SpaceX rocket launch scrubbed; Falcon 9 set for early Saturday liftoff

Issue with drone ship causes launch to be called off

SpaceX is scheduled to launch a rocket Saturday morning after a scrub the day before.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – SpaceX plans to try again early Saturday to launch a Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo craft from Cape Canaveral, after an electrical problem with the rocket's landing ship scrubbed a first attempt Friday.

Liftoff from Launch Complex 40 is targeted for an instantaneous window at 2:48 a.m. Saturday.

The forecast is promising, with a 70% chance of acceptable weather, News 6 partner Florida Today reported.

Iffy weather conditions were improving early Friday, but SpaceX's launch director called off the countdown less than 14 minutes before a planned 3:11 a.m. blastoff.

"We called a hold for an issue with our drone ship, unable to maintain power to allow us to proceed with launch on time," the launch director reported.

With an instantaneous launch window, which was dictated by the time the space station's orbit lined up with the launch site, there was no margin in the countdown for any technical or weather problem.

SpaceX also said it would address a leak in a helium line connected to the rocket's upper stage, requiring it to lower the Falcon 9 to a horizontal position.

The company is launching a mission called CRS-17, its 17th cargo run to the International Space Station under a NASA Commercial Resupply Services contract.

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Less than nine minutes after liftoff, SpaceX planned to land the new first stage of the Falcon 9 on the deck of its unpiloted "drone ship" named "Of Course I Still Love You."

The ship was expected to be stationed about 12 miles offshore — close enough for the landing to generate a sonic boom audible on the Space Coast — and had been dodging stormy weather.

SpaceX called the ship into service because the original touchdown site on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, called Landing Zone 1, was no longer available after an April 20 test failure that destroyed a Crew Dragon capsule on a stand there.

SpaceX and NASA are investigating the mishap, which is expected to delay the company's timeline for launching astronauts to the space station, possibly beyond this year.

The cargo-only version of the Dragon, however, which does not use the SuperDraco thrusters that were involved in the failed test, was cleared to continue flying. 

The Dragon now awaiting launch visited the station in 2017 on the mission labeled CRS-12.

If SpaceX can't launch Saturday, the mission's outlook becomes less clear. The next attempt might have to wait for a week while the Air Force's 45th Space Wing performs scheduled maintenance on the Eastern Range.

NASA cleared the mission to proceed after quickly fixing an electrical problem aboard the space station flying 250 miles overhead. Robotics teams on the ground restored two failed power distribution channels, replacing a failed Main Bus Switching Unit, or MBSU, with a spare.

Flight rules required those channels to be up and running to ensure that the 57-foot robotic arm astronauts will use to capture the Dragon had backup power available in the event of another failure.

Launch Saturday

  • Rocket: SpaceX Falcon 9 (new booster)
  • Mission: CRS-17 Dragon resupply mission to the International Space Station for NASA
  • Launch Time: 2:48 a.m. EDT
  • Launch Window: Instantaneous
  • Launch Complex: 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
  • Landing: "Of Course I Still Love You" drone ship stationed 12 miles offshore
  • Weather: 70% "go"