SpaceX Capsule Encounters “Issue” on Supply Run to Space Station

The Southern California-based company's unmanned cargo capsule launched atop a rocket Friday from Cape Canaveral

A private rocket owned by Southern California-based SpaceX launched on another supply run Friday morning to the International Space Station, but the company's CEO tweeted that flight engineers encountered an "issue" with the cargo capsule.

The unmanned Falcon rocket departed Cape Canaveral, Fla. at 10:10 a.m. local time (7:10 a.m. PT). SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk tweeted at about 7:40 a.m. PT that the Dragon capsule had a problem with some of its thruster pods, which allow the capsule to maneuver in orbit.

The problem occurred about nine minutes after launch during separation of the capsule from the rocket's upper stage. Musk later tweeted that the capsule's twin solar panels, which provide power, deployed successfully after the delay caused by the thruster issue.

The spacecraft has 18 thrusters and can maneuver without some thrusters available. Flight engineers are working to fix the problem ahead of Dragon's planned Saturday arrival at the space station.

NASA is paying SpaceX -- based in Hawthorne -- to deliver cargo to the space station, and bring back science samples and other goods. This will be the company's third delivery mission for the six space station astronauts.

A crowd of SpaceX employees gathered outside the mission control area Friday morning (pictured, right) to watch the launch.

"We've been looking forward to yet another launch," said NASA deputy administrator Lori Garver. "The International Space Station is the cornerstone of our human spaceflight program. The space shuttle was able to build the space station, but now that we have the need for just taking our crews and cargo to and from the station without assembly, it's a lot more efficient for us to launch from the private sector."

The Falcon 9 rocket carried the Dragon capsule -- it includes a cargo of fruit -- from the launch pad before entering its separation stages. The capsule separated at about 7:20 a.m. and continued on to the space station.

In October, a half-ton of supplies arrived at the space station aboard Dragon, the first of 12 planned shipments under the NASA-SpaceX contract.

SpaceX founder Musk -- he also is CEO and founder of electric car company Tesla Motors -- hopes to fly people aboard a modified Dragon capsule by 2015.


Copyright AP - Associated Press
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