SpaceX launch from Cape Canaveral delayed to no earlier than Friday

Pablo Tucker
December 13, 2017

For the first time, SpaceX officials are talking in detail about the launch pad that was damaged in a huge rocket explosion a year ago.

SpaceX holds contacts valued at more than $2 billion for 20 space station resupply flights, a subsequent contract covering another six cargo missions and a $2.6 billion contract with the space agency to build and launch a piloted version of its Dragon capsule to ferry astronauts to and from the lab complex. SpaceX said they needed "to allow for additional time for pre-launch ground systems checks" and had not announced a new launch window as of late Monday.

SpaceX will attempt to land the first stage of Falcon 9 on a landing site located at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It was set for 11:46 a.m. Tuesday from Space Launch Complex 40, which is the same pad where a Falcon 9 exploded a year ago.

Making things more interesting is that the launch pad will also be reused.

The NASA flight, using a previously flown first stage and Dragon cargo ship, marks "the beginning of rapid and reliable reusability", she said. Now the pad has been repaired and improved to handle rocket launches more frequently.

This will be the first mission to launch from Launch Complex 40 since a September 2016 explosion damaged the pad's structure, forcing the company to rebuild and modernize the complex. She later said there are about seven Dragon spacecraft available for reuse. Jensen said that will be followed in early January by the classified "Zuma" mission, which was to launch from Florida in November but was postponed to study a potential payload fairing issue during tests for another mission.

If SpaceX is forced to delay the cargo launch again, the next chance to send the supply shipment to the space station will not come until late December. Shkaplerov, a veteran Russian cosmonaut, will be joined by two spaceflight rookies: NASA astronaut Scott Tingle and Japanese flight engineer Norishige Kanai.

Shireman said launch opportunities could open back up for SpaceX around December 25, but it's not clear if SpaceX or NASA would attempt to launch the mission on Christmas Day. "And we've moved as much equipment as possible out beyond that boundary", Muratore said. "We have seats to fly USA astronauts on Soyuz vehicles through the first half of 2019", he said. After liftoff Tuesday morning, it will take a near three-day trip to the space station. "But our confidence in the launch dates for SpaceX and for Boeing in their commercial crew vehicles is increasing as well", he said.

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