Technical issues have forced Space Exploration Technologies to postpone Tuesday’s planned launch of its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule, which NASA wants for cargo runs to the International Space Station after its space shuttles are retired next year.
Technicians found what appear to be cracks in the nozzle of the rocket’s upper-stage motor, prompting a delay to Thursday at the earliest, company President Gwynne Shotwell told reporters on Monday.
If the nozzle needs to be replaced, launch likely would not be attempted until Friday or Saturday, she added.
The flight is the first of three planned to demonstrate the rocket and capsule’s capability to deliver cargo to the space station for NASA.
For Dragon’s debut, Space Exploration Technologies, also known as SpaceX and owned and run by Internet entrepreneur Elon Musk, plans to put the capsule into a circular orbit about 185 miles above the planet that is inclined 34.5 degrees relative to the equator.
It will not go near the space station, which is located in a 220-mile, 51.6-degree inclination orbit.