After weather-related delays, the time had come early Monday morning German time: Just in time for the rescheduled time, the engines of the Falcon 9 rocket from SpaceX fired on their launch site at NASA in Florida, and for the four astronauts on board the Crew Dragon capsule the flight to the International Space Station began at the top. It is SpaceX’s first regular manned space mission for NASA, after a final test with just two astronauts this May.
Missile lands on ship after launch
As is now common practice with SpaxceX, a company founded and run by Tesla CEO Elon Musk, the Falcon missile did not fall into the ocean anywhere after it had put the crew capsule into orbit. Instead, it landed on a drone ship as planned, controlled by its own drive. Nasa obviously has great confidence in this cost-saving rocket recycling: The same Falcon is to take over the next manned mission to the ISS in March 2021.
In contrast to the test mission in the spring, nothing went smoothly with Crew-1 after the start. According to NASA and SpaxeX, shortly after reaching orbit, two pumps for air conditioning were found to be too high in the capsule, which made it necessary to switch to the reserve system.
– SpaceX (@SpaceX) November 16, 2020
The mission continued anyway, but later a potentially more serious problem arose: According to mission control, a few hours after the start, three out of four heaters for fuel for the small Draco thrusters in the capsule failed. That would have jeopardized their maneuverability on the ISS. But SpaceX was able to get all three failed heaters going again: Excessively strict limit values in the control software had been corrected, it said.
Year of the Dragon with SpaceX
And so Crew Dragon was able to continue its hovering flight to the ISS with three astronauts from NASA and one from the Japanese space agency. After arrival, they are expected to stay on the station for about six months – that would make the capsule in space longer than ever before. And NASA has even more plans for Musk’s innovative missile technology. In addition to the astronaut mission in March, another one is planned in 2021 and four only for material transports. As soon as Crew Dragon has docked, a SpaceX capsule will probably be visible at the ISS until the end of the year.