An attempt to launch a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and land it on a floating robotic 'spaceport drone ship' has been delayed until January 9.
The experiment was to be part of a SpaceX plans to be able to return, refurbish and re-use key elements of its rockets. The flight was aborted at the last minute due to a problem with the Falcon 9 rocket’s second stage.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft was due to lift off from the Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, for their fifth official Commercial Resupply (CRS) mission to the orbiting lab.
SpaceX has tested aspects of the manoeuvre before, but this was to be the first time the company set the rocket stage down on a platform for retrieval. Two earlier tests have seen the rocket re-enter the atmosphere at hypersonic velocity, restart its main engines and deploy its landing legs to hit the ocean at near zero velocity.
The main purpose of the mission is to send the Dragon cargo carrier on a path to rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS) on Thursday.
NASA confirmed that the next launch will take place on Friday:
The resupply mission will try to haul up some of the cargo that should have been delivered by an Orbital Sciences rocket in October, but was destroyed after smashing into NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
The spacecraft will be filled with more than 5,200lbs of supplies and payloads, including critical materials to support 256 science and research investigations. The payloads are intended to enable model organism research using fruit flies and will study flatworms to better understand wound healing in space.
Falcon 9 is named for the Millennium Falcon in the Star Wars films. The number 9 refers to the nine Merlin engines that power Falcon 9’s first stage; one Merlin vacuum engine powers the second stage. ®