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SpaceX puts Falcon 9 rocket launch on hold until July

By Irene Klotz

CAPE CANAVERAL Fla. (Reuters) - Bedeviled by a spate of technical problems, Space Exploration Technologies on Monday said it will suspend launch attempts of its next Falcon 9 rocket until early July.

The privately owned company, also known as SpaceX, has been trying since Friday to launch a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a satellite-delivery mission for Orbcomm Inc, which provides machine-to-machine data and messaging services worldwide.

SpaceX had slated its fourth launch attempt for Tuesday.

"SpaceX is taking a closer look at a potential issue identified while conducting pre-flight checkouts during (Sunday’s) countdown," the company said in statement posted on its website on Monday.

"SpaceX will stand down Tuesday while our engineering teams evaluate further," it said.

Taking into account a previously scheduled maintenance period for the Eastern Test Range, which supports launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, the earliest SpaceX expects to be able to fly is the first week of July.

"We ... will work with the Range to confirm the next available launch opportunities," the company, which is owned by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, said.

A launch attempt on Friday was called off by a potential technical problem with the rocket’s upper-stage engine. No other information about the issue was provided by SpaceX, though the glitch apparently was cleared in time for a second launch attempt on Saturday. That attempt was nixed by poor weather at the launch site.

SpaceX rescheduled launch for Sunday, but encountered another technical issue.

The rocket is due to deliver six small communication satellites into orbits about 500 miles (800 km) above Earth. SpaceX has flown its Falcon 9 rocket nine times so far, all successfully.

(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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