Dragon Resupply Craft Ready For Morning Launch
March 1, 2013

NASA, SpaceX Resupply Launch Successful, Dragon Now In Orbit

WATCH VIDEO: [SpaceX Falcon 9 Liftoff]

Lawrence LeBlond for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online

March 1, 2013 — 4:00 p.m. EST

Shortly after reaching orbit this morning, the Dragon capsule that is on a resupply mission to the International Space Station ran into technical difficulties, according to the SpaceX team.

Elon Musk, founder of the space transport company said three of four thruster groups on the unmanned resupply ship failed to immediately fire, delaying the release of the craft´s solar panels.

The twin solar wings swung open hours later than originally planned as engineers scrambled to get the craft on track for a planned Saturday arrival at the International Space Station (ISS).

Apparently a fuel valve was at fault, keeping at least two of the thrusters from working. The company said in a statement that at least two sets of thrusters were needed to put Dragon on course for the ISS.

The capsule has 18 thrusters, divided into four sets, and is designed to maneuver adequately even if some of them remain unavailable.

Cheers went up when Dragon reached orbit, but it was immediately clear that something was amiss when the live feed was shut down moments later. NASA and SpaceX launched a press conference hours later to address the issue.

A NASA official said in the conference, which began at 3:00 p.m. EST, that they would not rush the issue and planned to make sure that things were safe before moving forward. While the fix eventually came, several hours later, he said the delivery to the ISS should still be a go, but it remains likely that a rendezvous will not occur until later this weekend.

Stay tuned for more information.

March 1, 2013 - 10:36 a.m. EST

The SpaceX Dragon capsule was launched on time at 10:10 a.m. EST this morning aboard the Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

NASA reported shortly after liftoff that the launch was successful and the Dragon resupply vessel is now in orbit en route to the International Space Station.

Stay tuned for more updates.

March 1, 2013 - 6:30 a.m. EST

Nearly five months after successfully launching, delivering and docking its first Cargo Resupply Services (CRS) mission to the International Space Station (ISS), next-generation space transport company SpaceX is about to launch round two.

"We're about to launch and we're happy to be here," said Mike Suffredini, NASA program manager for the ISS at Johnson Space Center, kicking off the Falcon 9 prelaunch press conference yesterday.

The CRS-2 mission is set to launch this morning at 10:10 a.m. EST. At last report, Joel Tumbiolo, launch weather officer of the 45th Weather Squadron at Cape Canaveral, said there was an 80 percent chance that weather would remain favorable for launch. He further forecast a slight chance of wind and cloud cover.

Launch coverage for the launch will begin at 8:30 a.m. this morning on NASA TV and on the NASA/SpaceX blog. SpaceX will also webcast live beginning 40 minutes before launch, with commentary from the company´s corporate headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

"Quite a bit of work has been done by the SpaceX and ISS teams to get here. We've spent a few weeks getting the station ready,” said Suffredini.

Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX said everyone is “very excited to be back here” and we are “prepared to fly.”

This mission marks SpaceX´s third trip to the orbiting space station, and will be the second resupply mission. The company successfully launched a test mission in May 2012 to demonstrate its Dragon capsule was ready to service the ISS.

SpaceX signed a deal with NASA to send at least 12 missions to the ISS and to also return US astronauts to space, launching from American soil. The NASA/SpaceX deal is viewed as a replacement for NASA´s defunct Space Shuttle program, which ended in 2011. NASA currently pays Russia upwards of $60 million per seat to fly American astronauts to the ISS aboard the Soyuz capsule.

Today´s launch will lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at Space Launch Complex 40. The Dragon resupply capsule will be carried aboard the Falcon 9 rocket.

If all goes as scheduled, Dragon will arrive at the ISS on Saturday, March 2, where it will berth with the complex for a three-week visit. The crew aboard the station will unload cargo from the capsule and restock it with completed experiments, unneeded supplies and waste. Dragon will then undock on or around March 25 and return to Earth.

Dragon is currently the only cargo craft capable of returning supplies and experiments from the station for analysis. It will make an assisted splashdown by parachute off the coast of Baja California on or after March 25, where it and its cargo can be retrieved.

In contrast, the Russian Progress resupply ships burn up on reentry into Earth´s atmosphere, with no salvageable data.