SpaceX and NASA announced earlier today that the fifth cargo resupply mission (CRS-5) to the International Space Station scheduled for tomorrow has been once more delayed, this time to no earlier than January 6th.
According to NASA, the delay will allow SpaceX engineers to investigate problems that arose after a static fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket conducted on Tuesday, though the space agency did not elaborate any further on the nature of the problems.
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The launch is being delayed by over two weeks to sidestep a period of time between December 28th to January 7th during which the Station will be continuously exposed to direct sunlight, raising thermal and operational constraints that would make it impossible for the Dragon spacecraft to berth with the Station.
Under the new schedule, Dragon would launch on January 6th at 6:18 am Eastern time and rendezvous with the ISS on January 8th. In case the one-second launch window is missed, a second window will be available on January 7th.
Even though the last attempt resulted in the explosion of an Antares rocket, NASA stressed that the delay will not impact the crew of the station, or its supply of food and fuel, nor will it impact the science cargo being delivered by Dragon once it does lift off.
Tomorrow’s launch would have marked the first attempt by private space company SpaceX to propulsively land the first stage of their Falcon 9 rocket onto an autonomous spaceport drone with the intent to salvage it for later reuse.
The cargo resupply mission had been originally planned for December 9th.