April 21, 2014
SpaceX Supply Ship Successfully Docks With Space Station Sunday Morning
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports – Your Universe Online
The SpaceX Dragon commercial cargo vessel brought some Easter goodies to the International Space Station crew members on Sunday morning, as the vehicle and its nearly 5,000 pound payload of supplies and scientific cargo completed final berthing procedures shortly after 10:00 am Eastern.Dragon, which lifted off from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 3:25 p.m. on Friday, was grappled by Expedition 39 Commander Koichi Wakata at 7:14 a.m. on Sunday. Wakata, who was assisted by Flight Engineer Rick Mastracchio, secured the capsule using the 57-foot Canadarm2 instrument as it flew within 32 feet of the ISS, NASA said in a statement.
Once the SpaceX vessel was fully in the grasp of the robotic arm, the robotics officer at Mission Control remotely operated the Canada arm in order to install the capsule into the port on the Earth-facing side of the orbiting laboratory’s Harmony module. After it was in place, Mastracchio monitored berthing operations for the first and second stage capture, making sure that the vehicle was securely attached to the space station, the US space agency added.
“Congratulations to the entire ops team for the successful launch, rendezvous and capture operation,” Wakata said following the completion of docking procedures. “The vehicle, the spacecraft was very solid and very stable. And the Canadarm2 was really solid, and it made it easier for us to capture.”
According to Irene Klotz of Reuters, SpaceX had initially planned to launch the Dragon cargo ship last month, but faced several delays – including a two-week hold during which a damaged US Air Force radar tracking system had to be replaced. More recently, a launch scheduled for last Monday had to be scrubbed due to a helium leak on the first-stage rocket of the Hawthorne, California-based company’s reusable Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
In addition to crew supplies, Dragon transported cargo that would support over 150 scientific investigations planned for Expeditions 39 and 40, NASA said. The cargo ship is expected to spend the next four weeks attached to the orbiting base, after which time it will be reloaded with 3,600 pounds of experiment samples and hardware. Mission Control will then remotely detach it from the ISS for the return voyage to Earth.
The successful lift-off and ISS docking “wasn’t the only success that SpaceX announced for its reusable rocket program” in recent days, according to Forbes staff writer Alex Knapp. Last week, the firm “tested its reusable Falcon 9 rocket on the ground in New Mexico. That flight had a successful lift off, the rocket then hovered for a few seconds at an altitude of 250m, then safely landed back on the ground.”
On Wednesday, Mastracchio and fellow Expedition 39 crew member Steve Swanson will conduct a spacewalk in order to replace a failed multiplexer-demultiplexer impacting some robotic systems on the ISS with a spare currently housed in the station. That extravehicular activity (EVA) is scheduled to begin at 9:20 a.m. and last 2.5 hours.