Tesla (NASDAQ:TSLA) CEO Elon Musk didn’t wish his Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) followers a happy Thanksgiving on the big day, but he did tweet that his rocket firm, SpaceX, was aborting its inaugural mission to geostationary orbit for a second time.
We called manual abort. Better to be paranoid and wrong. Bringing rocket down to borescope engines …
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) November 28, 2013
According to The Register, the initial launch orchestrated by Musk and his SpaceX team was meant to take place on Monday, but technical holds kept the Falcon 9 rocket from getting off the pad before the launch window closed. Thanksgiving Day was the next available time for the launch that is intended to put a large communications satellite into orbit above southern Asia, but the mission was once again aborted after the SpaceX team experienced a number of technical holdups, making the decision that the rocket needed a thorough engine inspection before it could be safely cleared.
As tweeted by Musk, the rocket will be brought off its transporter-erector launch tower for further examination and wait a few days before the next attempt.
The second delay is not unexpected, as the space launch business isn’t exactly known for its punctuality. SpaceX places more of a focus on reliability rather than deadlines, which makes sense when one considers the implications of a failed mission or disastrous explosion. A launch disaster and/or wrecked payload is much more costly than a second delay in the end.
Musk tweeted the play-by-play of the launch on Thursday and warned his followers about the possibility of a second delay even before the decision was made. It is clear that the Tesla CEO and his team desperately want to put the SES-8 satellite into position above the Indian Ocean sooner rather than later, but they recognize the importance of completing the mission successfully, and without disastrous and costly repercussions.
The Register reports that the overall goal for the SpaceX team is geostationary orbit, almost 36,000 kilometers (22,400 miles) from Earth. It is a significantly lucrative endeavor, because satellites placed on the magic “Money Ring” hang purposefully still in the sky from the viewpoint of someone on the Earth’s surface, allowing dishes to be trained on them easily and then left in place. This is why geostationary accounts for the bulk of money spent on commercial space launch and also why SpaceX is so determined to overcome the first costly hurdle.