Thu, May 02, 2019 - Page 7 News List

ISS power shortage delays SpaceX Dragon supply run

CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida

The International Space Station is pictured from the space shuttle Discovery on March 25, 2009.

Photo: AP

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

SpaceX was supposed to launch a shipment yesterday, but an old power-switching unit malfunctioned at the space station on Monday and knocked two power channels offline.

The six remaining power channels are working normally, NASA said on Tuesday, adding that the station and its six astronauts are safe.

However, because of the hobbled solar power grid, the SpaceX launch is off until at least tomorrow.

NASA wants to replace the failed unit to restore full power, before sending up the SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule.

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 are to 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 is no rush for the delivery. Northrop Grumman launched supplies two weeks ago.

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

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

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.

SpaceX and NASA have offered few details. 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 next month.

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