Falcon 9 Lifts Off, Dragon Drama Ensues

CRS-2 Launch 050

This update corrects an earlier version which reported in error that one of three thruster pods was brought on line during an initial pass over Australia

Solar panels were in fact deployed prior to returning three thruster segments to functionality

Liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 on NASA’s CRS-2 mission.

The fifth and final Falcon 9 v.1.0 lifted off from launch pad SLC-40 at Cape Canaveral. Under partly cloudy skies and a stiff northwest wind blowing in a cold front, the slender white rocket clawed its way off the pad on a steady pillar of orange flame. Following the most recent launch in October which saw an engine chamber breach and shut down, this flight appeared to go very smoothly, at least as far as the Falcon 9 was concerned.

The drama this time was reserved for orbit.

After being delivered to the proper orbit and a smooth separation from the booster’s second stage, the Dragon experienced a problem when three of its four “quads” of Draco thrusters failed to initialize. In a precautionary step, the solar panels did not deploy as the team at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, Ca. worked the problem, waiting for the Dragon to pass over Australia to initiate a command inhibit override.

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