SpaceX Scraps Rocket Launch Seconds Before Planned Liftoff

SpaceX halted the planned launch Saturday of its unmanned Falcon 9 cargo rocket with just 13 seconds left on the countdown clock because of a technical issue.

The company said on Twitter it was “standing down to take a closer look at positioning of the second stage engine nozzle.” The earliest time SpaceX can reschedule the launch is about 9:30 a.m. EST Sunday, the company said.

The weather expected in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Sunday would be favorable for the launch.

A spokesman for SpaceX told AFP that engineers found a small helium leak in the second-stage thrust control of the rocket’s engine. The launch was delayed “out of an abundance of caution,” the spokesman said.

Elon Musk, chief executive officer at SpaceX, called the malfunction “slightly odd” and said the rocket would fly fine if this was the only issue. But SpaceX needs to “make sure that it isn’t symptomatic of a more significant upstream root cause,” he added.

The cargo rocket scheduled to launch Saturday was supposed to take food and other provisions to astronauts on the International Space Station. It is the 10th of 20 cargo missions contracted out to SpaceX by NASA.

If it goes off as planned, it will be SpaceX’s first successful launch in Florida since one of the company’s rockets exploded there in September 2016. On January 18, SpaceX successfully launched one of the Falcon 9 rockets from Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California.

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