SpaceX Aborts the Falcon 9 Block 5 a Few Short Seconds Before Liftoff – But Can They Safely Pull it Off Today?

Friday, 11 May 2018 - 11:28AM
Technology
SpaceX
Friday, 11 May 2018 - 11:28AM
SpaceX Aborts the Falcon 9 Block 5 a Few Short Seconds Before Liftoff – But Can They Safely Pull it Off Today?
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SpaceX/Public Domain
Fifty-eight seconds before the first launch of one of SpaceX's new generation of Falcon 9 rockets, an automatic abort triggered a shutdown. Technicians scrambled to diagnose the problem before the narrow launch window closed but were ultimately forced to reschedule the launch.

SpaceX issued the following announcement on Twitter:



Although SpaceX seems unconcerned by this setback, it's the latest incident in a string of touch-and-go progress for a company whose technology has set off warning bells with various advisory groups and could negatively impact future contracts as a result. Their controversial method for storing propellant is particularly troubling for NASA. The super-cooled fuel is extremely volatile and needs to be loaded at the last possible minute in a procedure called "load and go" – the tiniest spark can set off a devastating explosion like the one seen in 2016. This raises concerns for manned space flight – if a similar incident was to occur, the crew would be trapped in the flames.

The Falcon 9 Block 5 is supposed to be the final version of the Falcon 9, and the same type expected to carry astronauts into space. The payload today is Bangabandhu 1, a French-built communications satellite commissioned by Bangladesh. Barring any more inexplicable delays or catastrophic failures, Elon Musk has decided to try it again today. The ultimate goal of the Block 5 generation is to successfully fly into space 10 times without any refurbishment or maintenance, then fly up to 100 missions with some refitting and repair. This re-use of rocket stages is one of the keys to SpaceX's ability to make spaceflight cost-efficient and fast – when you don't have to constantly rebuild and replace parts, your turnaround time (and budget) become a lot more manageable.



The only detail that has changed is the date: once again, they'll be launching the Falcon 9 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida and trying to land the first stage of the rocket on their floating drone ship in the Atlantic.

You can watch the live webcast of today's launch in the embedded video below, or on the SpaceX website here!

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