22 May 2012
The Falcon 9 rocket lifts off from space launch complex 40 at Cape Canaveral in Floriday early Tuesday, May 22, 2012. This is the first time a private company sends its own rocket to deliver supplies on the International Space Station. (CREDIT: AP Photo/John Raoux)

At 3:44 a.m. the unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket basted off from Cape Canaveral Florida with 1300 pounds of food, clothing and science experiments in route to the International Space Station (ISS) making history and opening up a new era in private space travel.   Falcon 9 becomes the first private rocket to deliver supplies to ISS.

Measuring Stick for Future Missions

This mission will serve as a measuring stick to gauge the company's ability to safely and efficiently deliver supplies to astronauts on ISS.

If SpaceX succeeds this will open the flood gates on the commercial exploitation of space.

Tuesday's launch came after six years of preparations.  Once the space shuttle fleet had been retired NASA has been looking into the private sector for help.  NASA currently relies on Russia to ferry astronauts to ISS.  SpaceX is backed by entrepreneur Elon Musk, the founder of PayPal.

"Every bit of adrenaline in my body released at that moment," Musk said of the launch from a statement released by NASA.  "People were giving it their all.  For us, it was like winning the Super Bowl."

Falcon 9

The rocket launched flawlessly this time, though the previous launch had to be scrubbed at the last second due to a faulty valve on one of the rockets engines.

Falcon 9 is 180 feet tall and 12 feet around, which is tiny compared to the football field length Saturn V rockets from the Apollo era. 

Dragon Capsule and the Forthcoming Docking with ISS

The Dragon cargo capsule is capable of carrying 13,228 pounds of supplies into orbit.  The capsule will perform a series of maneuvers that will bring it within reach of the space stations robotic arm on Friday.  Pending the go-ahead from NASA, the crew will use the arm and attach the capsule to the station to unload the supplies.

Once there it will remain attached for two weeks, then head back to the Earth and splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the California Coast.

For this trip the cargo includes 674 pounds of food, clothing and supplies, 46 pounds of supplies for scientific research, 271 pounds of cargo bags for future flights and 22 pounds of computer equipment.

The capsule will bring back science experiments, hardware and used gear.


The Tech-Stew Take Home

The significance of this launch simply cannot be overstated.  This was a historic day for space flight, particularly that of the private sector.  Private sector space flights will help push us closer to the stars.  This date is also significant as it gets the United States working towards the goal of being self-sufficient in space once again.  Not that there is anything wrong with International cooperation, but its symbolic for the greatest nation in the world to have achievements such as these.  There are other private companies working on similar arrangements with NASA, though SpaceX is planning 11 more flights to the space station in the future and even has their sights set on Mars.  Hopefully this private space competition will continue to push us outward into space and enhance development of space transportation.

Source: Sltrib.com

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