SpaceX scrubs Falcon 9 rocket launch a second time citing fuelling snag


Just a day after delaying the launch of its Falcon 9 rocket, SpaceX scrubbed the second attempt to launch the SES-9 communications early this morning, reporting a last minute fuelling issue.

The original launch date Thursday was postponed due to rough upper level winds, and was rescheduled to 5:17 am (IST). The second launch, however, hit a snag with just a minute and 40 seconds left on the countdown clock, apparently due to a problem encountered filling the rocket with liquid oxygen. It’s not yet clear when the third launch attempt might be, though SpaceX has indicated the earliest possible date would be Saturday.

Countdown held for the day. Teams are reviewing the data and next available launch date.

— SpaceX (@SpaceX) February 26, 2016
This is the second SES mission for SpaceX, following their successful launch of the SES-8 satellite in December, and their eighth satellite launch overall. But what makes this launch special is that SpaceX will once again try to recover the first stage booster from the rocket, this time using a drone operated landing ship. Yes. SpaceX is trying to remotely land a rocket on a remote controlled carrier ship. most of us couldn’t keep our RC cars from hitting the walls.

Of course, SpaceX admits that they can, and likely will, fail. The recovery itself is daunting, given that the satellite’s designated orbit is 35,000km above the Earth’s surface, meaning the rocket will be larger and more powerful. In addition, the SES-9 weighs in at 5,300kg, the heaviest SpaceX payload so far. But though their first few sea landing attempts have failed, their last one in January came close. It touched down on the platform, but one of the landing legs failed, causing a hilarious tumble, and a more serious fireball.
Falcon lands on droneship, but the lockout collet doesn’t latch on one the four legs, causing it to tip over post landing. Root cause may have been ice buildup due to condensation from heavy fog at liftoff.

A video posted by Elon Musk (@elonmusk) on Jan 17, 2016 at 7:07pm PST

If SpaceX manages to nail this launch and landing, it marks a new era for spaceflight, with the ability for cheaper, reusable rockets that provide mission control the flexibility to recover the rocket stages wherever they can reach, as opposed to plotting a trajectory to land.