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March 01, 2013

'Dragon' Space Capsule Heads to Space Station

by VOA News

A privately owned spacecraft heading to the International Space Station ran into problems Friday shortly after blastoff.

Minutes after the launch, SpaceX founder Elon Musk reported that three of the four sets of thrusters on the Dragon craft did not activate normally. Mission engineers appear to have partially solved the problem, though, and twin solar panels that provide power to the craft have been deployed.  

The Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon capsule lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a resupply mission for the U.S. space agency.

"T-minus 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and liftoff of the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon. Space X continues America's mission to resupply the International Space Station - from U.S. soil," said a NASA announcer in the control room.

The unmanned Dragon capsule is scheduled to dock with the orbiting outpost early Saturday [1130 UTC]. It is to remain at the station for three weeks, as part of SpaceX's second resupply mission to the space station.

The capsule is carrying supplies and equipment for the station's six-person crew, and will return to Earth later this month with samples, specimens and other items.

The Dragon is scheduled to return to Earth on March 25 for a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Baja California, Mexico.

The California-based SpaceX is contracted by the U.S. space agency NASA to carry out at least 12 resupply missions to the space station over the next several years.  

Its first successful docking was in May, and the company began routine commercial resupply missions in October.  Since the termination of the U.S. space shuttle program, the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft have been the only U.S. vehicles capable of ferrying cargo - and eventually crew - to the space station.