SpaceX Dragon Capsule Cleared for Docking
During the second NASA-contracted SpaceX Dragon cargo run to the International Space Station (ISS) Sunday morning (March 3, 2013), Canadian astronaut, soon-to-be ISS commander and hugely popular orbital Twitter user Chris Hadfield kept tabs on the Dragon berthing. Here are the stunning views he captured during the successful capture. Here, the Dragon capsule is grappled by the station's robotic arm -- an instrument designed and built by MDA Space Missions for the Canadian Space Agency. "Tonight's Finale: A Dragon, snared and tamed by Canadarm2. Saint George ringing in a new era in the silence of space," Hadfield tweeted. Here are some more views shared by Hadfield with the world via his Twitter account, @Cmdr_Hadfield.
The Canadarm2 awaits the arrival of the Dragon capsule. The robotic arm is the primary component of the space station's Mobile Servicing System (MSS) that was installed in 2001. The Canadarm2 provides support to astronauts on board the station -- berthing spacecraft, providing maintenance services and moving equipment around the station's exterior. "Canadarm2, proud builder of the International Space Station, in preparation for the successful grabbing of a Dragon," tweeted Hadfield.
"Dragon comes into view - first sight this morning, sneaking up on us from behind the Progress solar array," tweeted Hadfield, referring to one of the solar panels of the docked Russian Progress cargo vehicle.
"Self-portrait in the Cupola with rising Dragon below, Africa behind."
As the Dragon approached the space station, there were plenty of photo ops for the astronauts. "The Dragon spaceship high over Mount Etna - both spitting fire," said Hadfield as the spacecraft passed over the east coast of Sicily, Italy.
The SpaceX Dragon spacecraft over the Sahara Desert before space station berthing on March 3, 2013.
"Like a Praying Mantis, Canadarm2 poised to reach out and grab Dragon."
"Success! Canadarm2 holds Dragon by the nose, to drag it up and hook it on to a Station hatch," said Hadfield via his Twitter account when the Dragon was snared at 5:31 am EST Sunday morning.
NASA has cleared Space Exploration Technologies’ Dragon cargo capsule for a rendezvous with the International Space Station on Sunday after problems with the spacecraft’s thruster pods were resolved.
The new schedule puts Dragon on track to be grappled by the station’s robot arm at 6:01 a.m. EST. Dragon lifted off atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Friday and was due to arrive at the station on Saturday.
Shortly after reaching orbit, however, SpaceX discovered three of the capsule’s four thruster pods were not operating properly. Engineers spent several hours troubleshooting the problem, which was believed to be due to blockage in the spacecraft’s oxidizer pressurization system or a stuck valve.
By Friday afternoon, Dragon’s thrusters were firing, saving the mission.
“Dragon’s propulsion system is operating normally along with its other systems and ready to support the rendezvous,” NASA posted on its website Saturday.
“SpaceX said it has high confidence there will be no repeat of the thruster problem during rendezvous, including its capability to perform an abort, should that be required,” NASA added.
The capsule carries food, supplies, science experiments and cargo. It is the second of 12 resupply missions SpaceX plans to fly for NASA under a $1.6 billion contract.
Image: Photograph taken during the Dragon’s first space station berthing maneuver in May 2012. Credit: NASA