By: Tatiana G. King
Utilizing their first window of opportunity, the Space X mission; officially dubbed the “Falcon 9/ Dragon CRS-2 Mission to the International Space Station (ISS)”, successfully launched on Friday, March 1 at 10:10 AM ET. The Dragon CRS-2 capsule achieved orbit at approximately 10:20 AM ET. Space X, a private commercial spaceflight company, teamed up with NASA in a mission to resupply the ISS. Besides the usual load of computer and engineering equipment, also on board the craft are clothing and meals for the ISS astronauts, fresh fruit from the family orchard of a Space X employee, 640 flowering weed seeds to be used to conduct experiments, trash bags, and mouse stem sells.
Miraculously, the live video feed delivered by a series of downlinks from the rocket and capsule, captured almost the entire process from lift off to stage separation without interruption. However, at around 10:23am the live stream from the capsule suddenly dropped and was replaced by a static CGI rendering of the Dragon. After over a minute without any further visual communication, John Insprucker, Space X’s Falcon 9 Product Director, announced on the live stream “…Although it achieved Earth orbit Dragon is experiencing some type of problem right now”. Minutes later, Elon Musk, the founder of Space X tweeted the following from his verified account:
Nevertheless, the launch today can still be considered to prove the viability of private space companies; this marked Space X’s second resupply mission and third overall visit to the ISS. Since NASA officially ended its shuttle program back in August 2011, crew transport has been replaced by the Russian’s Soyuz spacecraft, while supply runs are executed by Space X (and, eventually, in conjunction with Orbital Science’s Cygnus spacecraft). Since 2005, Space X has already secured hundreds of millions worth of contracts to the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Dept. of Defense, and NASA. The involvement of privately funded companies have given NASA breathing room in regards to cost and design of repeat launches to the ISS, allowing NASA to turn towards the further development of a Space Launch System(pdf).
Watch the full launch video below on YouTube:
UPDATE (3.2.13): Elon Musk has tweeted that the issue with the Dragon thruster pods was cleared. Specifically:
“Clogged pressurization lines had disabled the capsule’s fuel tanks shortly after the spacecraft reached orbit following its 10:10 a.m. ET launch. Engineers pounded helium through the lines to clear debris that had disabled three of the four thruster pods for several hours and kept the capsule in a lower orbit.” — USA Today
Instead of a planned Saturday morning meetup with the ISS, the Dragon capsule would arrive at around 6:30am Sunday morning.