SpaceX engineers were called upon to resolve an issue with the Crew Dragon Resilience discovered following the spacecraft’s separation from the Falcon 9 upper stage on November 16.
The Crew Dragon Resilience was launched aboard a Falcon 9 launch vehicle from Kennedy Space Center in Florida at 00:27 UTC. The spacecraft carried NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, and Shannon Walker, and JAXA astronaut Soichi Noguchi.
Following a successful launch, the Falcon 9 upper stage deployed the spacecraft into orbit around Earth. A short time later, the SpaceX Crew Operations and Resources Engineer (CORE) comms officer mentioned on the livestream that an alert aboard the spacecraft had been triggered indicating a problem with the thermal control system (TCS).
It was soon ascertained that the error was due to an issue with three or four propellant line heaters that ensure fuel to the Draco thrusters doesn’t freeze. The heaters were maintaining a 75°F (23°C) temperature despite being designed to maintain 60°F (15°C).
Despite the issue, a 9.5-minute rendezvous burn was completed without incident after resetting the TCS warning system. The crew was then given the go-ahead to remove their flight suits and settle in for their journey to the International Space Station, which included an 8-hour sleep period.
Approximately four hours after liftoff, the SpaceX comms officer reported that the issue with the propellant line heaters had been resolved.
In a NASA statement following the resolution, it was revealed that the heaters’ control limits were set too high. SpaceX engineers reset the limits and rebooted the system to resolve the issue. Once resolved, SpaceX verified that the heaters were working properly.
The Crew Dragon Resilience is expected to autonomously dock with the space station’s Harmony module at 04:00 UTC on November 17. The spacecraft and her crew are expected to remain aboard the low Earth orbit laboratory until May 2021.