Dragon capsule on course for meeting with space station
(CNN) -- SpaceX's Dragon capsule is just hours away from an on-schedule meeting with the International Space Station.
The crew of the space station will use a robotic arm to "grapple" the spacecraft, which is filled with 1,000 pounds of supplies for the astronauts, at 7:17 a.m. ET Wednesday, a written statement from SpaceX said.
The time could change, the company said, and the capsule will pause three times for go/no-go checks using information from its close-range guidance systems before berthing.
About two hours after it is captured, the unmanned capsule will be bolted into place for its two-and-a-half-week stay. After the resupplies are pulled off, astronauts will reload the craft with scientific experiments and failed equipment that can be repaired and sent back.
SpaceX launched the first commercial space cargo mission on Sunday night. But a minute and 19 seconds after the Falcon 9 booster lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, one of the nine Merlin engines that power the rocket "lost pressure suddenly," the company disclosed Monday.
The rocket "did exactly what it was designed to do," as its flight computer made adjustments to keep the Dragon headed into the proper orbit.
California-based SpaceX said earlier that controllers are reviewing flight data in an effort to figure out what happened to the booster rocket, but initial readings indicate the No. 1 engine fairing broke apart under stress.
Sunday's launch was the first of a dozen freight runs SpaceX, founded in 2002 by Elon Musk, is slated to make to the station under a contract with NASA, which plans to turn much of its focus toward exploring deep into the solar system. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden called it "a critical event in space flight."
SpaceX, meanwhile, is looking beyond just cargo flights to developing a human-rated version of the Dragon that would carry astronauts to the ISS. It's one of three companies, along with Sierra Nevada and aerospace giant Boeing, that NASA has chosen to work on the project.
And within the next few months, Orbital Sciences is expected to fly its own demonstration flight to the space station. Instead of using Cape Canaveral as its launch site, the company's rocket will take off from Wallops Island, off the coast of Virginia. Orbital has a nearly $2 billion contract with NASA for station resupply missions.