SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon Capsule blasted off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on its fourth secluded launch attempt on Tuesday May 22. This flight marks an historic milestone of SpaceX as the first commercial company to resupply the International Space Station, something only a few nations have achieved history. Cost-cutting measures and competition help to lower the overall expense of supporting the ISS, and allow NASA to focus on their future goals of the post-shuttle era.
“Were really at the dawn of a new generation in space exploration,” said Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer. Musk compares this new phase in space exploration to the Internet, because it was also started by government and later propelled by private business to expand its influence and depth.
The pitch black night of 3:44 a.m was momentary blasted away by the brilliant yellow glow of liquid fuel igniting as the Falcon 9 rocket blasted off from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Base.
As rocket launches go, this was considered textbook, with boosters solidly firing as the rocket left the gravity of Earth and enter low orbit.
The successful launch is only the start of a complex mission for the Dragon Capsule as it continues to undergo its testing phase. Separation from the rocket and the deployment of the solar arrays quickly follow after launch and were observed to be successful. Next is the critical rendezvous and docking with the ISS to exchange some basic crew supplies and return with cargo intact.
“Another super great day for SpaceX and NASA, and the beginning of another historic mission in commercial spaceflight,” said Alan Lindenmoyer, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program. Lindenmoyer is responsible for overseeing the budget resources of the COTS program designed bring about the practicality changes associated with commercial spaceflight.
These goals are determined by NASA as part of its commercial crew program (COTS) that SpaceX competed for and won back in 2006. SpaceX is giving technical support and basic funding from NASA, as they continue to work on developing a stable rocket program and dependable delivery service. NASA is now solely dependent on commercial crew to deliver re-supplies to the ISS and are confident on the continued success of the COTS program.
“We do have a lot of work left to do upcoming here in the next 73 hours or so,” said SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell. The craft will now have to careful dock and resupply the ISS before returning safely hope for the mission to be considered a complete success.
Eventually SpaceX hopes to take on manned flights to bring crew as well as supplies to the ISS which saves NASA billions of dollars annually and end the reliance on the Russian space program. This also frees up financial resource that allows NASA to develop its new plans for space exploration and make better use of lower budgets of the administration.