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SpaceX Rocket Launch Is Reset

November 29, 2005|Peter Pae | Times Staff Writer

The maiden flight of a new rocket designed to slash the cost of sending satellites into orbit has been rescheduled for mid-December after the maiden launch was scrubbed Saturday because of technical glitches.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp., also known as SpaceX, a fledgling El Segundo rocket maker founded by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Elon Musk, hopes to shake up the aerospace industry with its Falcon 1 rocket. The craft is designed to cost a fraction of the current generation of satellite launchers.

In a telephone interview from his El Segundo office Monday, Musk said the inaugural mission was scrubbed about 10 minutes before launch because of glitches with a liquid oxygen tank and an onboard computer. The rocket is carrying a small satellite built by Air Force Academy cadets and funded by the Pentagon.

The exact date of the next launch attempt will depend on how quickly SpaceX can get a new supply of liquid oxygen from Hawaii to the launch pad on Omelek Island in the western Pacific.

The company is also investigating an anomaly with the main engine computer, which was reset just before the launch, Musk said.

Saturday's delay was the second in as many days. The rocket was initially scheduled to be launched Friday but was postponed at the request of the Army, which has been conducting missile defense tests in the region.

A successful maiden launch is crucial for Musk, who has risked much of his fortune on developing a new generation of cheap and reliable rockets. Musk co-founded Internet payment company PayPal Inc. and made $150 million from its sale to EBay Inc. in 2002 before starting SpaceX.

Falcon 1, which costs about $6.7 million compared with about $25 million to $50 million for similar-sized rockets, is the first in a family of launch vehicles that Musk plans to develop to compete with major rocket makers such as Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin Corp.

About 150 people work for SpaceX in El Segundo, where the rocket was designed and built.

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