WASHINGTON — Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) plans to attempt the maiden launch of its Falcon 9 rocket no sooner than May 8, the Hawthorne, Calif.-based company said April 2. SpaceX previously had reserved April 12 for the launch attempt.

“SpaceX is working closely with Ensign Bickford Aerospace & Defense Co., supplier of key components of the Flight Termination System (FTS) that will be used on Falcon 9, to complete testing of the FTS hardware and provide final data to SpaceX and Air Force Range safety officials for review and acceptance,” SpaceX said in a statement sent to reporters. “Certification of the Falcon 9 FTS and subsequent range availability will put the first Falcon 9 test launch towards the latter half of the anticipated March-May window, with the first attempt no earlier than May 8, 2010.”

The Falcon 9’s payload for the upcoming launch, which will take place from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., is a prototype of the Dragon capsule the company has designed to carry cargo and eventually crew to the international space station.

Ensign Bickford Aerospace & Defense is an explosives specialist based in Simsbury, Conn.

Brian Berger is editor in chief of SpaceNews.com and the SpaceNews magazine. He joined SpaceNews.com in 1998, spending his first decade with the publication covering NASA. His reporting on the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia accident was...