Back in July we watched live as Space Shuttle Atlantis returned to Earth from outer space for the last time ever as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration brought to an end (at least for the foreseeable future) to the US space program. Today, the private sector picks up where NASA left off with the launch of the first privately owned spacecraft into space. Space Exploration Technologies successfully launched the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket this morning that will transport Space Capsule Dragon into space for docking with the International Space Station currently orbiting Earth. Click below to watch video of the launch and read more deets about this bold new step forward in space exploration.
Space Exploration Technologies, the first company aiming to reach the International Space Station, got off to a rocking start early Tuesday with the launch of its Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The 178-foot tall rocket, which carried a Dragon cargo capsule, lifted off at 3:44 a.m. EDT, arcing out over the Atlantic Ocean as it headed to a preliminary orbit about 200 miles above Earth. Eleven minutes later, Dragon passed its first key test, deploying solar panels needed to power the spacecraft. Many more milestones will need to be met before NASA clears Dragon to approach the space station for berthing. If all goes as planned, space station flight engineer Don Pettit is expected to use the station’s robotic crane to pluck Dragon from orbit on Friday and attach it to a docking port. The capsule is carrying about 1,200 pounds of food, water, clothes and supplies for the station crew. It is scheduled to bring back about 1,300 pounds of gear when it returns to Earth on May 31. Dragon is the first privately owned spacecraft to head to the International Space Station. NASA is counting on SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp. to deliver cargo beginning this year. SpaceX also is in the running to build a space taxi for astronauts.
And so … man continues to push the boundaries and moves space exploration into new territory. Altho this privately owned space craft is unmanned, its successful completion of its mission will provide lots of important data for SpaceX. It is hoped that we will, one day, be able to fly into space just as easily as we fly around the world on airplanes. I was really bummed by the news that NASA ended its space program but this new beginning with SpaceX is very exciting. Today’s launch may not have been all that exciting in comparison to the space launches we’ve seen in past years but it’s a start … hopefully the start of an entirely new world of space travel.