SpaceX Dragon Launches to the ISS and Docks After Thruster Failure

by Dr. Ken Kremer, AAAP, Spaceflight Magazine & Universe Today

Kennedy Space Center – After overcoming a frightening thruster failure that could have spelled rapid doom on the heels of a breathtakingly beautiful launch, the privately developed Dragon spacecraft successfully berthed at the International Space Station (ISS) at 8:56 a.m. EST Sunday morning, March 3, 2013 thereby establishing an indispensable
American lifeline to the massive orbiting lab complex.

March 1, 2013 launch of Falcon 9 SpaceX CRS-2 from the VAB roof, Cape Canaveral, Florida. Credit: Ken Kremer

March 1, 2013 launch of Falcon 9 SpaceX CRS-2
from the VAB roof, Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Credit: Ken Kremer

Hearts sank following the flawless March 1 launch of the Dragon cargo resupply capsule atop the 15-story tall Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida. Barely 11 minutes after the spectacular launch, absolute glee suddenly threatened to turn to total gloom when the mission suffered an unexpected failure in the critical propulsion system required to propel the Dragon to the Earth-orbiting outpost.

Expedition 34 crew members Kevin Ford and Tom Marshburn of NASA used the station’s Canadian supplied robotic arm to successfully grapple and capture Dragon at 5:31 a.m. March 3 as the station was flying 253 miles above northern Ukraine. Originally, Dragon capture was slated only about 20 hours after launch. The capture came one day, 19 hours and 22 minutes after launch. Ground controllers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston then commanded the arm to install Dragon onto the Earth-facing port of the Harmony module.

Dragon is loaded with 1,268 pounds (575 kilograms) of vital supplies and provisions to support the ongoing science research by the resident six man crew, including more than a ton of vital supplies, science gear, research experiments, spare parts, food, water and clothing.

NASA says that despite the one-day docking delay; the Dragon unberthing will still be on March 25 followed by a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California.

Dragon will spend 22 days docked to the ISS. The station crew will soon open the hatch and unload all the cargo and research supplies. Then they will pack the Dragon with 2,668 pounds (1,210 kilograms) of science samples from human research, biology and biotechnology studies, physical science investigations, and education activities for return to Earth.

Read more about the SpaceX launch at my Universe Today articles here:
Berth of a Dragon after Thruster Failure Recovery Establishes American Lifeline to ISS
SpaceX Dragon Recovers from Frightening Propulsion System Failure – Sunday Docking Set
SpaceX Commercial Rocket Poised for March 1 Blast Off to ISS

Outreach by Ken Kremer: “Curiosity and the Search for Life on Mars – (in 3-D)” – Washington Crossing State Park, Nature Center: Titusville, NJ, April 28, 1:30 PM.

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