SpaceX Postpones Rocket Launch, Attempted Landing

Image: SpaceX launch
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket rises from its launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Sunday. A little more than two minutes after liftoff, the rocket and its Dragon cargo capsule disintegrated.John Raoux / AP

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By Mike Wall,

The private spaceflight company SpaceX postponed a satellite launch and try at landing a rocket on a ship at sea for the third time Thursday.

The launch was postponed until Friday at the earliest because of a "tiny glitch in the motion of an upper stage engine actuator," SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted.

The landing attempt was set to take place during SpaceX's launch of the Thaicom-8 commercial communications satellite Thursday evening from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

The launch date will change, but the game plan remains the same. Thaicom 8 will lift off atop SpaceX's two-stage Falcon 9 rocket. A few minutes into flight, the rocket's two stages will separate; the second stage will carry Thaicom 8 to orbit, while the first stage will come back down and attempt to land on "Of Course I Still Love You," one of SpaceX's two "autonomous spaceport drone ships," which will be stationed several hundred miles off the Florida coast.

"As with other missions going to geostationary orbits, the first-stage will be subject to extreme velocities and re-entry heating, making a successful landing," SpaceX wrote in a statement.

Read More: SpaceX Rocket Lands on Ocean Drone Ship in Historic First

The 6,600-lb. Thaicom 8 satellite is headed to a distant supersynchronous transfer orbit; because of that long trip, the Falcon 9 first stage will be traveling very fast when it comes back down to Earth.

However, a Falcon 9 first stage pulled off a similarly difficult ocean landing earlier this month, during the launch of the JCSAT-14 communications satellite to geostationary transfer orbit.

That May 6 milestone was the second ocean touchdown for SpaceX; a Falcon 9 also landed successfully on "Of Course I Still Love You" last month, during the launch of the company's robotic Dragon cargo capsule to the International Space Station for NASA.

SpaceX also has one terra-firma touchdown to its name: In December, a Falcon 9 landed back at Cape Canaveral, during the launch of 11 satellites for SpaceX customer Orbcomm.

These landings are part of SpaceX's effort to develop reusable rockets, a technology that company founder and CEO Elon Musk has said could slash the cost of spaceflight by a factor of 100.

This story originally appeared on Read the story here. Follow Mike Wall on Twitter @michaeldwall and Google+. Follow us @Spacedotcom, Facebook or Google+.

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