SpaceX has finally launched its mission to resupply the International Space Station after a series of delays.
A Falcon 9 rocket, carrying an uncrewed Dragon 1 spacecraft stuffed will cargo, took of from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Saturday just before 3 a.m. ET.
This is usually a routine task for SpaceX. But the latest launch, originally scheduled for earlier this week, was plagued by unusual hangups on its path to the launch pad, including a rare electrical issue aboard the space station.
SpaceX’s launch was rescheduled for a Friday morning as the ISS team solved its issues. But there was another setback, also involving electrical problems — this time for SpaceX. The company said in a tweet that its droneship, a seafaring platform used to land rocket boosters after flight so they can be reused and save SpaceX money, suffered an “electrical issue” and it forced the company to push launch back by another 24 hours.
After liftoff, the first-stage rocket booster — the largest piece of the launch vehicle that gives it the initial thrust — detached from the second-stage of the rocket and steered itself back to an upright landing on a seaborne platform, called a droneship.
The spacecraft is currently maneuvering through space on its own, unattached to the rocket, and is scheduled to dock with the ISS on Sunday.
This was SpaceX’s 17th mission of its kind for NASA. The Dragon 1 capsule is carrying about 5,500 pounds of luggage, including hardware that will map carbon dioxide levels in Earth’s atmosphere, a piece of equipment that could help communicate with deep-space exploration probes, and a host of science experiments.
There were a couple of hiccups before SpaceX could launch, though. One had to do with old electrical equipment and power issues aboard the space station.
The reason SpaceX couldn’t do the mission earlier this week was because a piece of ISS hardware failed Monday, which left the station running on about 75% its normal power supply. NASA said it wouldn’t be safe for SpaceX to launch its cargo mission until full power was restored. That fix was successful.
The other issue: where to land the first-stage booster. It was supposed to land on a ground pad, but that spot was out of commission after another SpaceX spacecraft used it last month and was destroyed. Landing the booster on a droneship was a convenient backup option.