For the second straight day, SpaceX has scrubbed the launch of a Japanese lunar lander that would have been the first privately developed spacecraft to land on the moon.
The Falcon 9 rocket was initially scheduled to lift off on Wednesday from Cape Canaveral, Florida, carrying the Hakuto-R lander, which was built by Tokyo company ispace. Also on board was the Lunar Flashlight, a suitcase-sized satellite managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California.
SpaceX, whose CEO is Elon Musk, tweeted Tuesday night it was moving the launch to Thursday morning "to allow for additional preflight checkouts."
But on Wednesday night, it revised the launch status.
"After further inspections of the launch vehicle and data review, SpaceX is standing down from Falcon 9's launch of ispace's HAKUTO-R Mission 1 from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida," the company said on its website. "A new target launch date will be shared once confirmed."
Ispace said in a statement on its website the issue was with the Falcon 9 rocket.
"The launch attempt of its HAKUTO-R Mission 1 lunar lander has been postponed, which will allow SpaceX to perform additional preflight checks of the launch vehicle," it said.
Once the mission goes forward, the Falcon 9 rocket will send the spacecraft about a million miles from Earth, well beyond the moon, on a fuel-efficient but long voyage before it reaches the moon's orbit in April, ispace said. Once in orbit, the lander will fire its main engine to descend to the lunar surface, targeting a landing in the northern hemisphere of the moon's near side.
NASA said its Lunar Flashlight will be used to search for water ice in permanently shadowed craters at the moon's south pole for three months. NASA said it is the first time that multiple-colored lasers will be used to seek out ice inside those dark craters.
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