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Historic SpaceX launch scuttled, reset for Sunday

Elon Musk's rocket company had to put off sending snacks to the International Space Station and simultaneously opening a new chapter in space history.

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is moved to a launch pad before a launch attempt in 2015.
SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is moved to a launch pad before a launch attempt in 2015.
NASA/Getty Images

SpaceX continues to tease us with a new era in history. The company was set to make the first rocket launch in years from the same pad that sent humans to the moon but then had to abort the mission with just 20 seconds to go in the countdown.

The historic launch was scuttled for the day due to a thrust vector control issue, which is basically another way of saying there were potential problems with the rocket's steering.

Launches to resupply the International Space Station have to be timed down to the second, and because the loaded-up Falcon 9 rocket missed that tiny window on Saturday, the launch must be postponed almost 24 hours until 6:38 a.m PT on Sunday.

The mission is the tenth in a series of commercial resupply missions NASA has ordered to the space station. The plan is to send a Dragon capsule on its way to the ISS, where it will resupply the astronauts there with everything from food to exercise equipment.

SpaceX's launches and landings are becoming more common, but this one will be special because it marks the resurrection of the historic Launch Complex 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Referred to as America's "gateway to space," the facility was originally built to launch the massive Saturn V rocket that would take Apollo astronauts to the moon.

At the end of that era, the launch pad was refitted to serve the needs of the space shuttle program. The complex hosted the first shuttle mission in 1981, the final mission 30 years later and many in between. That's quite a lot of space history in one place. Now 39A has been modified and new structures added to support SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets.

Sunday's rescheduled launch, which should culminate in the Dragon capsule reaching the International Space Station a few days later, marks the transition as the first mission from the launch pad that won't be led by NASA.

SpaceX has big plans to add to the legacy of 39A. The company plans to launch its big Falcon Heavy rockets from the pad and to eventually use the facility to send astronauts back into space from American soil. One day, this may be the place from which humans leave to begin the long journey to Mars envisioned by SpaceX founder Elon Musk.

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