Wrapping up this week’s story, the SpaceX Dragon capsule finally docked with the International Space Station earlier today, making it the first privately-owned craft to dock at the station. Aboard were a number of supplies, experiments and the cremated remains of several people, including those of actor James Doohan, best known as “Scotty” from Star Trek.
The figurative road to the ISS was a bit of a rough one, though. The initial launch had to be aborted due to a pressure irregularity in one of the engines, and the launch was rescheduled for a few days later. Then, as the capsule was being put through maneuvering tests prior to docking, a discrepancy in the information coming from Dragon’s LIDAR sensors and its thermal cameras caused the automatic maneuvering to keep it at a further distance than expected.
On the ground, SpaceX managed to adjust the LIDAR, which was being affected by another component of the ISS. Once the problem was resolved, docking proceeded normally; the capture at just before 10:00a Eastern. Two hours later, and the capsule was reported completely docked and attached to the ISS.
In case you missed the news, SpaceX’s launch attempt for a rendezvous with the International Space Station had to be scrapped just before lift off on Saturday.
According to a press release from the company, the launch “was aborted when the flight computer detected slightly high pressure in the Engine 5 combustion chamber. We have discovered root cause and repairs are underway.”
During inspection after the launch was cancelled, engineers discovered a faulty check valve on the engine which was the cause of the pressure anomaly. The valve has been replaced and the rocket is officially “go” to launch Tuesday, May 22 at 3:44 AM EDT.
Early tomorrow morning (4:55 EDT), SpaceX—the first private company to launch, orbit, and recover a spacecraft—is going to attempt another first: being the first private company to dock a spacecraft to the International Space Station.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket will propel a cargo-laden Dragon capsule towards the ISS. While none of the cargo aboard is considered mission critical or irreplacable, SpaceX’s mission is part of a comprehensive NASA evaluation of their capability to launch, rendezvous with the ISS and return to earth.
While waiting to dock, astronauts will perform a number of tests on Dragon’s automated controls, including a manual override by the ISS crew. Their success will help land them a contract to become the first commercial carrier to deliver to the ISS.
With the ending of the Space Shuttle program and the scuttling of its successor, the United States is currently reliant on other countries like Russia to get our astronauts and supplies into space. Contracts with companies like SpaceX will play key parts in the United States’ role in the future.
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OWC Radio is a monthly, forum-based podcast focused on the events and happenings in the Mac community. This week’s hosts are: OWC Grant, OWC Chris S., and OWC Mike H. Article Continues…