SpaceX delays manned Dragon capsule launch

Setback follows Falcon 9 explosion

Elon Musk's SpaceX has delayed the first manned launch of its Dragon capsule intended to carry astronauts into orbit by one year.

SpaceX intends to send astronauts to the International Space Station via the capsule, which has already made several supply deliveries to the station.

The first launch was originally scheduled for 2017, but is now due for Spring 2018. It follows the explosion of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket that blew up while being refueled at the company’s Cape Canaveral launch pad in Florida.

Musk has said the explosion, which destroyed $200m satellite, was caused by a cockup during fuelling.

Until SpaceX identifies the exact cause, it will not receive clearance for further flights from NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration.

In an email to the Wall Street Journal a SpaceX spokesman said: “We are carefully assessing our designs, systems and processes” to incorporate lessons learned and take corrective actions in the wake of the September explosion.

The schedule change “reflects the additional time needed for this assessment and implementation,” he added.

The spokesman said some prospective fueling changes are likely in response to the panel’s specific safety concerns. “As needed, additional controls will be put in place to ensure crew safety,” he said.

NASA updated its website yesterday afternoon to confirm SpaceX’s revised timetable targets May 2018 for the maiden manned mission. ®

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