SpaceX Launches Falcon 9 Rocket…..FinallyBy: Richard Stalker - May 22, 2012
Today at 3:44AM SapceX finally launched their highly touted oft delayed Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Center. The Launch, which was originally slated for yesterday, was aborted due to a failed valve on engine #5 caused an unsafe rise in pressure in the engine.
The vehicle’s first stage performed nominally before separating from the second stage. The second stage successfully delivered the Dragon spacecraft into its intended orbit. This marks the third consecutive successful Falcon 9 launch and the fifth straight launch success for SpaceX.
With the launch being a success, then NASA has a few benchmarks for the Dragon to meet and if it does, they will try to dock it to the International Space Station.“We obviously have to go through a number of steps to berth with the Space Station, but everything is looking really good and I think I would count today as a success no matter what happens with the rest of the mission,” SpaceX boss Elon Musk said.
If the mission of docking with the ISS is successful, then SpaceX will begin to fulfill its contract through the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The resupply contract for the International Space Station has it making 12 runs, and since it is reusable, they will have the ability to ferry items back and forth, not just trash but experiments.“This mission heralds the dawn of a new era of space exploration, one in which there is a significant commercial space element.” said Musk. ” It is like the advent of the Internet in the mid-1990s when commercial companies entered what was originally a government endeavor. That move dramatically accelerated the pace of advancement and made the Internet accessible to the mass market. I think we’re at a similar inflection point for space. I hope and I believe that this mission will be historic in marking that turning point towards a rapid advancement in space transportation technology.”
The Dragon space capsule was designed to ferry humans also, so it is hoped that it will one day be the primary transport for NASA astronauts.
Mission Highlights: During the mission, Dragon must perform a series of complex tasks, each presenting significant technical challenges (dates subject to change):
May 22: Launch Day: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launches a Dragon spacecraft into orbit from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
May 23: Dragon orbits Earth as it travels toward the International Space Station.
May 24: Dragon’s sensors and flight systems are subjected to a series of complicated tests to determine if the vehicle is ready to berth with the space station; these tests include maneuvers and systems checks in which the vehicle comes within 1.5 miles of the station.
May 25: NASA decides if Dragon is allowed to attempt berthing with the station. If so, Dragon approaches. It is captured by station’s robotic arm and attached to the station, a feat that requires extreme precision.
May 25 – 31: Astronauts open Dragon’s hatch, unload supplies and fill Dragon with return cargo.
May 31: After approximately two weeks, Dragon is detached from the station and returns to Earth, landing in the Pacific, hundreds of miles west of Southern California.