Commercial Space Travel Set Back But Not Discouraged

Commercial space travel, well on its way to replacing traditional space exploration, took a step back Saturday, aborting a mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Just a little step back though – the launch is set to try again early Tuesday after swapping out a faulty part.

SpaceX scrubbed Saturday’s mission less than a second before liftoff after high temperatures were detected in one of the rocket’s engines.

After Tuesday’s re-launch, SpaceX will fly its Dragon capsule to the ISS to test sensors and propulsion systems, both of which have never before operated in space. If all systems are go, the unmanned capsule will practice docking at the ISS.

Saturday’s scrubbed launch is a good example of why America’s space program is headed in this “commercial” direction. Hours after the scrub, SpaceX had the solution to the problem in place and had moved on to planning for Tuesday’s re-launch. Run the old NASA way, detailed systems engineering, computer simulations and time-consuming analysis would have taken much longer and cost much more.

NASA, fully supportive of SpaceX to the tune of $2 billion, is excited and prepared.

“We’re ready to support when SpaceX is ready to go,” Alan Lindenmoyer, Manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program, said in a press conference Saturday.

The new era in space exploration is coming; it’s just been slightly delayed.

Flickr photo by IronRodArt – Royce Bair (NightScapes on Thursdays)