SpaceX Thrusters Delay Space Station Rendezvous
CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida — After the Falcon 9 rocket delivered the Dragon capsule into orbit from its launch pad in Cape Canaveral Florida, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted:, “Issue with Dragon thruster pods. System inhibiting three of four from initializing. About to command inhibit override.”
A few hours later, SpaceX confirmed all four of Dragon’s thruster pods were back up and running. The company will continue to check out Dragon, test its systems for the next several hours, and perform some orbital maneuvers. The next opportunity for Dragon to rendezvous with the space station is early Sunday, if SpaceX and NASA determine the spacecraft is in the proper configuration and ready to support an attempt.
SpaceX’s Dragon capsule is filled with about 1,200 pounds of supplies for the space station crew and experiments being conducted aboard the orbiting laboratory.
If NASA gives the green light for a rendezvous, Expedition 34 Commander Kevin Ford and Flight Engineer Tom Marshburn of NASA will use the station’s robot arm to grapple Dragon. The astronauts will attach the Dragon to the Earth-facing port of the station’s Harmony module for a few weeks while astronauts unload cargo. They then will load experiment samples for return to Earth.
Dragon is scheduled to return to Earth for a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California. It will be bringing back more than 2,300 pounds of experiment samples and equipment.
The mission is the second of 12 SpaceX flights contracted by NASA to resupply the International Space Station. It will mark the third trip by a Dragon capsule to the orbiting laboratory, following a demonstration flight in May 2012 and the first resupply mission in October 2012.
Last October, a satellite launched as a secondary mission payload aboard the SpaceX Cargo Re-Supply Services (CRS-1) mission fell out of its intended orbit due to one of the SpaceX Falcon 9 Merlin rocket engines failing during launch.
PHOTO: The Dragon spacecraft stands inside a processing hangar at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station where teams had just installed the spacecraft’s solar array fairings on Jan. 12, 2013. Image credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
IMAGE CREDIT: NASA TV