SpaceX Aborts 1st Launch of Upgraded Falcon 9 Rocket at the Last Minute2 min read

The highly anticipated debut of SpaceX’s new Falcon 9 “Block 5” rocket has been delayed by at least a day.

SpaceX’s first “Block 5” Falcon 9 rocket and its payload, the Bangabandhu-1 communications satellite, sit poised to launch on May 10, 2018. An automatic abort was triggered 58 seconds before liftoff, pushing the launch back by at least 24 hours.
Credit: SpaceX

The company’s first-ever Falcon 9 Block 5 was scheduled to launch this afternoon (May 10) from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, on a mission to carry the Bangabandhu Satellite-1 communications satellite to orbit for the government of Bangladesh.

But an automatic abort was triggered just 58 seconds before the planned liftoff time of 5:47 p.m. EDT (2147 GMT), and SpaceX couldn’t diagnose and fix the issue before the launch window closed at 6:22 p.m. EDT (2222 GMT).

“Standing down today due to a standard ground system auto abort at T-1 [minute],” SpaceX said in a Twitter update. “Rocket and payload are in good health — teams are working towards tomorrow’s backup launch opportunity at 4:14 p.m. EDT, or 20:14 UTC.”

SpaceX has not yet announced what exactly triggered the automatic abort. However, a preliminary review revealed that the rocket and satellite are in good health, company representatives said.

The next launch opportunity comes tomorrow (May 11) at 4:14 p.m. EDT (2014 GMT). You can watch it live via SpaceX. The action will also feature a landing attempt by the Falcon 9’s first stage, which will try to touch down on a robotic SpaceX ship stationed in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Block 5 is the latest and final iteration of SpaceX’s two-stage Falcon 9 rocket. The new version features a number of reliability and reusability upgrades that should allow each Block 5 first stage to fly 10 times with no refurbishment between launch and landing, and 100 times or more with some minor maintenance, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk has said.

The upgrades were also designed to meet NASA’s crew-carrying requirements. SpaceX holds a multibillion-dollar deal with the space agency to fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station, and the company will use the Falcon 9 Block 5 and its Dragon capsule to perform these missions.

Bangabandhu-1, which was built by the French company Thales Alenia Space, will be Bangladesh’s first communications satellite. The spacecraft will provide a variety of broadcast and communications services to inhabitants of the South Asian nation.

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Sebastien Clarke

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