SpaceX's Dragon Arrives at the ISS Successfully for First Official Cargo Run
October 10, 2012 1:44 PM
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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 It originally made a test flight back in May of this year, but this particular trip marks the first official cargo run as part of a $1.6 billion contract with NASA.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.
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10/10/2012 2:58:13 PM
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.
10/10/2012 3:07:52 PM
Well that blows my speculation out of the water....
Dr of crap
Dr of crap
10/10/2012 4:20:35 PM
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
"So if you want to save the planet, feel free to drive your Hummer. Just avoid the drive thru line at McDonalds." -- Michael Asher
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