it's better to be cautious than to be gathering up wreckage or performing an ocean salvage operation to find out what went wrong. For now, SpaceX is returning the rocket to the hangar for a thorough investigation into what happened. Once they have their answers, it will make their new Falcon 9 rocket design even better, and another launch attempt will likely be done in a few days.

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