SpaceX on Saturday launched a load of supplies to the International Space Station. This followed after a pair of power delays. A Falcon rocket carrying a Dragon capsule with 5,500 pounds (2,500 kilograms) of goods is due to arrive at the orbiting lab on Monday. The delivery is a few days late because of electrical power shortages that cropped up first at the space station, then at SpaceX's rocket-landing platform in the Atlantic.
The most recent issue had to do with the Main Bus Switching Units on board that distributes the power on board the station to the eight power channels there. “Teams are working on a plan to robotically replace the failed unit and restore full power to the station system,” said NASA.
Minutes after lift-off, SpaceX landed first-stage booster on the ocean platform a mere 14 miles (22 kilometres) offshore, considerably closer than usual with the sonic booms easily heard at the launch site.
“Dragon is now officially on the way to the space station,” the SpaceX launch commentator announced once the capsule reached orbit and its solar wings unfurled. “Until next time, may the fourth be with you.” The booster should have returned to Cape Canaveral, but SpaceX is still cleaning up from the April 20 accident that destroyed an empty crew Dragon capsule.
Earlier this week, Hans Koenigsmann, a SpaceX vice president, said the company still does not know what caused the empty capsule to burst apart in flames on a test stand. The capsule’s SuperDraco launch-abort thrusters were just a half-second from firing when the blast occurred.
This first crew capsule had completed a successful test flight, minus a crew, to the space station in March. SpaceX intended to refly the capsule on a launch-abort test in June, ahead of the first flight with astronauts on a new crew Dragon. The schedule is now up in the air, as SpaceX scrambles to identify and correct whatever went wrong.
SpaceX has been restocking the station since 2012.
This latest cargo Dragon making the company’s 17th shipment is carrying equipment and experiments for the six space station astronauts, including an instrument to monitor carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere.