After a number of delays, the SpaceX mission to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) has successfully launched.
Originally scheduled for Tuesday, April 30, the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket had to be put on hold due to several electrical problems.
First, the ISS experienced an electrical issue. The station found its power supply reduced by around 25% due to a failed component, which according to NASA was a technical problem but one that posed no immediate danger to the crew or the station. “Robotics Ground Controllers in Mission Control Houston successfully completed an operation to remove a failed Main Bus Switching Unit-3 and replace it with a spare,” NASA explained in a blog post. “Since the successful replacement, the MBSU was powered up and checked out successfully with all station systems back to nominal power configuration, including redundant power to the Canadarm2 robotic arm.”
Once the launch was rescheduled, the SpaceX Droneship which is part of the rocket booster recovery apparatus, also suffered an electrical problem. With just 15 minutes to go before liftoff, the launch had to be delayed again when droneship “Of Course I Still Love You” experienced a helium leak.
But this morning around 3 a.m. ET, the launch finally went ahead in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Falcon 9 carried a Dragon 1 spacecraft, an unmanned craft which was full of cargo like scientific instruments and food for the astronauts aboard the ISS.
The launch went off smoothly, and after two stage engine burns the Dragon craft was confirmed to be in good orbit. It then deployed its solar panels and went on its way towards the ISS. Even the droneship Of Course I Still Love You worked well, collecting the Falcon 9 booster rocket when it fell to Earth.
As usual for SpaceX, the event was live-streamed to a curious public, including some admittedly breathtaking video of the launch, the separation of the Dragon craft from the Falcon rocket, and the scientific equipment onboard the Dragon visible as it drifted away from the rocket.
In addition, SpaceX shared a visualization video of the Dragon being captured by the ISS’s robotic arm on Twitter, and confirmed that the capture is scheduled for early on Monday morning.