Falcon 9 on way to Station – Dragon Thruster Issues Delay IIS Rendezvous

SpaceX Falcon 9 Second Stage

SpaceX Falcon 9 Second Stage Engine Firing.
Image Credit – NASA

The SpaceX Falcon 9 Rocket lifted of on schedule today in a resupply mission for the International Space Station, but the day was not without issues. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon spacecraft lifted off on time at 10:10 a.m. from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, beginning its mission to resupply the International Space Station.

The mission marks 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. The rocket staged properly, the second stage firing placing the Dragon capsule in the proper orbit. The Dragon capsule however had issues when only 1 of 4 thruster pods would come on line.  At 11:22am SpaceX reported “One thruster pod is running. Two are preferred to take the next step which is to deploy the solar arrays. We are working to bring up the other two pods in order to plan the next series of burns to get to station.”  Shortly after that the solar array was deployed but with only one thruster pod working.

About four hours later SpaceX reported two of Dragon’s four thruster pods were online and mission controllers were optimistically continuing to work on the other two. Due to the thruster issue Dragon will not be able to berth at the International Space Station tomorrow as planned. NASA and SpaceX are assessing the next steps.

Falcon 9 Launch

An hour later SpaceX confirmed all four of the Dragon spacecraft’s thruster pods were up and running. The company will continue to check out Dragon, test its systems, and perform some orbital maneuvers. The next opportunity for Dragon to rendezvous with the International Space Station is early Sunday, if SpaceX and NASA determine the spacecraft is in the proper configuration and ready to support an attempt.