Third SpaceX launch try scrubbed, flight delayed to early July

Editor's note...
  • Posted at 03:37 PM ET, 06/22/14: Third SpaceX launch try scrubbed
  • Updated at 03:10 PM ET, 06/23/14: SpaceX puts flight on hold until early July
CBS News

A third attempt to launch a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying six ORBCOMM data relay satellites was called off Sunday because of an unspecified technical problem. While Tuesday was the next available launch opportunity, the company announced Monday that the flight would be delayed until the first week of July at the earliest to give engineers more time to evaluate the issue and to allow the Air Force to carry out already planned maintenance of Eastern Range tracking and telemetry systems.

"SpaceX is taking a closer look at a potential issue identified while conducting pre-flight checkouts during yesterday's countdown," the company said in a statement. "SpaceX will stand down Tuesday while our engineering teams evaluate further, which will also allow the Range to move forward with previously scheduled maintenance. We are currently targeting the first week of July and will work with the Range to confirm the next available launch opportunities."

A file photo of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a half-dozen ORBCOMM data relay satellites. A third attempt to launch the rocket Sunday was called off after an unspecified problem. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX originally planned to launch the ORBCOMM OG2 mission in late May, but the flight was delayed, first by problems with a helium leak in the rocket's first-stage pressurization system and then because of concern about one of the six ORBCOMM satellites.

The rocket and payload eventually were cleared for launch Friday, but an apparent propellant pressurization problem with the rocket's second stage forced another delay. SpaceX did not say what, if anything, was done to resolve the issue but the rocket was cleared for a second launch attempt Saturday.

The second time around, bad weather was the issue and while conditions were improving toward the end of the launch window, a lightning strike near the pad prompted a second straight delay.

Weather was expected to be an issue again on Sunday, with late afternoon showers and thunderstorms in the area contributing to an 80 percent "no-go" forecast. SpaceX engineers nonetheless were pressing ahead for a third launch try when they ran into an unspecified problem that apparently could not be resolved before the end of the launch window.

"Today's ORBCOMM launch attempt has been scrubbed to address a potential concern identified during pre-flight checks," SpaceX said in a statement. "The vehicle and payload are in good condition, and engineering teams will take the extra time to ensure the highest possible level of mission assurance prior to flight."

A source said the problem may have involved a component in the system used to move engine nozzles for steering during the climb to space. The Falcon 9 is equipped with nine Merlin 1D first stage engines with a single engine powering the second stage.

But a SpaceX spokeswoman said earlier Sunday she was not aware of any such problem. No other details were immediately available.