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SpaceX company fixes Dragon capsule problem
Question of the Day
CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. (AP) - A commercial craft carrying a ton of supplies for the International Space Station ran into thruster trouble shortly after liftoff Friday. Flight controllers managed to gain control, but were forced to delay its arrival at the orbiting lab.
The Dragon, owned and operated by SpaceX, holds considerable science experiments for the space station as well as food and spare parts.
Musk said six hours into the flight that all four sets of thrusters finally were working. “All systems green,” he reported via Twitter. The problem may have been caused by a stuck valve or a line blockage. The thrusters are small rockets used for maneuvering the capsule.
An hour later, the Dragon was raised with the thrusters to a safe altitude. “Dragon back on track,” he said in a tweet.
It was the first serious trouble to strike a Dragon in orbit. None of the four previous unmanned flights had any thruster issues, Musk told reporters by phone from company headquarters in Hawthorne, Calif.
He said it appeared to be a glitch versus a major concern.
SpaceX has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to make a dozen deliveries to restock the space station. This is the third trip by a Dragon capsule to the station; the first Dragon flight, in 2010, was a solo test.
NASA space station program manager Mike Suffredini said at least three groups of thrusters on the Dragon need to work before the capsule can come close to the complex. That’s a safety rule that will not be waived, Suffredini said.
Engineers for both SpaceX and NASA plan an exhaustive study before allowing the rendezvous to take place. The Dragon could hang around at least a month before linking up with the station, Musk said. It’s supposed to spend more than three weeks there, in large part to accommodate science samples that will be on the return trip.
“If we can convince ourselves the data’s good, I suspect we can find an opportunity on Sunday, but again, we have to go look at it,” Suffredini said.
The fresh apples aboard Dragon _ straight from the family orchard of a SpaceX employee _ will be applesauce or worse the longer the delay. There’s other fresh fruit as well for the six station astronauts.
Musk acknowledged it was scary for a while.
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