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SpaceX launch of Falcon 1 rocket postponed

Posted: April 19, 2009

The next launch by the SpaceX Falcon 1 rocket, originally scheduled for Monday evening, has been postponed while engineers examine the level of vibrations its Malaysian satellite payload will experience during ascent.

Liftoff of the small booster from Omelek Island in the Kwajalein Atoll of the mid-Pacific was supposed to occur at 2300 GMT (7 p.m. EDT). The mission would put the RazakSat spacecraft into orbit for an Earth-imaging mission.

News stories published Friday in Malaysia said the launch had been postponed because of "detected vibration at unsafe level on the launch vehicle." Those reports, which also said it would take six weeks to resolve, were attributed to Science, Technology and Innovation Ministry secretary-general Datuk Abdul Hanan Alang Endut.

Late Sunday night, SpaceX issued a press release announcing the delay.

"While both the Falcon 1 vehicle and satellite passed all preliminary checkouts and are cleared for launch, a concern has been identified regarding the potential impact of predicted vehicle environments on the satellite. Based on these concerns, the SpaceX team is evaluating options to minimize this impact and ensure mission success," the press release read.

"SpaceX is committed to the safety and success of our customer's payloads," Elon Musk, CEO and CTO of SpaceX, said in the written statement. "Our engineers are addressing this issue and we look forward to launching RazakSat once the issue is fully understood and resolved."

"Both teams are confident the issue will be resolved," said Ahmad Sabirin, CEO of RazakSat builder ATSB. "We are all looking forward to a successful launch."

This will be the fifth launch of the Falcon 1 rocket, a two-stage kerosene-fueled vehicle developed to deliver small satellites into space. After its initial three flights failed, the fourth launch last September successfully reached orbit for the start-up company founded by Musk.