SpaceX delays rocket mission to space station


Hawthorne rocket venture Space Exploration Technologies Corp. again delayed its mission to rendezvous with the International Space Station.

The company, better known as SpaceX, planned to send its Dragon capsule into space aboard its 18-story Falcon 9 rocket Feb. 7 from Cape Canaveral, Fla. But on Monday the company said that more engineering work was needed before it would embark on the historic mission. SpaceX did not give a new launch date.

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


“We believe that there are a few areas that will benefit from additional work and will optimize the safety and success of this mission,” Kirstin Grantham, a SpaceX spokeswoman, said in a statement. “We are now working with NASA to establish a new target launch date, but note that we will continue to test and review data. We will launch when the vehicle is ready.”

The mission has been more than a year in the making since SpaceX became the first private company to blast a spacecraft into Earth’s orbit and have it return intact in December 2010.

The company wanted to go to the space station less than a year later, but the launch date was pushed back to February, and now it’s unclear when the mission will take place.

SpaceX makes the Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket at a sprawling facility in Hawthorne where fuselages for Boeing Co.’s 747 jumbo jet were once assembled. However, the hardware is sent by big rig to Cape Canaveral for launches.

To date, the Falcon 9 rocket has had just two successful test launches.

SpaceX wants to rendezvous with the space station to demonstrate it is the clear front-runner to take over the lucrative responsibility of running more cargo missions — and possibly carrying astronauts — to the space station for NASA now that the space shuttle has been retired.