SpaceX/Orbcomm launch delayed

CBS News

Launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying six Orbcomm commercial data relay satellites was delayed Friday for at least 24 hours because of telemetry indicating a possible pressurization problem in the rocket's second stage, company officials said.

If the issue can be resolved in time, SpaceX could make another launch attempt at 5:46 p.m. Saturday. Forecasters are predicting a 60 percent chance of acceptable weather. But as of this writing, it's not yet known whether the problem involves a real pressurization issue, faulty instrumentation or a ground system.

Launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying six Orbcomm machine-to-machine data relay satellites was called off Friday after telemetry indicated a possible pressurization problem with the rocket’s second stage. (Credit: SpaceX webcast)

"So right now we are going in and putting the Falcon 9 in a safe configuration," said a company spokesman. "So the launch vehicle, the spacecraft, are OK. We'll be looking at off loading propellants. The team will continue looking at data on the second stage pressure decay that we saw. ... We'll see where we go next."

Company engineers were counting down to a planned 6:08 p.m. launch Friday when telemetry first indicated a potential problem. Mission managers opted to reset the countdown for the end of the launch window -- 7:01 p.m. -- while engineers studied the problem and its possible resolution.

At T-13 minutes, launch controllers carried out a pre-flight poll and opted to proceed with the terminal phase of the countdown while troubleshooting continued. Forecasters said the weather, which appeared no-go earlier in the day, was acceptable for flight.

But a few minutes after the countdown entered the terminal phase, mission managers ordered a scrub, saying more time was needed to assess the problem.

The launching originally was planned for late May, but the flight was delayed in part because of troubleshooting to resolve a leak in the helium system used to pressurize the first stage liquid oxygen tank.

Whether today's problem involved a real pressurization issue with the second stage, an instrumentation problem or trouble with ground equipment is not yet known.