After the successful launch of SpaceX Dragon for space station SpaceX chief Elon Musk said it was like winning super bowl: Musk (video)
The Dragon cargo capsule by SpaceX has made history as the Falcon 9 rocket took off from its launch-pad. SpaceX is now officially the world’s first commercial supply flight to the Internal Space Station.
The previous launch attempt on Saturday morning was aborted barely half a second left before lift-off. The on-board computers of the Falcon shut the engines down due to high pressure in the combustion chamber of engine number 5. The fault was traced to a faulty valve which the engineers worked on until evening and replaced it successfully.
The abort on Saturday caused dejection because the weather was perfect and there were no earlier countdown problems whatsoever. Around 1,000 guests from NASA and SpaceX were present on Saturday looking forward to the launch of the first commercial vessel into space. In December 2010, SpaceX successfully launched a spacecraft into space and retrieved it, becoming the first private company to achieve the feat.
The California-based SpaceX is run by billionaire Elon Musk, co-founder of PayPal. The company is the first ever private business to propel a vessel to the ISS. Musk has pumped in millions from his own pocket into the company, and NASA’s contribution amounts to $381 million as seed money. More than a $1 billion has been spent for the endeavour.
The Dragon capsule is carrying 1,000 pounds of cargo for the ISS on its first flight, and thereafter it’ll advance on to ferry astronauts preceded by several trials which could take more than four years. The cargo is not carrying anything crucial, just in case it’s a failure.
After the successful launch today, the Dragon capsule will reach the space station later on Thursday and go through several practice manoeuvres before getting within reach of the space station. On Friday, the capsule will be docked on to the ISS with its 58-foot robot arm. The robot arm will be operated by Donald Pettit, an American, and Andre Kuipers, a Dutch.
The Dragon capsule will stay docked at the space station for a week and thereafter parachute down into the Pacific Ocean with equipment and scientific samples. At present, none of the capsules from Russia, Europe and Japan are designed to return intact – they burn up on re-entry.
The switchover to commercial spaceflights is a part of President Barack Obama’s space exploration plan. NASA will aim towards spending its limited resources on missions beyond low-Earth orbit. Meanwhile, until private spacecrafts are ready to operate, Russian rockets will continue to ferry NASA astronauts to the ISS.
NASA’s space shuttle fleet was retired last summer. The retired shuttles — Discovery, Endeavour and Atlantis — have now been handed over to museums. Until last summer, NASA’s shuttles carried a major volume of the space station equipment, including crew members. The goal of the current mission is to send astronauts from the U.S. soil once again.
While the launch is a historic moment, both NASA and SpaceX emphasised that this is a demonstration flight and that in case of a failure, it would still be a great learning opportunity.