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SpaceX's historic launch to space station delayed one week

April 24, 2012|By W.J. Hennigan
  • SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is prepared in its hangar at Cape Canaveral, Fla.
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is prepared in its hangar at Cape Canaveral,… (Al Diaz / Miami Herald )

The first launch of a private spaceship to the International Space Station has been delayed more than a week so engineers can test hardware and software, as well as review data.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp., better known as SpaceX, was slated to blast off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Monday in a demonstration flight for NASA. The launch date, which has been pushed back several times already, is now set for May 7.

"After reviewing our recent progress, it was clear that we needed more time to finish hardware-in-the-loop testing and properly review and follow up on all data," SpaceX spokeswoman Kirstin Brost Grantham said in statement.

The unmanned docking mission to the space station is intended to prove to NASA that SpaceX’s rocket and space capsule are ready to take on the task of hauling cargo for the space agency now that the space shuttle fleet is retired. If successful, SpaceX would be the first private company to dock with the station.

SpaceX aims to do a fly-by at the $100-billion space station and then approach it, so the on-board space station crew can snag it with a robotic arm and dock it.

SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk tweeted on Monday: "Am pushing launch back approx a week to do more testing on Dragon docking code. New date pending coordination with NASA."

The company already has a $1.6-billion contract to haul cargo in 12 flights to the space station for NASA. If the upcoming mission is successful, the company would start in earnest to fulfill the contract.

SpaceX makes its Dragon capsule and 18-story Falcon 9 rocket at a sprawling facility in Hawthorne that once housed assembly on fuselage sections for Boeing Co.'s 747 jumbo jet. The hardware is put on a big rig and sent to Cape Canaveral for launches.

In December 2010, SpaceX became the first private company to blast a spacecraft into Earth's orbit and have it return intact. The company, whose employment numbers now stand at around 1,800, has been planning the upcoming docking mission ever since.

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Follow W.J. Hennigan on Twitter @wjhenn

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