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Dragon arrived at the orbiting station early Wednesday morning

SpaceX's Dragon capsule successfully made it to the International Space Station (ISS) early this morning, where it will unload nearly 1,000 pounds of cargo for the next few weeks.

The unmanned Dragon capsule set off toward the ISS Sunday night, and arrived at the orbiting station early Wednesday morning. Astronauts on the ISS used a robot arm to securely latch the Dragon to the space station about 250 miles above the Pacific, just west of Baja California. 

"Looks like we've tamed the Dragon," said Sunita Williams, ISS commander. "We're happy she's on board with us." 

The Dragon's hatch will be opened tomorrow, where astronauts will begin unloading the cargo inside. Right now, Dragon contains 882 pounds of scientific experiments, groceries, clothes and other items. The capsule will return to Earth with twice as much cargo.

This week's venture to the ISS marks Dragon's second journey to the ISS. It originally made a test flight back in May of this year, but this particular trip marks the first official cargo run as part of a $1.6 billion contract with NASA. This contract locks SpaceX in to 12 total cargo runs to the ISS through 2015. 


While today's linkup at the ISS was a successful one, the entire trip wasn't perfect. A prototype communications satellite aboard SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket (which launched Dragon to the ISS) was sent into the wrong orbit due to one of the Falcon 9s' Merlin engines shutting down early during Sunday night's launch. Orbcomm, the company that owns the prototype OG2 satellite, said it was "deposited into a lower-than-intended orbit." The company is now analyzing whether the satellite can use its onboard propulsion system to adjust its orbit.

Aside from that malfunction, all went well for the SpaceX mission. Dragon is due to return to Earth near the end of October, after all cargo is unloaded and reloaded. 

SpaceX, a private space transport company from California, stepped in as America's new form of transportation to the ISS after NASA retired its space shuttle fleet throughout 2011. This retirement left American astronauts with no way to get to the ISS, except onboard a Russian Soyuz rocket -- which has become pretty pricey. 

It was clear that the U.S. needed a new way to send supplies to and from the ISS, and SpaceX was happy to provide its Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket. 

Dragon is set to make its next cargo run for the NASA contact in January 2013. 

SpaceX is also working on a Dragon capsule that can be manned by astronauts, and hopes to send the first manned Dragon to the ISS between 2015 and 2017. 

Sources: Boston.com, Reuters



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Satellite
By Ringold on 10/10/2012 2:28:15 PM , Rating: 2
I read elsewhere, I think at Discover Magazine's website, that communication satellite didn't get there due to the 2nd stage not reigniting, and that the first stage managed to fully compensate for the loss of its engine.

It was a tentative report though, from a third party, so who knows.

A lot of little things went wrong, but overall a success, and considering this is their first "real" launch I'll give them a big pass. China, USSR and ourselves all made an art out of blowing up before even clearing the launch pad, so they're doing pretty well I'd say. :P




RE: Satellite
By geddarkstorm on 10/10/2012 2:31:50 PM , Rating: 2
Agreed on all points.

Also, I would think the Discover Magazine report is probably the right one. The first stage is made to work with only 8 engines without a loss of overall performance (it got the second stage with Dragon where it needed to go, after all); but reigniting a second stage is a trickier maneuver. That's where I would guess an orbital insertion failure would occur. Guess we'll have to see once the official analysis from SpaceX comes.


RE: Satellite
By runutz on 10/10/2012 3:05:25 PM , Rating: 2
speculation on my part...but given:

A) The ISS Cargo was the primary mission
B) Which would be launched to a lower altitude than the Failed Sat.
c) And a safety of some sort would be built into the upper stage until the ISS Cargo resupply Module separated.

It seems likely that whatever Safety Switch was used to notify the flight Computer that the ISS Resupply Module had separated from the rocket malfunctioned, which would then make a "restart" of the upper stage rocket impossible.

Once again, pure speculation.


RE: Satellite
By m51 on 10/10/2012 2:58:13 PM , Rating: 2
The 2nd stage was purposely not reignited because the propellant mass remaining in the second stage didn't meet safety window parameters set by NASA to ensure the 2nd stage burn would safely insert the 2nd stage and Orbcomm satellite into an orbit away from the space station.

The safety parameters were all calculated by NASA before the flight, deviation outside those 'health' parameters of the second stage precluded a 2nd stage re-ignition. With a second stage burn not allowed, the Orbcomm satellite was released.

Note that this Orbcomm satellite was a prototype testbed to check functionality and ground communications for a constellation of satellites to be launched later. If they can extend it's lifespan by circularizing the orbit with the onboard propulsion system they may get enough use out of it to finish their testing.


RE: Satellite
By runutz on 10/10/2012 3:07:52 PM , Rating: 2
Well that blows my speculation out of the water....


RE: Satellite
By Dr of crap on 10/10/2012 4:20:35 PM , Rating: 2
Correct and if you search this is a good thing.

Dragon can now state that it works as it's suspose to and IF a human was on board the 2nd stage was not to try to refire in case it were to explode.

Read about the GOOD of this here -

www.popularmechanics.com/science/space/rockets/sp acex-engine-failure-the-good-bad-and-ugly-13506860? click=pm_news


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