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SpaceX Crew Dragon Capsule Undocks from International Space Station

The Dragon is the first American commercially built-and-operated crew spacecraft in eight years, since the end of the space shuttle program.

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In this photo provided by NASA, the SpaceX Crew Dragon is pictured about 20 meters (66 feet) away from the International Space Station’s Harmony module, March 3, 2019. It left Friday to splash down in the Atlantic. VOA

The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule has undocked from the International Space Station.

The Dragon pulled away from the station early Friday, and an Atlantic Ocean splashdown is expected Friday morning.

The Dragon brought supplies and equipment to the space station where it stayed five days as astronauts conducted tests and inspected the Dragon’s cabin.

The crew capsule did not have any humans aboard, just a test dummy named Ripley, a reference to the lead character in the “Alien” movies. Ripley was riddled with sensors to monitor how flight in the capsule would feel for humans.

The Dragon is the first American commercially built-and-operated crew spacecraft in eight years, since the end of the space shuttle program.

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The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule has undocked from the International Space Station. Pixabay

The U.S. relies on Russia to launch astronauts to the space station, at a cost of about $80 million per ticket.

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NASA has awarded millions of dollars to SpaceX and Boeing to design and operate a capsule to launch astronauts into orbit from American soil beginning some time this year.

It is not immediately clear if that goal will be reached.

SpaceX is entrepreneur Elon Musk’s company. Musk is also the CEO of electric carmaker Tesla. (VOA)

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Power Shortage in ISS Delays SpaceX Supply Run

Solar wings collect and generate electricity for the entire space station. Any breakdown in this critical system can cut into power and affect operations.

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In this photo provided by NASA, NASA astronaut Anne McClain and Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques float outside the International Space Station, Monday, April 8, 2019, as they tackle battery and cable work. VOA

A major power shortage at the International Space Station has delayed this week’s SpaceX supply run.

SpaceX was supposed to launch a shipment Wednesday. But an old power-switching unit malfunctioned at the space station Monday and knocked two power channels offline. The six remaining power channels are working normally, according to NASA.

NASA stressed Tuesday that the station and its six astronauts are safe. But because of the hobbled solar-power grid, the SpaceX launch is off until at least Friday. NASA wants to replace the failed unit to restore full power, before sending up the SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule.

FILE - The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule approaches the International Space Station, March 3, 2019.
The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule approaches the International Space Station, March 3, 2019. VOA

The breakdown has left the station’s big robot arm outside with one functioning power channel instead of two. Two power sources are required — one as a backup — when the robot arm is used to capture visiting spacecraft like the Dragon.

Flight controllers will use the robot arm to replace the bad unit with a spare later this week, saving the astronauts from going out on a spacewalk.

There’s no rush for this delivery. Northrop Grumman launched supplies two weeks ago.

Solar wings collect and generate electricity for the entire space station. Any breakdown in this critical system can cut into power and affect operations.

SpaceX, meanwhile, is still investigating this month’s fiery loss of its new Dragon capsule designed for astronauts.

 

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SpaceX and NASA have offered few details. But the accident is sure to delay launching a crew Dragon with two NASA astronauts on board. SpaceX had been aiming for a summertime flight. Pixabay

Six weeks after a successful test flight without a crew to the space station, the crew Dragon was engulfed in flames during a ground test. SpaceX was in the process of firing the capsule’s thrusters on a test stand. The April 20 accident — which occurred right before or during the firing of the launch-abort thrusters — sent thick smoke billowing into the sky.

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SpaceX and NASA have offered few details. But the accident is sure to delay launching a crew Dragon with two NASA astronauts on board. SpaceX had been aiming for a summertime flight.

The company still needs to conduct a launch-abort test, before astronauts strap in. The Dragon that flew last month was supposed to be used for this test in June. (VOA)