SpaceX CRS-2, loaded with more than 1,200 pounds of supplies, including science equipment and spare parts en route to the International Space Station, lifted off this morning aboard a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Launch Complex 40 in Florida.
Just after the carrier rocket delivered the Dragon capsule into its target orbit, however, a problem arose. As the Solar Array was set to be deployed, which is necessary to provide enough energy to reach the ISS, a problem was noted as Dragon prepared to begin a carefully choreographed series of Draco thruster firings that it uses to reach the space station.
At 7:30 am PT, SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk posted this message on Twitter:
Issue with Dragon thruster pods. System inhibiting three of four from initializing. About to command inhibit override.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 1, 2013
Controllers on the ground were able to override the inhibits, at first bringing two of the four thruster pods online. Shortly thereafter the solar array was successfully deployed.
A few hours later, Musk confirmed on Twitter that the issue was now completely resolved, with Dragon again on schedule to rendezvous with the ISS on Saturday, where it will be berthed to the orbiting lab for what is expected to be a three-week visit. Dragon is scheduled to return to Earth with about 2,300 pounds of cargo, including crew supplies, scientific materials, education experiments, and space station hardware, on March 25 for a parachute-assisted splashdown off the coast of Baja California.
Pods 1 and 4 now online and thrusters engaged. Dragon transitioned from free drift to active control. Yes!!— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 1, 2013
This will be Dragon's third visit to the ISS and the second of at least 12 missions to the International Space Station that SpaceX will fly for NASA under the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract. The Falcon 9 rocket -- which is named for the Millennium Falcon in the "Star Wars" movies -- and the nine Merlin engines that power Falcon 9's first stage, has nearly 50 missions on its manifest, with launches scheduled for commercial and government clients.