A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket aborted a planned launch on Sunday morning at the last second due to an engine power issue. The event produced confusion at the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, where countdown appeared to be proceeding normally. However, the rocket stayed where it was.
In a video published by SpaceX, you can hear a commentator begin to count down. At this moment, the rocket still looks like it’s getting ready to take off, and no one seems to suspect that something is wrong. Once the commentator gets to zero and says liftoff, they immediately add, “Disregard. We have an abort.”
According to Space.com, apparently, the Falcon 9’s onboard computer aborted the launch just before liftoff because it detected an issue with one of the rocket’s nine Merlin 1D engines. Michael Andrews, a supply chain supervisor at SpaceX, said in the launch commentary that they had a “condition regarding engine power that caused us to abort today’s launch.”
Andrews added that the vehicle appeared to be in good health, but the company would no longer try to launch today.
SpaceX itself weighed in on the matter on Twitter shortly after.
“Standing down today; standard auto-abort triggered due to out of family data during engine power check,” SpaceX said. “Will announce next launch date opportunity once confirmed on the Range.”
SpaceX was planning to launch a batch of 60 new Starlink satellites, part of an initiative to provide low-cost Internet to remote locations worldwide where it’s hard to obtain online services. CEO Elon Musk has said that the Starlink constellation system will be available once 400 satellites are in orbit and activated. He claims that it will achieve “significant operational capacity” with 800 satellites.
Today’s launch was significant because it would have been the first Falcon 9 rocket booster, or first stage, to launch five times. The first time this booster launched was in 2018, per Ars Technica. SpaceX had also announced that it would be reusing the rocket’s payload fairing. Overall, this meant that the only part of this Falcon 9 rocket that was not being reused was the second stage.
SpaceX aims to reduce the price of rocket launches by reusing parts of its rockets. There isn’t any word yet on when the company will try to launch this Falcon 9 rocket again. Even though it’s a small bummer, it’s better safe than sorry when you’re launching an expensive rocket, even if you do plan to reuse it. Better luck next time.