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ISS crew successfully capture SpaceX Dragon Capsule (06:56 EST) (nasa.gov)
179 points by stbullard on Oct 10, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 18 comments

Sadly, there was one mission casualty as a result of the "deconstructed" engine:

"Unfortunately, the engine malfunction placed the Falcon 9 upper stage in a slightly different approach to the International Space Station. That new approach caused the stage to violate a set of conditions known as a "safety gate"; there was no way the satellite could ascend to its intended 350km x 750km orbit without crossing the ISS orbit, and no time to check to make sure that no collision would occur. The second stage's flight control software automatically cancelled its second burn, leaving the satellite in a much lower (203km x 323km) orbit than intended. Engineers from Orbcomm and Sierra Nevada Corporation, the manufacturer, are deciding what can be done, and both SpaceX and Orbcomm are being noticeably cagey about their press releases."[1]

That said, it's impressive that they were able to make the proper adjustments and still complete the main objective. I wonder if they can bring the satellite back down, or if the fuels[2] used in the satellite prevent its return.

[1] http://arstechnica.com/science/2012/10/spacex-dragon-capsule... [2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hydrazine#Hazards

It can't come back down for several reasons. Besides there being no way to bring it down, it's already been released, and is basically on the other side of the planet now.

Compare track of ISS vs OrbComm OG2: http://www.n2yo.com/satellite/?s=25544 http://www.n2yo.com/satellite/?s=38847

Anyway, it's a prototype satellite; OrbComm is making dozens more, and took the opportunity of a discounted secondary launch to test their new hardware. Probably having the thing in any orbit is good enough for their primary objective. I'm sure they would have liked to be able to integrate it into their eventual constellation, which is probably impossible now, but they knew the risk of flying secondary (to the ISS!) and likely found it acceptable even if they didn't get the right orbit.

This will always be a risk of 'riding along' on an ISS resupply mission. Basically the main payload is on an ISS intercept orbit, so your margin of error is a lot lower, and the delta-v needed to get to a different orbit so that you could boost beyond the ISS without crossing its orbit is high.

> I wonder if they can bring the satellite back down, or if the fuels[2] used in the satellite prevent its return.

They can't but not because of the fuels. It's because the Dragon capsule is the only part of the whole launch stack that can re-enter intact, and it's a payload to the rocket. Ther Orbcomm sat is also a payload, but a secondary one. They both get put into their correct orbits (in theory) by the disposable Falcon Upper Stage. There's no way for that Falcon Upper stage to bring anything back, it is just allowed to burn up after it's been used.

You're right - I had forgotten that only the small nose cone portion of the dragon is capable of re-entry, and only has 10 M³ space available.

OH yeah! I successfully got my girls ready and off to school on time this morning. I'd like to see the ISS crew pull that off!

Imagine how much easier that would be if you had a robotic arm.

"Better get ready quickly girls, or else it's ... the arm..."

The scale and precision of this maneuver is mind-boggling. Anyone want to try for themselves, I can recommend the amazing Kerbal Space Program (0).

I just yesterday watched episode #38 (1) of kurtjmac's Let's Play where he attempts an orbital rendezvous and barely manages to get the spacecrafts within 700 meters of each other before they drift off again.

(0) http://kerbalspaceprogram.com/

(1) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOTMHEAP050&list=EL4fj56n...

Watching it live. This is great news for the private space industry! Looking forward to my retirement on the Moon in 50 yrs.

I'm looking forward to starting a whaling company on the moon.

I think a moisture farm would be more profitable.

Do you speak Bocce?

Smooth as butter and ahead of schedule. And all while losing an engine on the way up. So far they're setting a pretty damned good example.

NASA TV screencap: http://imgur.com/LKrBd


The SpaceX webcast has a great video of the whole process, as well as some good stills:


Watching the video gave me a massive appreciation for what these guys are able to do. I work on a software project where we have trouble getting our builds to pass reliably, so I can't imagine what kind of teamwork and high caliber people it takes to pull something like this off :)

2012 has been an awesome year. UK based here so the Olympics were a high point (despite beforehand being fairly against the "waste" of money - i was wrong).

This is seriously cool.

I keep mixing up Eben Moglen and Elon Musk, am i alone?

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