SpaceX docking mission is again delayed


The first launch of a private spaceship to the International Space Station has been delayed more than a week, until May 7, so engineers can test hardware and software, as well as review data.

Space Exploration Technologies Corp., better known as SpaceX, was slated to launch a craft from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on April 30 in a demonstration flight for NASA. The launch date had already been pushed back several times.

“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 a statement.

The unmanned docking mission to the space station is intended to prove to NASA that SpaceX’s rocket and space capsule can haul 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 fly its craft by the $100-billion space station and then approach it so the on-board crew can snag it with a robotic arm and dock with it.

The company, which employs about 1,800, 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 will move ahead to fulfill the contract.

SpaceX makes its Dragon capsule and 18-story Falcon 9 rocket at a 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 company to blast a spacecraft into orbit and have it return intact. The company has been planning the upcoming docking mission ever since.