Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) yesterday evening launched its Dragon spacecraft into orbit from Cape Canaveral. The Dragon was lifted by a Falcon 9 rocket at 8:35 am, right on schedule. The vehicle carries cargo and supplies bound for the International Space Station (ISS).
This SpaceX mission is NASA's first privatized cargo and resupply mission under its Commercial Resupply Services contract. SpaceX is contracted to fly 12 more cargo missions to the International Space Station from now until 2016.
"Just over one year after the retirement of the space shuttle, we have returned space station cargo resupply missions to U.S. soil and are bringing the jobs associated with this work back to America," said Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator. "The SpaceX launch tonight marks the official start of commercial resupply missions by American companies operating out of U.S. spaceports like the one right here in Florida."
The Dragon is scheduled to be grappled by the ISS on Wednesday at 7:22 am. ISS crew members Sunita Williams of NASA and Aki Hoshide of Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will use the station's robotic arm to dock the Dragon, which will spend 18 days docked to the station.
The Dragon capsule carries 882 pounds of supplies, including 390 pounds of material for scientific research. When it returns to earth, splashing into the Pacific Ocean, it will be holding 1,673 pounds of used crew supplies, scientific research, and vehicle hardware.