SpaceX Scrubs Maiden Flight of Falcon 1 Rocket
A Falcon 1 rocket - the first to launch for the El Segundo, California-based firm SpaceX - sits atop its launch pad at Kwajalein Atoll near the equator on the Pacific Ocean awaiting its planned liftoff on Nov. 26, 2005.
Credit: SpaceX.

This story was updated at 9:38 p.m. EST.

SpaceX officials called off the inaugural flight of their Falcon 1 rocket Saturday after a launch countdown beleaguered by poor weather, an engine computer glitch and liquid oxygen fill tank problems.

"As I warned, the likelihood of an all new rocket launching from an all new launch pad on its first attempt is low," said SpaceX founder Elon Musk in a written statement.

SpaceX officials scrubbed today's planned space shot at about 8:00 p.m. EST (0100 Nov. 27 GMT), deep within a launch window that was extended to 10:00 p.m. EST (0300 Nov. 27 GMT) during the countdown.

Musk added that the Falcon 1 flight could be rescheduled within one week, but would likely take longer since additional liquid oxygen fuel must be delivered from Hawaii to the firm's remote launch site on the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean's Marshall Islands chain.

Today's attempted space shot was slated to orbit the FalconSat-2 satellite on a mission for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the U.S. Air Force. The $800,000 satellite - built by cadets at the U.S. Air Force Academy - is designed to study space plasma and its potential to interfere with navigation and communication satellites, U.S. Air Force Academy officials said.

The cube-shaped satellite measures about 12.5 inches (32 centimeters) per side and weighs about 43 pounds (19.5 kilograms), academy spokesman John van Winkle told SPACE.com, adding that the spacecraft carries one miniature electrostatic analyzer to study space plasma.

A tricky countdown

The El Segundo, California-based SpaceX hoped to make its commercial launch service debut with today's planned space shot. The firm has spent about three years developing a family of Falcon boosters to grow from its Falcon 1 design and Merlin rocket engine.

"Unfortunately, in this business there is always a chance for something not to go [as planned]," said Larry Williams, SpaceX vice president for international and government affairs, as the countdown clock ticked down.

SpaceX launch officials initially set a four-hour launch window for today's Falcon 1 flight.

Poor weather caused a one-hour delay early in the countdown, though an incorrectly set valve on a liquid oxygen fuel fill tank led to a longer hiatus that eventually prompted SpaceX officials to extend their launch window.

But the loss of liquid oxygen - which boils away during launch preparations and must be replenished regularly - was too great, SpaceX officials said, adding that a main engine computer glitch also caused enough concern to reschedule the mission.

Launch debut deferred

SpaceX aims at providing low-cost launch services for both small and large payloads. Falcon 1 launches have a set cost of about $6.7 million, Musk said before today's launch attempt.

The firm's Falcon 1 rocket is a two-stage booster that stands about 68 feet (21 meters) tall and carries a reusable first stage. Its Merlin 1 engine is designed to generate about 77,000 pounds of thrust and loft payloads of up to 1,256 pounds (570 kilograms) into low-Earth orbit, SpaceX officials have said.

The rocket is the smallest in a planned SpaceX family of Falcon launch vehicles, which includes the larger Falcon 9 rocket expected to boost payloads of up to 20,500 pounds (9,300 kilograms) into low-Earth orbit.