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Glitch in Falcon 9 Engine Leaves Satellite in Wrong Orbit

Oct 10, 2012 08:11 AM EDT

SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket suffered a glitch during the launch to the International Space Station (ISS), officials said Tuesday.

The glitch caused a communications satellite OG2, flying aboard the rocket as a secondary payload, to be placed in the wrong orbit, reported OG2 satellite is owned by New Jersey-based private company, Orbcomm, which provides satellite communications.

Falcon 9 rocket carrying SpaceX's dragon capsule blasted off successfully to the ISS Sunday from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Just seconds after launch, one of the nine engines on the rocket failed to work due to the loss of pressure. It forced the rocket to issue a shut down command to the engine. However, the other engines were not affected by the slight glitch and they worked longer to compensate the loss of one engine.

The rocket was successfully launched and placed the dragon capsule in orbit. But the OG2 satellite was placed in the wrong orbit.

"The OG2 prototype satellite was deployed into an orbit that was lower than intended," Orbcomm officials wrote in a statement Monday (Oct. 8).

"Orbcomm and Sierra Nevada Corporation engineers have been in contact with the satellite and are working to determine if and the extent to which the orbit can be raised to an operational orbit using the satellite's on-board propulsion system."

Meanwhile, the dragon capsule is on its way to reach the ISS. The unmanned spacecraft is carrying about 1,000 pounds of cargo materials including food supplies and other equipments to the ISS. It will make contact ISS Wednesday (Oct.10).

NASA astronaut Sunita Williams and Akihiko Hoshide of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) will grab the robotic arm of the capsule at 7:22 a.m. EDT and berth it to the Earth-facing port of the space station's Harmony module.

The spacecraft will spend three weeks at the Harmony module before returning to Earth Oct. 28. It will carry 2,000 pounds of cargo and will splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California.

Dragon is the first of the 12 private cargo supply flights (owned by SpaceX) to be sent to the ISS. NASA has signed a $1.6-billion contract with the California-based company to use their cargo flights in the future.

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