Elon Musk’s SpaceX and NASA announced on Friday morning that SpaceX’s fifth commercial resupply services mission to the International Space Station has been rescheduled to Tuesday, January 6th at the earliest. A later launch date will give SpaceX engineers additional time to investigate all issues arising from a static fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket on December 16, and will also mean avoiding beta angle constraints related to berthing the Dragon cargo ship to the station that are present through the end of the year.
Launch had been scheduled for Friday afternoon
The Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo capsule had originally been scheduled to launch at 1:22 p.m. Friday.
However, the company noted several issues were working against the launch, including a recent static fire test of the rocket’s main engines that was not completed satisfactorily. In order to err on the side of caution, SpaceX plans a second static fire test before launching.
Details on SpaceX launch delay
Of note, a beta angle is the position of the sun relative to structures on the space station. During times of high beta angles (such as from Dec. 28 through Jan. 7) it is extremely difficult to berth Dragon to the ISS.
Space station managers from various organizations are planning a meeting on Monday, Jan. 5 to review to review readiness in advance of the Jan. 6th launch. Officials note that the launch delay does not impact the space station’s crew or food, fuel and supplies, nor will it significantly impact the science equipment being delivered to the crew by the Dragon.
The new launch is scheduled for 6:18 a.m. EST. A backup launch attempt could also be made on Wednesday, January 7.
A January 6th launch will enable a rendezvous and grapple of Dragon on Thursday, January 8th at 6 a.m.
The NASA statement noted that relaunch briefings at Kennedy Space Center in Florida would be rescheduled for Monday, January 5th (time to be determined).