A private rocket successfully sent a capsule full of cargo zipping toward the International Space Station in a first of its kind delivery for NASA, but couldn't deliver on job No. 2: putting a commercial satellite into the correct orbit.
One of nine engines on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket failed 79 seconds after launch Sunday because of a pressure loss. The failure started a series of events that meant another company's private satellite is not in the place it is needed.
The main mission for the Falcon launch — delivering half a ton of science and food supplies toward the space station — is on track with a docking of the cargo-laden Dragon capsule scheduled for Wednesday. SpaceX on Monday said the ship's flight computer calculated a new path to the station for the capsule. It is the first of a dozen supply runs under a megacontract with NASA.
"Falcon 9 did exactly what it was designed to do. … Falcon 9 is designed to handle an engine out situation and still complete its mission," the California-based SpaceX said.
But not all of its mission.
The original plan was for the Falcon to fire its second stage engines after Dragon left and then deploy an industrial communications satellite into orbit for Orbcomm of Dulles, Va.
Because this is a new resupply ship for the space station, NASA and its international partners had set detailed safety rules in advance for the Falcon, even though the engine failure was far from the station. And those rules prevented SpaceX from firing its second stage engines, Orbcomm said in a statement.
The satellite is in a lower orbit and engineers are trying to figure how to boost it, Orbcomm said.