Falcon 9 Launch Delayed Until January

SpaceX first stage recovery drone ship. (Credit: SpaceX)
SpaceX first stage recovery drone ship. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has delayed the CRS 5 cargo flight to the International Space Station scheduled for Friday to no earlier than Jan. 6 with Jan. 7 as a backup date.

A SpaceX spokesman said a static fire of the engine did not go as long as planned. He cited the need to conduct a second static fire, the upcoming holidays, and lighting conditions at the International Space Station as reasons for the delay.

In addition to sending a Dragon cargo ship to the space station, the flight was to attempt to land the Falcon 9 first stage on a barge for eventual reuse.

According to SpaceflightNow.com, the flight had already been delayed from Oct. 3, Dec. 1, Dec. 9 and Dec. 16.

With this latest delay, SpaceX will finish 2014 with six launches, which is double its launch rate for 2013 but about half the number planned for this year.

UPDATE: Here’s the official NASA announcement on the delay:

NASA, SpaceX Update Launch of Fifth SpaceX Resupply Mission to Space Station

NASA and SpaceX announced today the launch of SpaceX’s fifth commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station now will occur no earlier than Tuesday, Jan. 6.

The new launch date will provide SpaceX engineers time to investigate further issues that arose from a static fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket on Dec. 16 and will avoid beta angle constraints for berthing the Dragon cargo ship to the station that exist through the end of the year.

A beta angle is the position of the sun relative to mechanical structures on the space station. During the time of high beta angles, which run from Dec. 28 through Jan. 7, thermal and operational constraints prohibit Dragon from berthing to the station.

Space station managers will meet Monday, Jan. 5, for a readiness review in advance of the launch attempt Jan. 6. The launch postponement has no impact on the station’s crew or its complement of food, fuel and supplies and will not affect the science being delivered to the crew once Dragon arrives at the station.

The launch is scheduled at approximately 6:18 a.m. EST. NASA Television coverage will begin at 5 a.m.

A backup launch attempt is available Wednesday, Jan. 7.

A launch on Jan. 6 will result in a rendezvous and grapple of Dragon Thursday, Jan. 8, at approximately 6 a.m. NASA TV coverage will begin at 4:30 a.m. Installation coverage will begin at 9 a.m.

Prelaunch briefings at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida will be rescheduled for Monday, Jan. 5, with times still to be determined.

For an updated schedule of prelaunch briefings, events and NASA TV coverage, visit:

http://go.nasa.gov/1FrjDEO

For launch countdown coverage, NASA’s launch blog, and more information about the mission, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/spacex

For NASA TV schedule and video streaming information, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/nasatv

For more information about the International Space Station, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/station