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Posted at 09:34 AM ET, 03/01/2013

SpaceX Dragon capsule launches successfully, berth with space station delayed

6:29 p.m.: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has been expressing his thanks to NASA, calling them “the world’s coolest customer,” and to the US Air Force for letting SpaceX use their long-range communications system:

According to Musk, Dragon is “back on track.”

And with that, we’ll take a second stab at putting the blog on ice. Thanks for following along, as always.

4:43 p.m.: The next opportunity for Dragon to berth with the international space station is Sunday, according to NASA. SpaceX is going to spend the next “several hours” testing systems. From NASA:

SpaceX has confirmed all four of Dragon’s thruster pods are up and running. The company will continue to check out Dragon, test its systems for the next several hours, and perform some orbital maneuvers. The next opportunity for Dragon to rendezvous with the space station is early Sunday, if SpaceX and NASA determine the spacecraft is in the proper configuration and ready to support an attempt.

4:31 p.m.: According to NASA, SpaceX has said all four of Dragon’s thrusters are back online, but that the berth with the space station is still delayed:

SpaceX says all four of Dragon’s four thruster pods are now online. Dragon is not expected to berth at the International Space Station tomorrow as planned. NASA and SpaceX are assessing the next steps and berthing opportunities.

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk confirmed the news via Twitter:

3:50 p.m.: Dragon’s thruster pods 1 and 4 have come online. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweets:

But the scheduled berthing with the International Space Station has been delayed according to a release from NASA:

SpaceX says two of Dragon’s four thruster pods are now online and mission controllers are optimistically continuing to work on the other two. Dragon will not be able to berth at the International Space Station tomorrow as planned. NASA and SpaceX are assessing the next steps.

At least three of the four thrusters must be operational before the capsule can dock with the space station. As Space.com reports, this is not the first time the company has encountered a problem. In October, power went out on the capsule’s freezers, although none of the experiments on board were damaged.

1:04 p.m.: NASA has issued a statement regarding the complications with Dragon’s thruster pods, and the latest progress. There has been no additional activity on SpaceX CEO Elon Musk’s Twitter account:

SpaceX has confirmed its Falcon 9 rocket lifted off as planned and experienced a nominal flight. After Dragon achieved orbit, the spacecraft experienced an issue with a propellant valve. One thruster pod is running. The company is trying to bring up the remaining three. Dragon’s solar arrays deployed. Once SpaceX gets at least two pods running, it will begin a series of burns to get to the space station.

12:07 p.m.: Work continues on thruster pods 2 and 3:

11:52 a.m.: The solar arrays have been deployed.

11:39 a.m.: SpaceX CEO Elon Musk has just tweeted that thruster pod three’s tank pressure is “trending positive” and that solar arrays are being prepared for deployment.

11:08 a.m.: The solar array deployment is currently on hold as SpaceX works to bring at least two of the Dragon’s thruster pods online.

10:56 a.m.: Quick update: SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk has just tweeted that there is an “issue” with Dragon’s thruster pods.

10:40 a.m.: It looks as if everything has gone as planned with the launch, and Falcon is well on its way to the international space station. We’ll continue to keep an eye on things, but will put the live blog on ice unless there are any major developments. Thanks for following along, as always.

10:20 a.m.: The capsule has successfully separated from the second stage engine. So far, so good. There’s a little over a minute before the solar array deploys. Video is now carrying the celebratory high-fives among the SpaceX staff back on Earth.

10:16 a.m.: There are less than three minutes left in the second-stage engine burn. In the meantime, NASA has released this image of the Falcon 9 rocket liftoff.

10:13 a.m.: Stage separation has completed, and the second stage engine has ignited successfully. The engine will burn for six minutes to bring the capsule into low-Earth orbit.

10:10 a.m.: And we have liftoff on schedule.

10:07 a.m.: The rock band Thirty Seconds to Mars is sending their new single to the astronauts aboard the international space station, reports Space.com.The single, “Up in the Air,” is the band’s first in four years.

10:00 a.m.: We’re at 10 minutes until launch, and all systems are still go.

9:54 a.m.: Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield, a bit of a social media celebrity, having participated in two reddit AMAs (Ask Me Anything) tweeted his good wishes from aboard the International Space Station.

Hadfield also regularly tweets amazing images of Earth from aboard the station.

We’re fans especially of this image of our home: Washington, D.C.:

9:52 a.m.: We’re at under 20 minutes to launch, with all systems go.

Original Post: Private space travel company, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) will be launching its Dragon capsule to the International Space Station Friday. This is the second re-supply mission of at least 12 that the company has contracted to do for NASA, under the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract worth roughly $1.6 billion.

The capsule, which the company aims to eventually use to transport individuals, will launch from Cape Canaveral, Fla. and on board will be 1,268 pounds of supplies for the six astronauts on the space station. The capsule is scheduled for grapple by the space station on Saturday, and over the course of several weeks, astronauts will load 2,600 pounds of experiments samples to send back to Earth. The capsule is scheduled to splash down on March 25.

The capsule will be carried by SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, named after the fictional space ship Millennium Falcon in the “Star Wars” films. The capsule got its name from “Puff the Magic Dragon,” after some who had expressed doubts as to SpaceX’s ability to succeed.

The first SpaceX Dragon launch made history when the capsule successfully launched, docked with the space station and returned to Earth in May. SpaceX conducted its first resupply mission under the CRS contract in October.

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By  |  09:34 AM ET, 03/01/2013

 
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