With 1 minute, 21 seconds left on the countdown clock, officials scrubbed the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch. A thrust vector control actuator for the Falcon 9’s second stage was acting strangely according to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk.
Need to investigate the upper stage Z actuator. Was behaving strangely. Next launch attempt on Friday at 5am.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) January 6, 2015
SpaceX will give it another go on Friday at 5 a.m. This morning’s launch was going to be even more special than a typical mission to the International Space Station. SpaceX planned to attempt a first stage rocket landing on a floating platform in the Atlantic Ocean. The company pegged their chances of a successful landing at around 50%.
What’s the big deal about landing the first stage on a platform? It opens the door to reusable rockets, cutting the costs of space flight dramatically. “A fully and rapidly reusable rocket – which has never been done before – is the pivotal breakthrough needed to substantially reduce the cost of space access,” according to SpaceX’s website.
Friday’s launch will also send 5,000 pounds of equipment to astronauts aboard the International Space Station. This will include some late Christmas gifts from friends and family on Earth.
Even if SpaceX fails to land the first stage on the floating platform, the data alone will be invaluable for future launches. Over the next year, SpaceX plans at least a dozen launches with plenty of opportunities to keep trying their first stage landing.
Image credit: SpaceX