“Entering terminal count autosequence. 60 seconds to engine fire. #DragonLaunch,” tweeted Elon Musk as his space company was less than a minute away from it’s historic flight. But the launch didn’t happen. Nothing happened as longtime NASA commentator George Diller counted down the seconds, “3..2..1……We’ve had a cutoff. Liftoff did not occur.” Musk tweeted 11 minutes later at 5:06am EDT, “Launch aborted: slightly high combustion chamber pressure on engine 5. Will adjust limits for countdown in a few days.”
The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was literally a half second away from launching. NASA is still inspecting the engine but early reports, tweeted by both Musk and NASA, state that the chamber pressure on engine 5 was abnormally high, causing the rocket’s on-board computer to abort the launch.
SpaceX was on the cusp of making history and becoming the first privately owned institution to dock a capsule with the International Space Station. Only governments, the US, Russia and Japan, have so far accomplished this task. SpaceX is hoping to take over the transport duties from NASA starting first with cargo but eventually shuttling personnel between terra firma and the ISS.
This isn’t SpaceX’s first space rodeo. The company has been launching its Falcon rockets since 2006 although the first flight of a Falcon 1 failed a few seconds in. The rocket on the launchpad today, a Falcon 9, saw a successful first flight in 2010.
Today’s launch, while cut short, will likely (hopefully) just be a footnote in SpaceX history. The company is set to try again in the coming days. The next launch attempt will come on May 22 but it could be pushed to May 23 according to some reports.