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SpaceX delays resupply flight to ISS

The private spaceflight company was planning to land the rocket's first stage on a platform in the Atlantic Ocean.
By Danielle Haynes Follow @DanielleHaynes1 Contact the Author   |   Dec. 18, 2014 at 5:47 PM
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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Dec. 18 (UPI) -- SpaceX's fifth commercial launch to provide supplies to the International Space Station was delayed due to problems experienced during an engine fire test, the company and NASA said Thursday.

The Falcon 9 rocket was scheduled to take off with the Dragon cargo ship Friday at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The rocket is now scheduled to launch the morning of Jan. 6.

A news release from NASA said the delay was to allow "SpaceX engineers time to investigate further issues that arose from a static fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket" on Tuesday.

"While the recent static fire test accomplished nearly all of our goals, the test did not run the full duration," SpaceX spokesman John Taylor said in email sent to multiple media sources. "The data suggests we could push forward without a second attempt, but out of an abundance of caution, we are opting to execute a second static fire test prior to launch."

"Given the extra time needed for data review and testing, coupled with the limited launch date availability due to the holidays and other restrictions, our earliest launch opportunity is now Jan. 6 with Jan. 7 as a backup," he added.

The postponement won't negatively affect the ISS crew's food, fuel or other supplies, the NASA release said.

This is the second delay of this particular resupply launch.

The rocket was first scheduled to take off Tuesday, but it was delayed to allow "SpaceX to take extra time to ensure they do everything possible on the ground to prepare for a successful launch," NASA said in a statement released Dec. 12.

This particular rocket launch is expected to be groundbreaking for SpaceX. The private spaceflight company was planning to land the rocket's first stage on a platform in the Atlantic Ocean.

Reusable rocket technology is key to the company's growth, CEO Elon Musk has repeatedly said. Being able to reuse vital components of its rocket could shave costs by a factor of 1,000.

"There are a lot of launches that will occur over the next year," Musk said at an aerospace conference earlier this fall. "I think it's quite likely that one of those flights, we'll be able to land and refly, so I think we're quite close."

The new resupply launch is scheduled to take place at approximately 6:18 a.m. EST Jan. 6, with coverage beginning on NASA Television at 5 a.m.

Brooks Hays contributed to this report.

© 2014 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.

NASA's reborn Kepler mission makes first exoplanet discovery

"Last summer, the possibility of a scientifically productive mission for Kepler after its reaction wheel failure in its extended mission was not part of the conversation," Paul Hertz said.
By Brooks Hays   |   Dec. 18, 2014 at 3:45 PM
WASHINGTON, Dec. 18 (UPI) -- After a year on the proverbial bench, Kepler is back in the game seeking out alien worlds; and for the first time since it was sidelined, scientists confirmed a new exoplanet located by the probe.

In the spring of 2013, NASA's Kepler probe began spinning out of control after its wheeled image-stabilization mechanism broke. With only two of its four wheels in working condition, its mission was retired.

Without the ability to fix its gaze on specific points in space, Kepler was pretty useless as a recorder of optical data and searcher of exoplanets.

But earlier this year, engineers at NASA figured out a way to rig the probing observatory so that the pressure of the sun's rays pinned it into a stable position. After testing proved their troubleshooting had worked, NASA approved funding for another Kepler mission -- K2.

"Last summer, the possibility of a scientifically productive mission for Kepler after its reaction wheel failure in its extended mission was not part of the conversation," Paul Hertz, NASA's astrophysics division director, said in a recent press release. "Today, thanks to an innovative idea and lots of hard work by the NASA and Ball Aerospace team, Kepler may well deliver the first candidates for follow-up study by the James Webb Space Telescope to characterize the atmospheres of distant worlds and search for signatures of life."

The handicapped probe can only work for 80 days at a time, but it has since completed two scientific campaigns. Scientists are just now parsing the data returned from the first campaign, as Kepler begins its third K2 campaign.

While being tested, Kepler collected data that revealed the existence of an exoplanet more than twice the size of Earth. Planet HIP 116454b orbits a small, cool star found 180 light-years away in the constellation Pisces. Planet HIP 116454b is likely much too cold to support life.

"The Kepler mission showed us that planets larger in size than Earth and smaller than Neptune are common in the galaxy, yet they are absent in our solar system," said Steve Howell, lead scientist on the Kepler/K2 mission. "K2 is uniquely positioned to dramatically refine our understanding of these alien worlds and further define the boundary between rocky worlds like Earth and ice giants like Neptune."

Keppler has helped discover more than 1,700 new alien worlds since it was launched in 2009.

© 2014 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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