The SpaceX Dragon capsule suffered a thruster glitch shortly after launch on Friday, though engineers were able to correct it.
The thruster problem caused the cargo ship to miss its scheduled Saturday docking with the International Space Station. This was the first time the Dragon capsule program suffered a problem in space.
One of the Falcon rocket’s nine engines shut down early into the launch of the first supply run in October, but the other motors were able to compensate for the shortfall, reports Reuters.
The Falcon 9 rocket took off at 10:10 am EST on Friday from a launch pad leased by Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX). The launch pad is located at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, near the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Just nine minutes after the launch happened, however, the Dragon capsule suffered a thruster issue. Scientists discovered that three of the capsule’s four rocket thruster pods weren’t in operation. They believe the problem happened because of either a blockage in a pressurization system or a stuck valve.
SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk stated of the thruster glitch, “It was a little frightening there,” according to Space.com. Since the initial glitch, engineers have been able to bring all four of the pods online. They were able to execute an orbit-raising burn, hopefully clearing the way for a docking with the space station.
If everything continues to go well, the Dragon capsule will likely dock with the International Space Station on Sunday. The capsule has performed almost perfectly in its four test flights. The demonstration by SpaceX has been historic.
The company is the first private organization to successfully launch a rocket into space. Musk is not worried about upcoming flights for the Dragon capsule. He stated of the thruster glitch:
“I think it’s an anomaly. I think it was a glitch of some kind and not a serious thing if we’re able to come back online.”
SpaceX holds a contract to make 12 robotic cargo flights to the space station. The contract is worth $1.6 billion. The Dragon capsule is currently carrying 1,200 pounds of scientific experiments and needed supplies to the ISS. The astronauts on board will unload the supplies and experiments, then load the unmanned capsule back up with 2,300 pounds of material.
The SpaceX Dragon capsule was slated to return to Earth on March 25. In light of the capsule’s thruster glitch, however, its return date has not been established.