Monday, May 21, 2012

SpaceX, NASA prepare for Dragon launch

Liftoff! No- Wait- Guess not...

Wonderful thing, that technology. I have this amazing device called an alarm clock that woke me a half hour before SpaceX's expected flight of the Dragon spacecraft in the wee hours of May 19. I switched to NASA TV, and there it was, SpaceX's Falcon rocket with Dragon spacecraft ready to launch. Everything seemed ready to go, until the actual launch. Then as the engine began ignition, the system automatically shut down (as it was designed to do) at T- 0.5 seconds. The cause: higher pressures than allowed in the center engine of the Falcon rocket.

Well, better an abort than a mission failure! There is an awful lot of space business riding on this mission. It will be the first commercial cargo delivery to the ISS and the start of a new way of doing space business for our country. Unfortunately, there are some people in congress who do not want space business out of the hands of the government.  For my part, I'm hoping this mission will be a tremendous success. Within seconds, SpaceX engineers were working to resolve the problem and set the mission back on the timetable. And they have done so. A faulty check valve on the "Merlin" engine - no. 5- on the first stage is the guilty party, and currently engineers are switching out the valve. SpaceX and NASA will try agian on Tuesday, May 22, at 1:44 a.m. MDT. Time to set that alarm again.

Soyuz TMA-04M docked at ISS. Part of ISS blocks the front module of the Soyuz capsule.

Meanwhile, up in space... The second part of the Expedition 31 crew arrived at the ISS on Thursday, May 17 bringing the crew to its full complement of six space explorers.  The Soyuz TMA-04M docked to the Russian Poisk Module. Cosmonauts Gennady Padalka, Sergei Revin, and astronaut Joe Acaba joined Expedition 31 Commander Oleg Kononenko (Russian), Andre Kuipers (From the Eurpean Space Agency) and flight engineer Donald Petite (NASA). 

Astronauts Petite and Kuipers will be operating the CanadArm robotic arm should the Dragon spacecraft reach the ISS. The arm will grapple the spacecraft, and maneuver it to dock at the ISS. The docking will be at the US Harmony module.

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