Following a beautiful launch of Space Exploration Technologies’ fifth Falcon 9 rocket on Friday, engineers were working to fix a problem with its payload — a Dragon capsule loaded with gear and supplies for the International Space Station.
The rocket lifted off at 10:10 a.m. EST from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and delivered the capsule to its intended orbit. Just before Dragon’s solar wings were to unfurl however, a problem with the capsule’s thruster rocket pods surfaced.
Initially, SpaceX held off solar array deployment, but ended up unfurling the panels even though three of the capsule’s four thruster pods were not operational.
Docking, which was to occur at 6:30 a.m. EST on Saturday, was postponed to Sunday, NASA spokesman Josh Byerly told Discovery News.
That’s about all the time SpaceX will have to sort out the problem – without thrusters Dragon’s solar panels can’t be properly positioned to get power from the sun and its battery life is about 15 hours.
Image: The Dragon capsule below the space station during the successful Oct. 2012 berthing. Credit: NASA