All nine of the Falcon 9 rocket's engines were roaring and ready to blast off on Saturday when a valve malfunction caused SpaceX's computers to pull the plug at the last possible second. The privately-owned, California-based company will attempt a second launch early Tuesday morning at Florida's Kennedy Space Center where, if all goes well, the rocket and attached Dragon cargo capsule will officially begin a two-week trek to the International Space Station (ISS). The mission potentially marks the dawn of a new era for space travel, in which a resource-strapped NASA leans more heavily on the private sector to transport people and supplies to space. SpaceX's swift reaction to the potential catastrophe is to be applauded, says the Wall Street Journal, and "reflects a corporate culture determined to demonstrate confidence and rapid problem solving" — traits some say the noted space agency has been lacking. Here, a look at SpaceX and NASA's big gamble, by the numbers:
Time remaining on the T-minus countdown clock when the launch was abruptly aborted Saturday. "Technicians investigating the glitch discovered a faulty check valve was to blame for the high engine pressure that forced the booster’s engines to unexpectedly shut down," says Space.com.
Height, in feet, of the Falcon 9 rocket
Percent chance of auspicious weather for Tuesday morning's launch at Cape Canaveral, Fla.
Anticipated launch time in E.S.T.
Pounds of equipment and supplies (mostly food and clothing) SpaceX's Dragon capsule will transport to the ISS
People actually aboard SpaceX's Dragon. The spacecraft will be piloted remotely by a crew on the ground.
Miles per hour at which both the spacecraft and the ISS will be orbiting Earth when they attempt to connect
Minimum distance, in feet, that the Dragon capsule must be from the ISS to dock. "At that point, flight engineer Donald Pettit, operating the station's robot arm, will lock onto the cargo capsule just after 8 a.m. and guide it to a berthing," says CNET.
Development costs for test flights. Tuesday's launch marks SpaceX's third attempt to send a rocket to space, and the first attempt to make contact with the space station.
Value of NASA's contract with SpaceX if test flights prove successful
Cargo flights which SpaceX will be expected to complete per the contract
NASA's proposed budget for 2013. Thought it may appear only "marginally less than last year," says Phil Plait at Discover Magazine, even a slight decrease is bad news for space exploration. "If this budget goes through Congress as is, it will mean the end of a lot of NASA projects and future missions."
Less than 1
NASA's percentage of the U.S. federal budget