World & Nation

SpaceX’s next launch delayed longer than expected


The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft breaks apart shortly after liftoff from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., on June 28, 2015.

(John Raoux / AP)
Los Angeles Times

SpaceX said its next launch will be delayed longer than expected after the June 28 accident that destroyed its unmanned ship carrying cargo to the International Space Station.

The Hawthorne-based company is still “a couple months away from the next flight,” Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, said Monday at a scientific forum in Pasadena.

“We’re taking more time than we originally envisioned to get back to flight,” she said. “But I don’t think any of our customers wants us to race to the cliff and fail again.”

The company’s Falcon 9 rocket was carrying cargo worth $110 million for NASA when it disintegrated two minutes after liftoff, high above Florida’s coast.


SpaceX founder Elon Musk said in July that the company’s preliminary investigation had pointed to the failure of a two-foot long strut purchased from a supplier. The strut was holding down one of the many helium bottles in the rocket’s second stage.

Musk said SpaceX would now test every strut and not just depend on the subcontractor’s certification of their strength. He said then that the failure would delay the company’s launch schedule by “only a few months.”

NASA is allowing SpaceX to lead the investigation into the accident — which was recently questioned by some members of Congress.

But last week, NASA administrator Charles Bolden revealed in a letter that the space agency had decided to conduct its own “independent review” of the accident’s cause.


SpaceX builds its own engines, rockets and capsules at its factory near Los Angeles International Airport.

Shotwell said SpaceX is not only taking precautions to ensure that another strut doesn’t fail, but is also reviewing the entire rocket and its supply chain for weaknesses.

“Every engineer in the company is having a buddy check their work,” Shotwell said, “and we’re doing deep dives in the supply chain.”

SpaceX has orders for almost 50 launches — including from NASA, the Air Force, foreign governments and commercial satellite companies. The launch work is worth more than $7 billion, the company said in recent congressional testimony.

Twitter: @melodypetersen

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