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SpaceX delays next station cargo run to January

Irene Klotz, Spaceflight Correspondent
Dec 18, 2014, 14:53 UTC

Sen—Launch of Space Exploration Technologies' seventh and final Falcon 9 rocket of the year is being bumped to January after a possible technical problem surfaced during a routine pre-flight engine firing.

Liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida had been planned for Friday. The rocket carries the fifth of 12 Dragon cargo capsules purchased by NASA under a $1.6 billion contract. 

SpaceX, as the privately owned company is called, along with Orbital Sciences Corp, were hired by NASA to make supply runs to the International Space Station after the United States retired the space shuttles.

The next earliest possibly opportunity for SpaceX's Falcon rocket to fly is 6 January, company spokesman John Taylor said Thursday. 

“While the recent static fire test accomplished nearly all of our goals, the test did not run the full duration. The data suggests we could push forward without a second attempt, but out of an abundance of caution, we are opting to execute a second static fire test prior to launch," Taylor wrote in an email.

"Given the extra time needed for data review and testing, coupled with the limited launch date availability due to the holidays and other restrictions, our earliest launch opportunity is now 6 January," he added.

The restrictions include a period of time when sun angles on the space station restrict visiting vehicles from docking.

With the delay, SpaceX's launch tally for the year is six flights, about half as many as had been planned. The company is working on stepping up its launch rate to accommodate its growing business.

In addition to flying cargo to the station for NASA, SpaceX has a backlog of more than 30 commercial missions and is close to winning certification from the U.S. Air Force to compete for part of the military’s satellite launch business. 

SpaceX also is working on a passenger version of its Dragon capsule to fly NASA astronauts to and from the station and a heavy-lift version of its Falcon rocket, which is expected to debut next year.

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