Off the coast of California today, the SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule plunged into the Pacific Ocean following its decent from the International Space Station and ending the first commercial journey to the ISS.
The mission was designed to not only deliver fresh supplies to astronaut crews on the space station, which has facilitated continuous human presence in space for 12 years, but to demonstrate that commercial cargo transport to space is possible. The success of the mission will catalyze future discussion leading toward the inevitable attempt by a commercial space company to send a human space flight into low earth orbit or dock with the ISS. The Dragon capsule itself can serve as a human transport vehicle though the use of the capsule for human space flight has yet to be attempted.
Last week did not bode well for SpaceX’s first attempt at launching dragon. Aborted launches at 4am are not fun for viewers (I’m on the West Coast) never mind for the engineers that had to build, test and attempt to put the craft into space.
However, with a successful launch this past Tuesday, Dragon has now officially docked with the ISS to become the first commercial vehicle to do so. If deemed a success, this mission will secure a resupply contract for SpaceX to run similar missions in the future. The flight will also determine the capsule’s fitness for future human space missions.
And I also learned today that James Doohan (Scotty from Star Trek) ashes were also brought to space along with the capsule! May you continue to boldly go!
History is about to be made with the first private launch to the International Space Station.
The automated Dragon cargo ship, the product of private space flight company Space X, is due to launch at 4:55 EST. You can watch the launch live at NASA’s public “Ustream” http://www.ustream.tv/nasahdtv
The launch represents NASA’s new strategy to use private space companies such as Space X and the parallel Orbital Sciences Corporation to supply the ISS. Seed funding as well as access to NASA patents was provided to both companies to catalyze the transition.
Space X’s Dragon Capsule (below) will be used for cargo on this flight to the ISS, however the capsule has been designed to sustain a human crew planned for future launches
Below: A mockup of the capsule I captured while in the Vehicle Assembly Building this past March
Be sure to catch the launch at just before 5AM!