Falcon 9 joins Discovery's 'Crack Club'

SpaceX ran into problems NASA has become well acquainted with - cracks. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian

CAPE CANAVERAL – The demonstration launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket for NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program has been postponed to no earlier than Wednesday, Dec. 8. This delay is due to a crack in the engine nozzle on the rocket’s second stage.

During a regularly scheduled review of close-out photos of the rocket conducted on Monday, SpaceX’s technicians discovered the crack. The crack is approximately three inches long. Work continues on the Falcon 9 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Launch Complex 40 in Florida.

SpaceX is reviewing its options; some of the options that the commercial space agency has open to it include repairing the rocket on the spot or having replacement parts flown in from California. In a bitterly ironic twist, it was cracks on the space shuttle Discovery’s external tank (ET) that has delayed its final flight until no-earlier-than Feb. 3.

SpaceX is striving to launch the first demonstration flight in the $1.6 billion COTS contract that the private space firm has with NASA. This mission will see the first of the company’s Dragon spacecraft launch in to orbit. There it will test out numerous design elements of the new spacecraft. Some of these include navigation, control, descent and reentry.

SpaceX has been working to keep up the momentum after the first successful launch of the Falcon 9 this past June.

The Falcon 9 will have to wait just a little longer to deliver the first Dragon spacecraft to orbit. Photo Credit: Jason Rhian

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