When SpaceX launches a Dragon capsule full of supplies toward the International Space Station Sunday night, it will be the beginning of a new era for space exploration. It will be the first privately funded commercial spacecraft to deliver cargo shipments to space.
After SpaceX successfully tested its Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon capsule in May (see its historic docking in the gallery below), now it’s ready to actually deliver the goods, consisting of a half a ton of equipment and supplies. If all goes well with the launch attempt, set for 8:35 p.m. ET Sunday night, the Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to arrive at the space station on Wednesday, October 10.
This initial mission carrying a half-ton of cargo will be the first of 12 resupply flights NASA has contracted with SpaceX. The space agency and SpaceX have made a $1.6 billion deal to deliver 20 metric tons of supplies into space for NASA.
Tonight’s launch puts the United States back into the space launching business again, a welcome capability for NASA, whose space shuttle fleet has been retired since Space Shuttle Atlantis landed on on July 21, 2011 after its last flight.
If the weather is clear, people on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States will be able to see the launch. According to Space.com, the Falcon 9 launch vehicle will be especially visible from the southeast U.S. coastline, with a less dramatic view in the mid-Atlantic and Northeast coastal regions:
- Southeast U.S. coastline: Anywhere north of Cape Canaveral, viewers should initially concentrate on the south-southwest horizon. If you are south of the Cape, look low toward the north-northeast. If you’re west of the Cape, look low toward the east-northeast.
- Mid-Atlantic region: Look toward the south about 3 to 6 minutes after launch.
- Northeast: Concentrate your gaze low toward the south-southeast about 6 to 8 minutes after launch.
Get out your binoculars, and look close to the horizon for the spacecraft.
SpaceX Dragon Capsule flying in formation with the ISS
Dragon Flying over the World
ISS Arm Moving toward Dragon in a Graphic View
Dragon Graphic of the Approach Plan
NASA Mission Control 2
Dragon and ISS Coming Together Sideview
Dragon and the ISS Grapple
NASA and SpaceX Move the Dragon Back Away from the ISS
NASA has awarded Boeing (not to be confused with “Boing Boing,” you guys), SpaceX, and a Colorado-based systems integration firm more than a billion in contracts to developspacecraft capable of carrying astronauts. The Chicago-based aerospace giant Boeing gets $460 million. Elon Musk’s space transportation startup SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, CA, gets $440 million. And Sierra Nevada Corp. in Colorado gets $212.5 milion. NASA’s press release is here.
Above: NASA Astronaut Rex Walheim stands inside the Dragon Crew Engineering Model at SpaceX headquarters, during a day-long review of the Dragon crew vehicle layout.(Photo: SpaceX)
Two months ago, SpaceX launched its Dragon space capsule into Earth orbit to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. In doing so, it became the first private company in history to berth a spacecraft with the ISS.
It took nine days for SpaceX’s Dragon capsule to make its groundbreaking roundtrip visit to the ISS. Now, the company has released this fantastic collection of highlights from the mission, which features some really gorgeous launch footage. Give it a watch. If you managed to miss the mission as it played out back in May, it’s a brief but compelling recap. And if you followed it closely the first time around, it’s a great way to relive the experience.
SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft successfully departed the International Space Station at 4:07am ET and began its gentle descent into the atmosphere soon after. It’s the home straight for the historic private spaceflight company as it concludes its first ever supply mission to the heavens. It’s due to splash down in the Pacific Ocean, a few hundred miles off the coast of southern California at 11:44am ET. If you’d like to watch the craft being retrieved from its watery berth then head on past the break, with coverage set to begin from 10:15am ET.
We made a lot of hoopla over the recent SpaceX launch—and for good reason. A private company has done for the first time what previously took the efforts of enormous governments. It put cargo in space! But what exactly?
Tested.com says a total of 1,455 pounds of stuff was hauled up to the International Space Station—primarily grub for those hungry astronauts. We haven’t found a way to replace them with androids—and besides, we have reason to believe that won’t end well—so food will continue to be a huge (and hugely expensive) portion of space freight. So, SpaceX took up 674 pounds of food, providing 117 “standard meals” and 45 “low sodium” meals. The rest? Sophisticated sounding stuff like a “NanoRacks Module 9” and JAXA Multiplexer. Read the full cargo manifest below. [NASA via Tested]
SpaceX’s Dragon capsule has successfully docked with the International Space Station, making SpaceX the first privately owned company in history to achieve such a feat.
This success came after a long period of planning and several launch delays. While there’s still work to be done (the Dragon must successfully return to Earth), it’s a historic event, hopefully marking the beginning of a new era of privately funded space exploration.
Now that the docking process is complete, the astronauts aboard the ISS will open the Dragon’s hatch and unload the supplies the spacecraft is carrying.
After that, they’ll load used equipment into the Dragon, which will return back to Earth approximately two weeks later. The Dragon is scheduled to land in the Pacific, hundreds of miles west of Southern California.
Check out a gallery of photos from the mission tweeted by SpaceX below and our interview with SpaceX’s founder and chief designer Elon Musk here.
Just when he thought his week couldn’t get much better — what could toppioneering private space travel? — Elon Musk, the serial entrepreneur behindSpaceX, got a call from President Obama which prompted him to post this epic tweet.
@elonmuskThe President just called to say congrats. Caller ID was blocked, so at first I thought it was a telemarketer 🙂
As we revealed earlier, following its successful maiden launch, SpaceX has orders for 40 rocket launches, worth around $4 billion, stacking up.
According to the Falcon 9′s Wikipedia page (check source notes 45 through 70 for background data), the company has some 29 missions lined up through 2017, the last of which, set to take place over several years, will include up to ten total launches, with multiple satellites in each payload.
That phone isn’t likely to stop ringing for some time.
First it was on, then it was off. Then on, thenoff. Then it had a little wobble. Now, SpaceX has finally launched, making its NASA’s first successful involvement with the world of private space flight. This is a momentous day for science, engineering and space travel.
After launching at 3:44:38 ET, the Falcon 9 rocket booster and SpaceX Dragon capsule finally made their way into space. So far, Falcon 9 and the Dragon are in orbit, and the Dragon has successfully deployed its solar arrays.
Over the next few days, the Dragon will orbit Earth and then begin its approach to the International Space Station. The craft will then undergo intensive sensor and flight system testing and, if that goes well, it will approach the ISS on Thursday for final tests. The big day comes Friday when, if absolutely everything has gone to plan, Dragon will dock with the ISS.
You can find out when you might be able to see the Dragon pass over your city here.
Its first launch attempt was cut short less than a second before liftoff on Saturday morning, but private space transportation company SpaceX will be trying once again to send its Dragon capsule to the International Space Station early tomorrow morning.
Saturday’s launch was scrubbed when an onboard computer detected what SpaceX CEO Elon Musk described as “slightly high combustion chamber pressure” in one of the Falcon 9 rocket’s nine engines, all of which are needed to lift the unmanned Dragon capsule into orbit. The problem was later traced to a valve in engine five, which has since been replaced.
If all goes well, the rocket will lift off tomorrow morning from Cape Canaveral at 3:44 a.m. EDT (12:44 a.m. PDT). If the launch is successful, and the Dragon capsule can dock with the ISS, it will mark a major milestone in the new age of space transport.
Before it could slip the surly bonds of earth and dance the skies on laughter-silvered wings, SpaceX’s Falcon 9’s early morning launch was unfortunately scrapped by Nasa today due to higher than normal pressure readings in its number five engine.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 aborted its launch May 19 moments after its engines ignited when computers detected higher pressure readings than allowed. The center engine pressure built above limits and a shutdown occurred one-half second before liftoff, SpaceX officials said.
Before the spacecraft makes another launch attempt—so it can rendezvous and dock with the International Space Station—the Falcon 9 will be moved off the launch pad and returned to its hangar where the engine can be thoroughly inspected. And if engineers do discover a problem, the engine will be swapped out with a backup so the Falcon 9 can make another launch attempt as early as Tuesday morning if all goes well. [NASA via Dvice]
Image by SpaceX