May 22, 2012 9:26 AM GMT
Amazing. This really is the dawn of a new age. As people obsess over facebook, Elon Musk makes real advances in pursuing his vision of providing space travel to Mars.
A private space capsule called Dragon soared into the predawn sky Tuesday, riding a pillar of flame like its beastly namesake on a history-making trip to the International Space Station.
The unmanned capsule, built by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk's Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX), is the first non-governmental spacecraft to launch to the space station, ushering in a new era of partnership between the public and private spaceflight programs.
"I think this is an example of American entrepreneurship at its best," said Alan Lindenmoyer, manager of NASA's commercial crew and cargo program, in a briefing before the launch. About 100 VIP guests were on hand to witness the launch, NASA officials said.
The Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX launched its Dragon capsule at 3:44 a.m. EDT (0744 GMT) today (May 22) from a pad here at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. It blasted off atop SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, a 157-foot (48-meter) booster powered by nine Merlin rocket engines. The space station was flying 249 miles above the North Atlantic Ocean as the rocket lifted off, NASA officials said. [...]
The spacecraft is due to spend its first day on orbit catching up with the 240-mile high (390 km) space station, where it will rendezvous Thursday (May 24) and perform a fly-by to within 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) to check its navigation systems.
On Friday (May 25), the capsule is slated to perform a series of maneuvers to approach the station, with crewmembers onboard the outpost issuing commands to Dragon. If the spacecraft passes a set of "go-no go" checks at Mission Control in Houston, NASA will approve the vehicle to approach the International Space Station. From inside, astronauts Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers will use the lab's robotic arm to grab Dragon and berth it to the station's Harmony node.
The hatches between the two spacecraft are due to be opened early Saturday (May 26), so the crew can enter Dragon and unpack its deliveries.