A SpaceX Dragon capsule carrying supplies has successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS), three days after a problematic but successful launch from Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Florida.
The uncrewed Dragon capsule is carrying 400kg (882lb) of food, spare parts and new experiments to the ISS. It is the first US-launched mission to the Station since the 2011 retirement of the Space Shuttle, and the first commercially-operated mission on NASA’s behalf.
NASA has contracted with SpaceX for 11 more commercial resupply flights, plus eight more for competitor Orbital Sciences, which has yet to fly its Antares launch vehicle or Cygnus cargo capsule. Orbital’s first test flights are expected later this year, with commercial launches beginning in early 2013.
The 7 October launch went awry when, 79sec after liftoff, one of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle’s nine engines suddenly lost pressure and ceased functioning. Though the onboard flight computer successfully adjusted the vehicle’s trajectory, placing the Dragon capsule into its correct orbit, a secondary payload failed to reach its correct orbit.
The secondary payload, a prototype communications satellite for Orbcomm, was placed into a low Earth orbit instead of the desired highly elliptical orbit after the Falcon 9’s second stage failed to make a second burn.
Orbcomm declined to comment other than to confirm the satellite’s orbit and note that the company is evaluating its further course of action.
SpaceX had no immediate comment.