October 8, 2012
SpaceX Launches Cargo Resupply Mission (With A Slight Issue)
|SpaceX launched the first commercial space cargo mission on Sunday night. But a minute and 19 seconds after the Falcon 9 booster lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, one of the nine Merlin engines that power the rocket "lost pressure suddenly," the company said.|
The SpaceX CRS-1 mission marks the first of at least 12 SpaceX missions to the space station under the company's cargo resupply contract with NASA. On board the Dragon spacecraft are materials to support investigations planned for the station's Expedition 33 crew, as well as crew supplies and space station hardware.
Dragon -- the only space station cargo craft capable of returning a significant amount of supplies back to Earth -- will return with scientific materials and space station hardware.
Dragon will now chase the space station before beginning a series of burns that will bring it into close proximity to the station. If all goes well, Dragon will attach to the complex on October 10 and spend over two weeks there before an expected return to Earth on October 28.
The CRS-1 mission follows a historic demonstration flight last May when SpaceX's Dragon became the first commercial spacecraft to attach to the space station, exchange cargo, and return safely to Earth. The flight signaled restoration of American capability to resupply the space station, not possible since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011.
Although SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket successfully sent its Dragon cargo capsule toward the International Space Station, an engine failure and a less-than-nominal satellite deployment suggest that the company has some technical issues to resolve for future flights.
The company, founded by Elon Musk, acknowledged soon after Sunday night's launch that one of the nine Merlin engines on the Falcon's first stage shut down, but the onboard computer recalculated the data for the other eight engines to get the Dragon in orbit and save the resupply mission.
Some observers pointed to SpaceX's long-range video of the ascent and pointed to what they thought was debris from an explosion. Today, SpaceX issued a statement saying that the engine didn't explode — but that protective panels were ejected because of the pressure loss associated with the shutdown:
Approximately one minute and 19 seconds into last night's launch, the Falcon 9 rocket detected an anomaly on one first-stage engine. Initial data suggests that one of the rocket's nine Merlin engines, Engine 1, lost pressure suddenly and an engine shutdown command was issued. We know the engine did not explode, because we continued to receive data from it. Panels designed to relieve pressure within the engine bay were ejected to protect the stage and other engines. Our review of flight data indicates that neither the rocket stage nor any of the other eight engines were negatively affected by this event.The Falcon 9 rocket was also supposed to send an industrial communications satellite into orbit for Orbcomm of Dulles, Virginia. But Orbcomm said safety rules prevented Falcon from firing its second stage engines. The satellite is in lower orbit and engineers are trying to figure out how to boost it.
SOURCE Space X
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