SpaceX has once again been forced to delay the launch of its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft. The latest launch date was scheduled for Monday, May 7 from Cape Canaveral in Florida. Issues with the software responsible for controlling the automated spacecraft have caused several of the past issues and are assumed to be responsible for these latest delays.
In an interview with Wired last week, SpaceX founder and chief designer Elon Musk said the delay that forced the change from an April 30 to May 7 launch was caused in part by limits in the software being to sensitive when controlling the Dragon capsule in orbit, “essentially Dragon got scared and ran away, when it shouldn’t have.”
SpaceX must work with NASA to confirm that all of the software and hardware are ready to go for the upcoming flight because of the interaction, and eventual berthing with the International Space Station. During the mission the Dragon spacecraft will make a series of maneuvers around the ISS and eventually approach the station. At the approach, commands will be given from the station to the Dragon to ensure those on board the ISS can instruct the unmanned spacecraft to retreat if necessary.
This past Monday SpaceX performed a countdown rehearsal complete with a firing of the nine Merlin rocket engines for two seconds. While the simulation was heralded as a success, it was delayed after the first attempted forced a reset with just 47 seconds left on the countdown clock.
Because of the orbit of the ISS, the next launch opportunity for the Falcon 9 and Dragon would not be until May 10 at the earliest. After that date there is a Soyuz rocket scheduled to launch to the ISS on May 15 which would likely push SpaceX’s next opportunity several days after the Soyuz launch.
The SpaceX launch is part of a NASA required flight test for its Falcon 9/Dragon system to provide cargo transportation to the ISS.