SpaceX Rocket Scrubs Launch From Pacific Island Seconds From Liftoff

Tuesday, March 20th 2007, 8:20 am
By: News On 6

LOS ANGELES (AP) _ A new rocket bankrolled by a millionaire entrepreneur automatically aborted its launch from a Pacific atoll with under 2 minutes left in the countdown, possibly because of a communication glitch, a company official said.

The launch of Space Exploration Technologies' Falcon 1 stopped as communication with the vehicle was switched from a landline to a radio frequency and the signal was not picked up, said launch commentator Gwynn Shotwell.

The El Segundo, Calif., company known as SpaceX has yet to successfully launch a Falcon 1, the first of what is planned to be a family of low-cost rockets. It is designed to carry up to 1,254 pounds into low orbit for $6.7 million.

A launch nearly a year ago from Omelek island in the Kwajalein Atoll failed when leaking fuel caught fire seconds into liftoff. An Air Force Academy satellite was lost in the accident, which an investigation linked to corrosion of an aluminum nut due to prolonged exposure on the launch pad.

The new mission, Demo-2, is primarily to gather flight data. It also carries two experiments, the autonomous flight safety system and the low cost tracking and data relay satellite system transmitter.

Falcon 1 is a 70-foot-long, two-stage rocket powered by liquid oxygen and kerosene. Its first stage is designed to parachute into the ocean to be recovered and used again.

SpaceX founder Elon Musk was a co-founder of the PayPal Inc. electronic payment system now owned by eBay.