October 9, 2012
SpaceX Resupply Ship Launches Towards The International Space Station, Slight Engine Anomaly Observed
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
News broke yesterday that SpaceX was able to successfully launch (see below) its Dragon spacecraft towards the International Space Station, despite an engine "anomaly."
The company said that about a minute and 19 seconds into the launch, the Falcon 9 rocket detected an anomaly on one first-stage engine.
"Initial data suggests that one of the rocket's nine Merlin engines, Engine 1, lost pressure suddenly and an engine shutdown command was issued," SpaceX said in a statement emailed to PCMag.
SpaceX said the debris breaking off of the rocket in the launch video are panels designed to help relieve pressure within the engine bay.
"It is worth noting that Falcon 9 shuts down two of its engines to limit acceleration to 5 g's even on a fully nominal flight," SpaceX told PCMag. "The rocket could therefore have lost another engine and still completed its mission."
Dragon will be arriving at the space station on Wednesday morning, and will be getting snatched up by the orbiting lab's robotic arm at 7:22 a.m. Eastern Time.
The spacecraft will remain there for 18 days before coming back down to Earth for a splash down in the Pacific Ocean.
This mission will be the first official one to the International Space Station as part of a contract with NASA. This is one of 12 resupply missions NASA has contracted out SpaceX to perform from now until 2016.
Oct. 8, 2012: 4:00AM
The trip marks the second time in history that a commercial vehicle has docked with the orbiting laboratory, the first being in May with SpaceX's first Dragon launch towards the ISS.
The Dragon spacecraft was full of supplies for this mission, and marks the first operational resupply mission for both SpaceX and NASA.
"This was a critical event in spaceflight tonight," said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. "We're once again launching spacecraft from American soil with the supplies our astronauts need in space. NASA and the nation are embarking on an ambitious program of space exploration."
The Dragon capsule launched from the Kennedy Space Center Sunday night at 8:35 p.m. eastern time.
"This was an operational mission, so we're operational (but that) doesn't mean we're going to stop learning and stop making these vehicles as reliable as possible," SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said during a press conference after the launch.
Dragon will be rendezvousing with the space station on Wednesday, where station commander Suni Williams will reach out with the laboratory's robot arm and snag the Dragon to bring it into the space vessel's dock.
Upon a successful docking, astronauts will begin unloading 1,000 pounds of materials from the capsule, after which they will load about 2,000 pounds of used equipment and experiments back into it.
Dragon is designed to be able to re-enter Earth's atmosphere, enabling astronauts the opportunity to send back equipment they need back home.
Eventually, SpaceX will modify the Dragon capsule so that it could be taking astronauts to space and back to Earth.
Sunday night's launch was the first of a dozen operation missions planned by SpaceX and NASA to deliver supplies to the International Space Station.
The Dragon capsule will be spending about three weeks connected to the station before being released and sent back home. SpaceX's spacecraft isn't the only cargo supply ship NASA plans to use to bring supplies to its astronauts.
The Orbital Sciences' Cygnus spacecraft and Antares rocket are due to be making demonstration flights later next year, which could also be used as a cargo craft to the space station.