No Launch Today For Falcon 9

A flight computer detected one of the Falcon 9's engines had higher-than-normal pressure readings and stopped the launch. Photo Credit: Mike Killian / ARES Institute

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla – The countdown clock ticked down to zero and even ticked up for a few seconds – but it was not to be. A flight computer that monitors the health of the nine Merlin engines on SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket detected high pressure readings in engine chamber number five – and stopped the launch before the rocket could be released on its way to the International Space Station (ISS).


SpaceX's President, Gwynne Shotwell, highlighted the fact that the flight computer did exactly what it was supposed to do and halted the launch when it detected something wrong. Photo Credit: Julian Leek / Blue Sawtooth Studios

Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder, posted on Twitter as soon as the scrub occurred.

“Launch aborted: slightly high combustion chamber pressure on engine 5. Will adjust limits for countdown in a few days,” Musk posted.

When the Falcon 9 does launch it will be one for the history books. The launch will mark the first time that a commercial spacecraft has launched to the space station. SpaceX is striving to complete objectives laid out in the $1.6 billion Commercial Orbital Transportation Services or COTS contract it has with NASA.

Under this contract the private space firm must conduct three demonstration flights (of which it is trying to combine the objectives of two into one flight) and nine resupply flights to the ISS.

“We will review the data and determine when the best time to launch will be,” Garrett Reisman, SpaceX’s senior engineer working on astronaut safety and mission assurance.

As it currently stands, the next launch attempt could occur as soon as 3:44 a.m. EDT on Tuesday May. 22 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex-40 (SLC-40) located in Florida.

**UPDATE** – SpaceX’s Director of Communications, Kirstin Brost Grantham issued this statement after today’s scrub:

“During rigorous inspections of the engine, SpaceX engineers discovered a faulty check valve on the Merlin engine. We are now in the process of replacing the failed valve. Those repairs should be complete tonight. We will continue to review data on Sunday. If things look good, we will be ready to attempt to launch on Tuesday, May 22nd at 3:44 AM Eastern.”

Similar to the space shuttle, the Falcon 9 utilizes a flight computer that monitors the health of the Falcon 9's nine Merlin engines. If the computer detects anything "off-nominal" it aborts the launch. Having this system in place improves the chances of mission success and decreases the potential loss of the launch vehicle and spacecraft. Photo Credit: Julian Leek / Blue Sawtooth Studios



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