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SpaceX: 'We have control, it's just a glitch' Musk tells world+dog

Dragon thrusters back online

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Updated The Dragon capsule is ready to flame, with all four boosters operational and ready for firing in an hour or so, SpaceX boss Elon Musk has told a press conference.

The Falcon 9 rocket worked as planned, he said, and fired the Dragon capsule successfully into orbit. But SpaceX found it could only power up one of the four thruster pods on the capsule after separation. The team tried to fix the system as the Dragon flew over Australia, with some success, and its solar panels were deployed.

The Dragon is currently in a decaying orbit around the planet and will fall back to Earth within a day or so, Musk said, but the team now have control of five of the thrusters on pod 1 and four on pod 4. This gives it attitude control for the first time, along with a limited ability to maneuver.

The problem was caused by a blockage in the helium lines that was keeping pressure low in the oxidizers used for thrust. The team "pressure-hammered" the pipes and now has control of all thrust pods, but are waiting to do final checks before firing.

Once the team decides to try for a burn, the capsule will be boosted from its current orbit to around 300km above the planet. When it's in a stable orbit the SpaceX team will face a battery of flight tests before being allowed to proceed.

The capsule will not be permitted to approach the space station until NASA is satisfied that SpaceX has three of its four pods fully operational. As insurance, there are backup plans to get the station out of the way if a collision looks likely.

"We have plans for everything you can imagine," said ISS program manager Michael Suffredini.

There was no danger of the ISS running out of supplies, since NASA stores are based on the assumption that the next flight won't get through, but the loss of any cargo would cause damage to the research goals of the space station.

NASA is satisfied the situation is being resolved he said, and it has a number of days for Dragon to berth – although the available unberthing date slots are tighter. The two organizations have been working closely to fix any issues.

Musk said that the craft could remain in orbit for at least a month while SpaceX and NASA did checks, but that a docking might be ready as soon as Sunday.

"It was a little frightening there," Musk said. "But I don't think this a major problem. It's an anomaly, and it's looking like we're back on track here." ®

Update

The Dragon capsule has completed its first burn and is now safely in its higher orbit.

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