Sunday, March 3, 2013

SpaceX successfully launches Falcon 9 to International Space Station

Space Exploration Technologies has another reason to celebrate as the company successfully launched the Falcon 9 rocket containing the Dragon capsule into space. The launch pushed through, despite an anomaly detected on the capsule’s maneuvering thrusters. The issue was resolved after astronauts aboard the outpost used the station's robotic arm to pluck the capsule from orbit at 5:31 a.m. EST, as the ship sailed 250 miles over northern Ukraine. Flight controllers at NASA's Mission Control in Houston then stepped in to drive the capsule to its berthing port on the station's Harmony connecting node.

The Falcon 9 spaceship and its Dragon capsule took off at 10:10 a.m. EST from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The cargo ship -- carrying food, supplies, spare parts and science equipment for the International Space Station -- had astronaut meals and clothing, fresh fruit for the station residents, 640 seeds of a flowering weed for research purposes, mouse stem cells, protein crystals, air-purifying devices, trash bags, computer parts and other necessary gear.

Flight controllers from SpaceX said that they were trying to override the system of the Dragon capsule and activate at least one additional booster required to bring the capsule to its intended orbit. This is the first time SpaceX experienced an anomaly with its Dragon spacecraft while in orbit. The company’s two previous launches to the ISS went through without issues.

The recent flight of the Dragon capsule is a part of SpaceX’s $1.6 billion contract with NASA to resupply the ISS. The space agency is hoping that the collaboration will evolve into using SpaceX to send manned missions into space in the future.

“Using commercial launch providers is more efficient for [NASA], especially after the space shuttles were retired in 2011, and is part of a long-term plan to reduce expenses on low-Earth orbit missions and invest more in deep-space missions,” said Lori Garver, NASA's Associate Administrator.

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