Early Wednesday morning, SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft will carefully begin a docking process on the International Space Station to deliver supplies to and from the ISS. The cargo capsule launched on Sunday evening
, and appeared to go off without a hitch. But on the morning after, a view of the Falcon 9 rocket booster showed one of the nine engines that powered the craft broke apart
. Luckily, the other eight engines remained functional and sent Dragon into the desired preliminary orbit.
After reaching preliminary orbit, Dragon detached from Falcon 9's second stage
and released its solar arrays to get close to the ISS. From here, SpaceX says its unmanned capsule will communicate via UHF
(ultra-high frequency) signal and through the on-board crew-command panel, which will be receiving instructions from the (terrestrial) crew.
If all goes well, around 4:13am CT Dragon will burn its engines to reach within 250 m (820 ft) of the ISS. From there, Dragon will hold its position and engage its LiDAR
and thermal imaging sensors to make sure the craft is aligned properly, checking LiDAR readings against thermal readings for accuracy. If all's well, the Dragon team in Hawthore, California, and NASA's flight control team in Houston will let Dragon approach further.
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