A Falcon 9 rocket just took off from Cape Canaveral beginning the CRS-2 (Cargo Resupply Service 2) mission, the second of 12 missions that include sending the Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station with a cargos and then return to the Earth, again with a cargo.
SpaceX, or Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, is now famous because it’s the first space transportation private company that has sent its own spacecraft in orbit and in October 2012 and performed its first resupply mission for NASA.
The CRS-2 mission was scheduled for the beginning of 2013 but during the previous launch there was a problem with one of the nine Merlin engines of the Falcon 9 rocket, which got turned off as a consequence. The Falcon 9 is designed to carry out a successful launch in such conditions but the secondary cargo, an Orbcomm experimental satellite, was placed in an orbit lower than planned and precipitated after a few days.
The launch of the Orbcomm satellite was a risky mission because secondary compared to launching the Dragon spacecraft but it’s clear that the failure of the Merlin engine was treatied with the greatest attention. SpaceX and NASA engineers worked together to try to figure out where the problem was to prevent it from happening again. It emerged that a flaw in a part of the engine that turned off during the launch wasn’t discovered.
In the CRS-2 mission, the Dragon spacecraft has a non-pressurized section that allows the transport of non-pressurized cargo. The total number of items transported to the International Space Station is of about 575 kg (about 1,200 pounds) consisting of supplies for the crew, science experiments, and other hardware.
The Dragon spacecraft arrived in orbit regularly but at that point there was some problem with the thruster pods used for maneuvering: for some reason three of them didn’t initialized. However, from the control center they can give the commands needed to overcome the automatic inhibitions. This is also necessary to allow the solar panels to be deployed, which will be done when at least two thruster pods are active.
Edit. After about an hour or work, SpaceX technicians had one of the thruster pods working and the solar panels were deployed.
Let’s hope that the problem will be overcome and the mission of CRS-2 can proceed regularly. If all goes well, tomorrow the Dragon spacecraft will dock with the International Space Station and on March 25 will return to Earth.
Edit. Currently the new schedule for a possible dock of the Dragon spacecraft with the International Space Station is to be established.