(Updates with launch scrub)
By Irene Klotz
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., April 14 Privately owned
Space Exploration Technologies canceled its planned cargo run to
the International Space Station on Monday after a helium leak
was found in its rocket's first stage, NASA said.
The launch of the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule had
been slated for 4:58 p.m. EDT (2058 GMT). But an hour before
liftoff, engineers reported that the rocket's first stage was
leaking helium, prompting a postponement.
The next opportunity for the Falcon 9 to fly is 3:25 p.m.
(1925 GMT) on Friday if the problem can be resolved, NASA said
in a statement.
The flight, the third of 12 under the firm's 1.6 billion
contract with NASA, already had been delayed several times for
technical issues, including a potential contamination concern
with the rocket and damage to an Air Force ground tracking radar
needed to monitor the Falcon's flight.
Another postponement loomed over the weekend after one of
two computers that control key space stations systems, including
the solar wing panels and a moveable base for the robot arm,
failed. A spacewalk is needed to replace the unit, which is
located in the station's external framework.
NASA managers decided on Sunday to let SpaceX proceed with
launch and scheduled the repair spacewalk for later in the
In addition to delivering cargo to the space station, SpaceX
plans to use the Falcon's launch to test technology it has been
developing to recover and reuse its rockets.
The Falcon 9's first stage holds extra fuel and four landing
legs. After it separates from the upper stage and Dragon
capsule, the rocket is expected to reignite its engines to slow
its descent and position itself for a vertical touchdown on the
ocean before toppling over on its side.
"This is a really difficult maneuver," SpaceX Vice President
Hans Koenigsmann told reporters during a news conference on
Overall, the company considers the test has less than a 40
percent chance of success.
Eventually, SpaceX hopes to fly its Falcon rockets back to
land for refurbishment and reuse.
SpaceX is one of two firms hired by NASA to fly cargo to the
station after the space shuttles were retired in 2011. So far,
SpaceX has made one test flight and two cargo runs to the
station, a project of 15 nations.
Orbital Sciences Corp, which holds a separate $1.9
billion NASA contract, has made one test flight and is preparing
for its second resupply mission in June.