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SpaceX aborts launch to space station
   2017-02-18 23:43:02    Xinhua      Web Editor: Zhang Peng

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket lifts off with an unmanned Dragon cargo craft from the launch platform in Cape Canaveral, Florida on April 8, 2016.[File Photo: Xinhua]

U.S. space company SpaceX aborted in the last minute the lift-off of its Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule to the International Space Station on Saturday morning due to technical trouble.

A SpaceX Falcon 9, carrying a Dragon cargo capsule loaded with nearly 5,500 pounds of supplies and equipment bound for the International Space Station (ISS), was supposed to blast off from U.S. space agency NASA's historic Launch Complex 39A (LC-39A) at the Kennedy Space Center for the first time at 10:01 a.m. EST (1501 GMT), but the launch was called off with just 13 seconds left in the countdown, NASA TV showed.

"Hold, hold, hold!" a launch controller urged over the radio loops at T-13 seconds. The launch delay was frustrating to space program enthusiasts who turned out in force to witness the first launch off LC-39A since the shuttle Atlantis blasted off in July 2011 on the program's final flight.

The historic launch pad at Cape Canaveral is best known as the launch site for the Apollo 11 mission, which sent the first humans to the surface of the moon, as well as numerous space shuttle missions.

According to NASA, the launch attempt has been scrubbed because of the "thrust vector control system issue that developed late in today's countdown." Thrust vector control, or TVC, systems help steer the upper-stage engine.

The California-based company will have to wait at least another day to launch from NASA's historic moon pad. The next earliest launch opportunity for launch is at 9:38 am EST (1438 GMT) on Sunday. The weather forecast calls for a 70 percent chance of acceptable conditions.

After the aborted launch, SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk tweeted that the launch was aborted out of an abundance of caution.

"All systems go, except the movement trace of an upper stage engine steering hydraulic piston was slightly odd. Standing down to investigate," Musk posted on Twitter.

He added a few minutes later, "if this is the only issue, flight would be fine, but need to make sure that it isn't symptomatic of a more significant upstream root cause."

Musk says system was green for launch and he personally called off Saturday's launch attempt. "99 percent likely to be fine (closed loop TVC wd overcome error), but that 1 percent chance isn't worth rolling the dice. Better to wait a day," Musk twitted.

The delay comes after a small leak was spotted in the Falcon 9 upper stage on Friday. A software check was put into the terminal countdown and the leak apparently was within acceptable limits Saturday.

The launch delay is "not obviously related to the (very tiny) helium leak, but also not out of the question," Musk tweeted.

This was supposed to be SpaceX's first launch from Florida since a Falcon 9 exploded on the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on September 1, 2016. The accident during prelaunch testing heavily damaged that pad. SpaceX turned to the LC-39A.

SpaceX did launch a rocket from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on January 14, 2017, but this will the first from the Cape since the blast.

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