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Monday
Nov252013

SpaceX Launch of Improved Falcon 9 Rocket Postponed

Larry Busacca/Getty Images for The New York Times(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- The scheduled launch Monday of a SpaceX rocket was postponed just 4 minutes before liftoff after several delays caused it to miss its launch window.

Elon Musk's space transportation company's latest version of the Falcon 9 rocket had been scheduled to blast off at 5:37 p.m. ET from Cape Canaveral, Fla.

"We observed unexpected readings with the first stage liquid oxygen system so we decided to investigate," SpaceX officials said in a statement. "The launch vehicle and satellite are in great shape and we are looking forward to the next launch opportunity on Thursday at 5:38 p.m. Eastern time."

The Falcon 9 rocket has been steadily going higher and higher. While most of the previous launches have focused on low-Earth orbits (less than 2,000 kilometers above the surface of the Earth), today's launch is aiming to go well beyond that, nearly 20 times farther.

David Todd, a senior space analyst for Flightglobal/Ascend, said the rocket is heading towards a geo-stationary transfer orbit. "It's where you'll find the really big communication satellites," he told ABC News. "That's where the commercial market is."

The Falcon 9 is carrying a 3-ton satellite for the Dutch telecommunications company SES. While SES is able to pick among other commercial space transport companies, Todd said that SpaceX costs significantly less. "Falcon is a very good value," he said. "They charge just about half the price of other competitive launch vehicles."

But it's SpaceX's popularity that actually gives Todd some pause about its future. "They have a lot of launch orders," he said. "The question is more how they can fulfill these orders. They might struggle to get them all launched on time."

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio