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SpaceX Dragon Launches, Rendezvous and Berthing to Station Delayed
The SpaceX Dragon launches

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, with its Dragon spacecraft onboard, lifts off from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Image credit: NASA TV

The SpaceX 2 mission to the International Space Station began Friday with the launch of the Dragon capsule at 10:10 a.m. EST from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

› Read more about SpaceX 2

After Dragon achieved orbit, the spacecraft experienced an issue with some of its thrusters. Dragon will be put through a series of tests and check outs to ensure the thrusters are working properly. Once flight control teams at SpaceX and NASA are satisfied that the cargo vehicle is ready, it will begin a series of burns to get to the station. Docking will not occur before Sunday, and the teams will look at the data and assess options before determining a time.

Once Dragon completes its rendezvous with the station, it will be grappled by Expedition 34 Commander Kevin Ford using the 57.7-foot Canadarm2. Flight Engineers Tom Marshburn and Chris Hadfield will join Ford in the cupola to assist with the capture by tracking the approach of Dragon and relaying information to and from the team at Houston’s Mission Control Center to coordinate the onboard activities.

Once Dragon is securely in the grasp of Canadarm2, the robotics officer at Mission Control will remotely operate the arm to guide the capsule to its port on the Earth-facing side of the Harmony module.

Expedition 34 crew members

Members of the Expedition 34 crew watch the launch of the SpaceX Dragon on a television monitor in the Destiny laboratory. Credit: NASA TV

During Dragon’s stay at the orbiting laboratory, the crew is scheduled to unload around 1,200 pounds of science cargo, station hardware and crew supplies from the craft and reload it with more than 2,600 pounds of experiment samples and equipment for return to Earth. After Dragon’s mission at the station is completed, the crew will use Canadarm2 to detach Dragon and release it for a parachute-assisted splashdown in the Pacific Ocean about 300 miles west of the coast of Baja California.

Meanwhile aboard the station Friday, Ford, Hadfield and Marshburn enjoyed some off-duty time as they await the arrival of the Dragon cargo craft.

Ford, Hadfield and Marshburn also spent some time reviewing robotics and berthing procedures in the U.S. Destiny laboratory to prepare for Dragon’s rendezvous with the station.

Flight Engineers Evgeny Tarelkin and Oleg Novitskiy worked in the Russian segment of the station to prepare for the installation of the Obstanovka experiment, which is designed to measure the effect of plasma waves on a variety of materials housed outside of the Zvezda service module.

Obstanovka is set to be installed on the exterior of the orbiting complex by Flight Engineer Roman Romanenko and Expedition 35 Flight Engineer Pavel Vinogradov during a spacewalk planned for April 19. Other experiments already mounted outside the Zvezda service module will be retrieved during the excursion, which will be the first of six Russian spacewalks planned in 2013.