Private supply ship for International Space Station fails to get off ground

Mon, May 21, 2012, 01:00

A new private supply ship for the International Space Station remained stuck on the ground after rocket engine trouble led to a last-second abort of the historic flight.

All nine engines for the rocket roared to life. But with a mere half-second remaining before lift-off, the onboard computers automatically shut everything down.

So instead of blasting off on a delivery mission to the space station, the rocket stayed on its launch pad, amid a plume of engine exhaust.

Even Nasa’s most seasoned launch commentator was taken off-guard.

“Three, two, one, zero and lift-off,” announced commentator George Diller, his voice trailing as the rocket failed to budge. “We’ve had a cut-off. Lift-off did not occur.” SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said that high combustion chamber pressure in engine number five was to blame.

Tomorrow is the earliest that SpaceX can try again to send its cargo-laden Dragon capsule to the space station.

The California-based company – formally known as Space Exploration Technologies – is targeting every few days for a launch attempt to save fuel in case of rendezvous problems at the space station. Wednesday could also be a launch option.

This was the first launch bid by one of the several private US companies hoping to deliver cargo and eventually astronauts to the space station for Nasa. – (AP)