After missing its scheduled rendezvous with the International Space Station, NASA’s freight transportation company, Space Exploration Technologies says it is back on track, with all four of its cargo capsule’s rocket thruster pods working.
The first order of business was to raise Dragon’s orbit to prevent it from being pulled back into Earth’s atmosphere in a couple of days.
“Orbit raising burn successful. Dragon back on track,” company founder and chief executive Elon Musk posted on Twitter seven hours after a Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on the firm’s second cargo run for NASA.
Shortly after the Falcon deposited Dragon into orbit, engineers discovered three of the capsule’s four thruster pods weren’t working properly. Preliminary analysis points to a possible problem with a blockage in a pressurization system or a faulty valve, Musk told reporters on a conference call Friday afternoon.
His confidence that the problem would be fixed appeared to be well-placed, with all four thrusters back in operation Friday evening.
The glitch, however, cost SpaceX its first docking opportunity at the space station, which was to be at 6:30 a.m. EST on Saturday. The soonest the capsule could now reach the outpost is Sunday, but NASA has not yet cleared Dragon for approach.
“We sometimes have problems and work through them, and that’s how you learn,” space station commander Kevin Ford radioed to a NASA flight controller, CBS News reported.
“If not tomorrow, maybe a couple of days down the road we’ll get it licked,” Ford said.
Image: The Dragon and Falcon 9 rocket before Friday’s launch. Credit: SpaceX