SpaceX's Dragon space capsule is seen from a camera aboard its Falcon 9 rocket after separating from the booster following its March 1, 2013 launch toward the International Space Station on the second cargo mission for NASA. The spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., at 10:10 a.m. ET.
Engineers with the commercial spaceflight company SpaceX are working to solve a thruster problem on the firm's robotic Dragon space capsule that cropped up shortly after the spacecraft's launch toward the International Space Station today (March 1).
Though SpaceX made enough progress on the thruster issue to take the step of deploying Dragon's solar arrays, the question remains whether the spacecraft can still reach the space station as planned.
SpaceX's Dragon space capsule launched into orbit atop the company's Falcon 9 rocket at 10:10 a.m. ET (1510 GMT) from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a mission to deliver cargo for NASA to the space station. The launch appeared to go smoothly, with the unmanned capsule reaching orbit shortly thereafter.
But once in orbit, the Dragon capsule's Draco thruster system did not activate as planned. The capsule is equipped with 18 of SpaceX's Draco thrusters, which use nitrogen tetroxide and monomethylhydrazine fuel to maneuver the spacecraft in orbit.
"Issue with Dragon thruster pods, " SpaceX founder Elon Musk wrote on Twitter. "System inhibiting three of four from initializing. About to command inhibit override."
Given the thruster issue, SpaceX engineers initially held off on commanding Dragon to deploy its solar arrays, which gather energy from the sun to power the vehicle. The solar arrays have since been deployed. [Photos: SpaceX's Third Dragon Launch to Space Station]
SpaceX's Falcon 9 launched the Dragon cargo capsule to the International Space Station on March 1, 2013, from Cape Canaveral, FL.
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