SpaceX COTS launch slips to May 19 (updated)

Falcon 9 hotfire

The Falcon 9 rocket that will launch SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft on its upcoming test flight undergoes a hotfire test on April 30. (Credit: SpaceX)

Updated 7:45 pm: As expected, SpaceX announced late Friday that it’s slipping its next planned launch attempt to May 19, with a backup date of May 22. “SpaceX and NASA are nearing completion of the software assurance process,” SpaceX announced, explaining the new launch dates. “Thus far, no issues have been uncovered during this process, but with a mission of this complexity we want to be extremely diligent.” That May 19th launch would take place at 4:55 am EDT (0855 GMT), which is either very late on a Friday night or very early on a Saturday morning, depending on whether you’re a night owl or early bird.

In a separate statement, NASA endorsed the revised launch date. “After additional reviews and discussions between the SpaceX and NASA teams, we are in a position to proceed toward this important launch,” said NASA associate administrator Bill Gerstenmaier. “There are a few remaining open items but we are ready to support SpaceX for its new launch date of May 19.”

Original Post: Earlier this week SpaceX said it was “unlikely” that the company would be able to carry out its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) test launch on Monday the 7th as previously planned. The company said it would announce a new launch date when it was set, but so far the company has said nothing, suggesting the launch will slip not just to the backup date of May 10 but at least to later in the month.

In a Twitter chat with the Associated Press on Thursday afternoon, SpaceX’s Elon Musk indicated a new launch date hasn’t been set yet. “Figuring out new no-earlier-than launch date with NASA. Should know in next few days,” he said in a tweet that, curiously, has since been deleted. (The quote is from one of a number of retweets of his original comment.) In addition, one NASA manifest that previously listed a “NET 5/10/2012″ date for the launch now lists it only as “TBD” (to be determined), but putting it after a May 15 launch of a Soyuz mission to the ISS as well as a May 17 launch of a Japanese rocket on a mission not related to the ISS. All that suggests that a May 10 launch is unlikely, and that they’ll wait until after the Soyuz is at the ISS and its new crew settled in before trying again.

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