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Private mission to space station scrubbed half a second before liftoff

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • SpaceX has rescheduled the launch for as early as Tuesday
  • The launch was aborted half a second before liftoff, the company said
  • A faulty check valve on a rocket caused officials to call of the launch
  • The launch is the first private mission bound for the space station

(CNN) -- SpaceX's launch of the first private spacecraft bound for the International Space Station has been rescheduled for next week after the mission was aborted Saturday a half a second before liftoff, the company said.

The historic launch of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, with its Dragon capsule filled with food, supplies and science experiments, was halted when a flight computer detected "high pressure in the engine 5 combustion chamber," the company said in a statement.

"We have discovered the root cause and repairs are underway," it said.

CNN explains: Commercial space flight

SpaceX now plans a pre-dawn launch as early as Tuesday at NASA's Kennedy Space Center. Liftoff is scheduled for 3:44 a.m. ET, according to the statement released late Saturday.

"During rigorous inspections of the engine, SpaceX engineers discovered a faulty check valve on the Merlin engine. We are now in the process of replacing the failed valve," the company said Saturday. "Those repairs should be complete tonight."

SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell told reporters earlier in the day that aborting the liftoff at the last second was not a failure.

"We aborted with purpose. It would have been a failure if we lifted off with an engine trending in this direction."

The mission is designed to establish whether SpaceX can deliver cargo to the station.

NASA and SpaceX envision the unmanned Dragon docking at the station where the crew will pull food, water and other provisions from the space capsule.

The scheduled launch is one of 12 planned SpaceX flights to the International Space Station.

If the launch succeeds Tuesday, it will be the first time the Dragon capsule has been launched with the components needed for docking at the space station. SpaceX has previously test-launched the rocket.

The current mission has been delayed several times because of problems with flight software. Space-flight veterans in the company are well aware of the trial-and-error nature of technology development, but they also know risk is an essential part of innovation.

SpaceX hopes the experience with the cargo flights will help it reach its goal of carrying astronauts aboard the Dragon.

"The flight is an ambitious test for the company," NASA said.

NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program is funding a handful of private companies to carry cargo to the International Space Station.

CNN's John Couwels contributed to this report.

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