It seems the famed rocket venture Space Exploration Technologies Corporation has once again delayed its mission to the International Space Station, citing the need for additional engineering work.
The company, better known as SpaceX, announced late Sunday that it will delay a rendezvous with the ISS. The rocket was slated to join the 18-story Falcon 9 rocket set for launch in early February from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
“We believe that there are a few areas that will benefit from additional work and will optimize the safety and success of this mission,” said Kirstin Graham, a SpaceX spokesperson, in a statement. “We are now working with NASA to establish a new target launch date, but note that we will continue to test and review data. We will launch when the vehicle is ready.”
“In preparation for the upcoming launch, SpaceX continues to conduct extensive testing and analysis,” she added.
The group, which has already secured a private contract with NASA, has increased his profile in recent years. The venture is widely seen as key replacement for the U.S. space shuttle, which was retired in mid-2011. The team had already received tentative approval to send its Dragon spacecraft to rendezvous with the space station during the mission, according to NASA officials.
The trip to the ISS would make the Dragon spacecraft the first commercial spacecraft to attempt a docking at the low-earth orbit space station. It will also reportedly conduct a series of check-out procedures that will test and prove its systems in advance of the rendezvous with the station, allowing NASA to assess its capabilities.
The February launch was seen as the first step for the increasingly popular privatized space industry. Successful completion of the trip to the ISS would clear the company for $1.6 billion contract with the U.S. space agency. The contract would include delivering NASA cargo the the ISS, which currently relies on Russian spacecraft to deliver cargo and keep the space station manned.
The SpaceX team said they anticipate a lunch date in the near future, adding that they remain confident that the mission will go off flawlessly.
“We are now working with NASA to establish a new target launch date, but note that we will continue to test and review data. We will launch when the vehicle is ready, ” said Ms. Graham. She further affirmed that they have been working on this project for more than one year. If this mission gets successful then it would be their first commercial success.
Last month, when NASA announced the original launch date, William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, said that SpaceX would need to satisfy all of the agency’s safety requirements before being allowed to perform the demonstration flight.
If the rendezvous and attachment to the station are not successful, SpaceX will complete a third demonstration flight in order to achieve these objectives as originally planned.