Helium leak postpones Falcon 9 launch

F9 on pad 2014 Apr 14

A Falcon 9 v1.1 stands on the pad earlier Monday. The launch of the Dragon spacecraft on the third Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission has been postponed until at least Friday due to a helium leak in the rocket’s first stage. (credit: SpaceX)

A failed computer on the ISS didn’t delay SpaceX, but a helium leak did. NASA announced at about 3:45 pm EDT (1945 GMT), more than an hour before the scheduled liftoff time of 4:58 pm EDT (2058 GMT), that the launch had been scrubbed for the day for what, at the time, was an unspecified technical issue. NASA and SpaceX later confirmed that there was a leak in the helium pressurization system on the rocket’s first stage.

“A fix will be implemented by the next launch opportunity on Friday April 18, though weather on that date isn’t ideal,” SpaceX said in a brief statement on a page set up to webcast the launch. That’s a reference to the weather forecast issued yesterday, which estimated only a 40 percent chance of acceptable weather for launch on Friday, versus 80 percent today. The launch, if weather permits, would take place Friday at 3:25 pm EDT (1925 GMT).

Neither SpaceX nor NASA have disclosed plans should Friday’s attempt be scrubbed by weather or other technical problems. Should there be a significant delay, it’s possible SpaceX might be pushed back until after the launch of the next Orbital Cygnus mission, slated for May 6. If SpaceX does launch Friday or soon thereafter, that Orbital mission will likely be delayed to early June.

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