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SpaceX delays satellite launch after test rocket explosion in Texas

SpaceX will take extra time to review test launch data before AsiaSat launch
Texas test rocket explosion leads SpaceX to delay Florida satellite launch

The planned launch of a SpaceX rocket early Tuesday has been delayed following the explosion late last week of an experimental rocket over the company’s Texas facility.

SpaceX had slated its launch of the AsiaSat 6 commercial communications satellite aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida for around 4 a.m. Pacific time Tuesday, but it has now delayed the launch 24 hours.

[Updated 6:40 p.m. Aug. 26: According to several media reports late Tuesday afternoon, SpaceX had scrubbed its Wednesday morning launch plans. The company did not immediately respond to requests for information Tuesday about the cause of the cancellation or details of the next planned attempt. A backup launch window had been scheduled for early Thursday morning, but it is not clear whether SpaceX plans to attempt a launch at that time.]

The delay comes after a SpaceX Falcon 9R reuseable rocket blew itself up Friday evening, less than a minute after liftoff from the company’s launch site near Waco. No one was injured in the mishap, the company said in a statement.

The Hawthorne-based rocket maker, formally known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp., said an anomaly was detected, causing the flight termination system to automatically terminate the mission.

“Rockets are tricky,” said Elon Musk, SpaceX founder and chief executive, on Twitter shortly after the rocket self-destructed with a boom.

The company said it would review the test flight data before its next test of the rocket.

Although the company said the test rocket is “very different” from the launch vehicle scheduled to take off from Florida, it says it is taking the extra time to review the circumstances of Friday's self-destruct incident to ensure there is no risk to the launch now scheduled for Wednesday.

“SpaceX prizes mission assurance above all,” said John Taylor, a company spokesman. “This action is consistent with that philosophy.”

The Falcon 9 scheduled to launch early Wednesday morning is a two-stage rocket powered by nine Merlin engines. It has been used to carry satellites into orbit and to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. The Falcon 9R is based on the Falcon 9, but it is a single-stage rocket with only three Merlin engines.

This month, SpaceX delayed the launch of a Falcon 9 carrying a similar payload for Hong Kong-based Asia Satellite Telecommunications Company Ltd., or AsiaSat.

That delay, which lasted about 2.5 hours, came after a computer detected an issue with the rocket’s first stage and aborted the launch countdown with 12 seconds remaining on the first launch attempt. The second launch attempt was successful, marking the company’s 11th Falcon 9 flight.

The company has been conducting testing with both Falcon 9 and 9R rockets as part of its efforts to field a reusable launch system that can take off and land vertically. Musk has said the reusable rockets have the potential to decrease the cost of commercial space flight dramatically.

Twitter: @chadgarland

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

UPDATE

6:40 p.m. Aug. 26: This post has been updated to include reports of the cancellation of the Wednesday morning launch.

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