SpaceX Fixes Dragon's Faulty Thruster Pods, ISS Docking Delayed

December 10, 2017 – 09:41 am

Watch Live: SpaceX Dragon Capsule LaunchThe SpaceX Dragon's four thruster pods are now back online and "operating nominally." The trouble, however, will delay the spacecraft's docking with the International Space Station.

The SpaceX Dragon's four thruster pods are now back online and "operating nominally." The trouble, however, will delay the spacecraft's docking with the International Space Station.

In a Friday afternoon press conference with reporters, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said that his team had brought pods one and four back online and were working on pods two and three. Shortly after the close of the press conference, he tweeted that all four had been restored.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 10:10 a.m. Eastern this morning, carrying the Dragon spacecraft. It reached orbit about 10 minutes later, but by 10:40 a.m., Musk tweeted that the company had found an "issue with Dragon thruster pods."

Initially, SpaceX said it would wait until two of the four pods were working until it deployed the Dragon's solar array. But Musk said this afternoon that the temperature of the solar arrays' actuators were "dropping rapidly, " so SpaceX decided to deploy with only one working thruster pod. That slowed the rate of rotation and warmed things up, so it "turned out to be a good thing, " Musk said.

Musk said the SpaceX team was still examining what caused the thruster pod problem, but a "preliminary guess" is that there was a blockage in oxidizer pressurization. After cycling and pressure hammering the stubborn valve, SpaceX was able to free up the blockage, Musk said. "All of the oxidizer tanks are now holding the target pressure on all four pods."

Next up is getting the Dragon back on track to dock with the ISS. Originally, it was scheduled to arrive on Saturday, but that will likely be pushed back a few days. If everything looks good, there's a chance things could proceed on Sunday, NASA officials said, but NASA and SpaceX will proceed cautiously and make sure everything is rock solid before moving forward.

ISS program manager Mike Suffredini said NASA has "quite a bit of flexibility" in terms of the dates it can link up to the ISS. It will need a few days around March 15 when the current ISS crew departs, but things are otherwise open for at least the next week. It gets a bit more hectic on the departure, however.


Source: www.pcmag.com

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