SpaceX’s Dragon CRS-3 mission to the International Space Station (ISS) has once again been scrubbed. On Friday, NASA confirmed that the launch of the unmanned cargo ship has been delayed due to the failure of a tracking radar, which meant that the launch could not meet the minimum public safety requirements.
In a statement, NASA explained that the delay in the launch of the CRS-3 mission was not due to any fault in the spacecraft or its launch system, but because a tracking radar developed a fault on March 24. A short circuit caused the radar unit to overheat and rendered it inoperable. The US Air Force is evaluating the damage and how to repair it, but the estimate is that it will take at least three weeks. However, engineers are looking at ways to speed up the work.
This is the second delay for CRS-3. Originally slated to launch on March 16, this date was pushed back because a contaminant was found in the unpressurized cargo module of the spacecraft. Because of concerns that the oily contaminant would boil away in the vacuum of space and coat the delicate optics of some equipment headed for the ISS, the launch was cancelled to allow time to unload the spacecraft and clean out the contaminant.
The CRS-3 mission marks the first time that a Falcon-9 booster rocket includes legs designed to allow the booster to make a powered landing rather than splash down in the ocean. However, on this flight, the legs are merely along for the ride rather than operational because more work needs to be done on making a controlled precision landing.
NASA and SpaceX say that the new launch date for CRS-3 has yet to be determined.