NASA has cleared Space Exploration Technologies’ Dragon cargo capsule for a rendezvous with the International Space Station on Sunday after problems with the spacecraft’s thruster pods were resolved.
The new schedule puts Dragon on track to be grappled by the station’s robot arm at 6:01 a.m. EST. Dragon lifted off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Friday and was due to arrive at the station on Saturday.
Shortly after reaching orbit, however, SpaceX discovered three of the capsule’s four thruster pods were not operating properly. Engineers spent several hours troubleshooting the problem, which was believed to be due to blockage in the spacecraft’s oxidizer pressurization system or a stuck valve.
By Friday afternoon, Dragon’s thrusters were firing, saving the mission.
“Dragon’s propulsion system is operating normally along with its other systems and ready to support the rendezvous,” NASA posted on its website Saturday.
“SpaceX said it has high confidence there will be no repeat of the thruster problem during rendezvous, including its capability to perform an abort, should that be required,” NASA added.
The capsule carries food, supplies, science experiments and cargo. It is the second of 12 resupply missions SpaceX plans to fly for NASA under a $1.6 billion contract.
Image: Photograph taken during the Dragon’s first space station berthing maneuver in May 2012. Credit: NASA