SpaceX delays first commercial flight | News | DW | 11.05.2018
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SpaceX delays first commercial flight

A technical glitch has caused SpaceX to delay the first commercial flight of a new rocket as it was about to blast off. The rocket needs to complete seven successful flights before it can transport astronauts for NASA.

American aerospace company SmartX on Thursday postponed the first commercial flight of its updated Falcon 9 rocket after a last-minute technical glitch.

The rocket's onboard computers stopped the countdown about one minute before the brand new Block-5 edition of the Falcon 9 was due to take off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on its first mission, to carry a communications satellite into orbit for Bangladesh.

Read more: What you need to know about SpaceX's Falcon Heavy launch

Controllers for billionaire Elon Musk's private launch company, formally known as Space Exploration Technologies, said the flight would be delayed for at least 24 hours and it would try again on Friday.

USA SpaceX Launch Bangabandhu-Satellit (picture-alliance/AP Photo/Red Huber/Orlando Sentinel)

The rocket's first flight was stopped with less than a minute to go on the countdown

Reason for glitch uncertain

The exact reason for Thursday's automatic shutdown of the final launch sequence was not determined.

Launch commanders will have to go through data logs produced by onboard computers to find out what may have gone wrong.

Read more: Opinion: Elon Musk and feeling like a kid again

The Falcon 9 Block-5 has about 100 upgrades for greater power, safety and reusability than its Block-4 predecessor.

Its recoverable main-stage booster is designed to be reused at least 10 times with minimal restoration between flights, allowing for more frequent launches at a lower cost, which is a key element of SpaceX's business model.

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Normalizing space travel

Rocket reusability is also one of Musk's broader aims for normalizing space travel and ultimately sending humans to Mars.

So far, the company has safely return-landed 24 of its boosters and reflown 11 of them.

The Block-5 is the first rocket from Musk's company to fulfill NASA's requirements for its Commercial Crew Program to carry agency astronauts to the International Space Station.

But NASA requires seven successful flights before the new rocket can receive the final certification for a manned mission.

The Block-5 will also be used to launch US Air Force global positioning satellites and other high-value, military and national security payloads.

law/rc (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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