SpaceX rocket launch aborted in last half-second

Posted May 20, 2012, at 8:02 p.m.

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A new private supply ship for the International Space Station remained stuck on the ground Saturday after rocket engine trouble led to a last-second abort of the historic flight.

All nine engines for the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket roared to life Saturday morning. But with a mere half-second remaining before liftoff, the onboard computers automatically shut everything down. So instead of blasting off on a delivery mission to the space station, the rocket stayed on its launch pad amid a plume of engine exhaust.

Even NASA’s most seasoned launch commentator was taken off-guard.

“Three, two, one, zero and liftoff,” announced commentator George Diller, his voice trailing as the rocket failed to budge. “We’ve had a cutoff. Liftoff did not occur.”

SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said that high combustion chamber pressure in engine No. 5 was to blame. During an inspection later in the day, engineers discovered a faulty valve and worked into the evening to replace it.

Tuesday is the earliest that SpaceX can try again to send its cargo-laden Dragon capsule to the space station. The California-based company — formally known as Space Exploration Technologies Corp. — is targeting every few days for a launch attempt to save fuel in case of rendezvous problems at the space station. Wednesday also could be a launch option.

Study: 2,000 convicted then exonerated in 23 years

WASHINGTON — More than 2,000 people who were falsely convicted of serious crimes have been exonerated in the United States in the past 23 years, according to a new archive compiled at two universities.

There is no official record-keeping system for exonerations of convicted criminals in the country, so academics set one up. The new national registry, or database, painstakingly assembled by the University of Michigan Law School and the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law, is the most complete list of exonerations ever compiled.

The database compiled and analyzed by the researchers contains information on 873 exonerations for which they have the most detailed evidence. The researchers are aware of nearly 1,200 other exonerations, for which they have less data.

They found that those 873 exonerated defendants spent a combined total of more than 10,000 years in prison, an average of more than 11 years each. Nine out of 10 of them are men and half are African-American.

Nearly half of the 873 exonerations were homicide cases, including 101 death sentences. Over one-third of the cases were sexual assaults.

DNA evidence led to exoneration in nearly one-third of the 416 homicides and in nearly two-thirds of the 305 sexual assaults.

Researchers estimate the total number of felony convictions in the United States is nearly a million a year.

Yemen troops clash with al-Qaida in south; 17 dead

SANAA, Yemen — Fresh clashes between al-Qaida fighters and government forces in Yemen left 17 dead on Sunday, military officials said, as the army pushed on with an offensive to regain a key town in the county’s south that fell to the militants more than a year ago.

Officials said eight al-Qaida fighters, four soldiers and five civilian volunteers fighting alongside the military were killed since the early hours of Sunday.

The army started a two-pronged attack on the town of Jaar on Friday. It is part of a broader assault to take back Zinjibar, the provincial capital of Abyan, which has been also under al-Qaida control for more than a year.

Al-Qaida-linked fighters took advantage of Yemen’s 2011 uprising to overrun a swath of territory and several towns in the south, pushing out government forces and establishing their own rule. In recent weeks, the army has launched a concerted effort to uproot the militants from their strongholds — and is closely coordinating with a small contingent of U.S. troops who are helping guide the operations from inside Yemen.

Officials say U.S. drones have been providing information to their forces.

Flash flood kills 19 in Afghanistan; many missing

KABUL, Afghanistan — Flood waters ravaged a provincial capital in northern Afghanistan, killing at least 19 people and destroying hundreds of homes, officials said Sunday.

About 60 other people were missing and rescuers were looking for them across Sar-e-Pul, the capital of a province with the same name, said Sayed Faizullah Sadat, the national disaster director in the area.

Northern Afghanistan gets hit nearly every spring by flash flooding from heavy rains and snow melting off the mountains.

Sadat said 1,000 houses were destroyed and 10,000 people were forced to find shelter in mosques, schools and a teacher-training center.

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