SpaceX scrubs Florida launch, reschedules for Sunday

SpaceX scrubbed its launch of a NASA research mission Saturday just 13 seconds before the Hawthorne-based company’s Falcon 9 rocket was scheduled for liftoff from the historic Apollo moon pad in Florida.

The precautionary delay was the fault of “slightly odd” movements of an engine-steering hydraulic piston in the upper portion of the 23-story-tall rocket, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk announced on his Twitter account.

The launch has been rescheduled for 6:38 a.m. PST Sunday.

“Standing down to investigate,” Musk wrote. “If this is the only issue, flight would be fine, but need to make sure that it isn’t symptomatic of a more significant upstream root cause.”

To be clear that the issue is minor and not an indication of a repeat of a devastating Sept. 1 SpaceX rocket explosion, Musk reiterated:

“Btw, 99% likely to be fine … but that 1% chance isn’t worth rolling the dice,” he wrote. “Better to wait a day.”

The Hawthorne rocket maker is embarking on its first mission from historic Launch Complex 39-A launchpad at Cape Canaveral’s Kennedy Space Center. The company leased the site, where the Apollo moon missions as well as later space shuttles departed, more than two years ago but is only using it now because its other Cape Canaveral pad is still being repaired from the explosion.

Thousands of visitors had crowded the space center to watch the comeback of 39A, last used in 2011 for the final space shuttle flight. Excitement turned to disappointment, however, when the “hold” announcement was made.

In January, SpaceX enjoyed a flawless return to flight in January from its West Coast launchpad at Vandenberg Air Force Base. The company hopes to launch twice monthly through the rest of the year because of its extensive backlog of contracted deliveries.

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