SpaceX launched its Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon cargo capsule to the International Space Station at 10:10 AM ET this morning, but the Dragon suffered a problem as it reached orbit, with three of four total thrusters not responding. SpaceX was able to overcome the problem and deploy Dragon's solar arrays at 11:49 AM ET. The craft is still on track to reach the space station, but docking has been delayed until Sunday at the earliest. The mission is SpaceX's third flight to the space station, following the historic first docking in May 2012 and another run in October. Once again, the Dragon is ferrying supplies to station astronauts and new science experiments for them to conduct. All of the missions have been part of a $1.6 billion contract with NASA for 12 cargo resupply flights, with a larger goal of making commercial spaceflight routine. Live updates of the mission are being posted by SpaceX's Twitter and website, and The Verge has the latest information below.
Update: The live broadcast commenced ahead of the launch at 10:10 AM ET. SpaceX founder and chief designer Elon Musk also tweeted a photo of the control room for the launch.
T minus 22 mins to launch mission 3 to dock with the Space Station twitter.com/elonmusk/statu…— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 1, 2013
Update 2: Although Dragon successfully reached orbit, "it appears there's been some kind of problem," SpaceX's announcer said before the livestream concluded at 10:24 AM ET. The company and NASA held a briefing at 11 AM to explain the situation streamed on the NASA TV website. Elon Musk tweeted several updates on the situation, indicating the problem occurred with the Dragon capsule and not the Falcon 9 rocket that carried it into orbit.
Falcon 9 delivered Dragon to its target orbit. All good on the rocket.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 1, 2013
Issue with Dragon thruster pods. System inhibiting three of four from initializing. About to command inhibit override.— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 1, 2013
Update 3: In NASA's space station status update streamed online at 11 AM, an announcer said that "part of that response to that issue may be a rearrangement of planned burn sequences," on the Dragon's thrusters that were supposed to take place today to get the craft into position to rendezvous with the space station on Saturday morning. Musk has tweeted again to say that the solar panels that power Dragon's operations won't be deployed until the thruster problem is addressed.
Holding on solar array deployment until at least two thruster pods are active— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) March 1, 2013
Update 4: SpaceX provided the following statement to The Verge on the Dragon problem: "One thruster pod is running. Two are preferred to take the next step which is to deploy the solar arrays. We are working to bring up the other two in order to plan the next series of burns to get to station." In another statement, SpaceX clarified the timeline of events that led to the problem: "Falcon 9 lifted off as planned and experienced a nominal flight. After Dragon achieved orbit, the spacecraft experienced an issue with its thrusters."
Update 5: Musk tweeted at 11:49 AM that Dragon's two solar arrays were deployed successfully, apparently overcoming the thruster issue. Meanwhile NASA's live stream announcer said that the Dragon is still on schedule to link up with the space station, though as of Friday afternoon, the opportunity had been delayed until Sunday at the earliest. NASA's announcer noted that the problem occurred in the first place because three of Dragon's four thruster pods were not functioning.