SpaceX rocket launch scrubbed due to helium leak

September 7, 2017 – 06:22 am

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is seen on the launch pad in this file photo taken Jan. 6, 2014.


Launch of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon cargo capsule bound for the International Space Station was scrubbed Monday afternoon because of an apparent first stage helium leak. A new launch date has not been announced, but the flight is off until Friday at the earliest, officials say.

The Falcon 9 version 1.1 rocket was on track for liftoff from launch complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 4:58 p.m., roughly the moment Earth's rotation would have carried the pad into the plane of the station's orbit.

But engineers preparing the rocket for liftoff discovered ran into what NASA described as a helium leak in the plumbing of the rocket's first stage, an issue that could not be resolved in time for launch. SpaceX launch director Ricky Lim ordered a scrub at 3:39 p.m.

"As folks heard on the anomaly net, we have encountered an issue that will result in our scrubbing today's 4/14 launch attempt, " he said. "The team here will start to safe the vehicle, offload propellants and then working on the details of the next few days forward. So for now, launch is scrubbed. Propellants offload will be commencing here shortly."

Based on the space station's orbit and the requirements of the Dragon rendezvous sequence, the next launch opportunity is Friday at 3:25 p.m., setting up a berthing at the International Space Station early Sunday.

The unpiloted Dragon spacecraft is loaded with nearly 5, 000 pounds of equipment and supplies, including a new spacesuit, spare parts for suits already aboard the station, food and clothing, an experimental laser communications system, high-definition video cameras and equipment to grow salad-type crops in weightlessness in research that also will augment the crew's menu.

Whenever it arrives, Expedition 39 commander Koichi Wakata and Rick Mastracchio, operating the station's robot arm and berthing system, will be standing by to lock onto a grapple fixture to pull the spacecraft in for attachment to the Earth-facing port of the forward Harmony module.

The launching was approved by NASA's Mission Management Team Sunday after engineers showed the failure of an external computer aboard the space station Friday posed no increased risk for normal lab operations.

The computer, which serves as a backup for commanding solar array motion, a robot arm transporter and other critical systems, will be replaced during a contingency spacewalk next week. In the meantime, modified procedures have been developed to keep the station operating normally even if another failure occurs.


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