SpaceX Launch & Attending An Event Via the Internet


Regular spaceflight has returned to US soil, this time by private company SpaceX, as the Dragon spacecraft successfully launched Sunday evening. It's the first of a 12 mission contract with NASA, and follows up the demonstration mission in May that I covered on this site. Hopefully, astronauts will be future cargo - but for now it's scientific equipment, clothing, and food for the International Space Station.

The internet has given us the opportunity to be a part of events that we can't physically attend.  I say "physically attend", because participating in an event with video and chat can be as enthralling as actually being there. I had this experience this weekend, where I had to cancel a trip to cover the SpaceX launch as a member of the media. 

I was still able to watch the event via UStream and communicate with my fellow space geeks via Twitter. I still got the same nerd high that I get when I'm at an event, and I still cheered when I saw the Dragon spacecraft lift up from the launchpad. Sure, I wish I was there. But I definitely had the next best thing.

The full press release is available below from the SpaceX website:

Cape Canaveral, FL — Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) today successfully launched its Dragon spacecraft aboard a Falcon 9 rocket on the first official cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. The launch went off on schedule at 8:35 p.m. ET from Launch Complex 40 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The SpaceX CRS-1 mission marks the first of at least 12 SpaceX missions to the space station under the company’s cargo resupply contract with NASA. On board the Dragon spacecraft are materials to support investigations planned for the station’s Expedition 33 crew, as well as crew supplies and space station hardware.
Dragon – the only space station cargo craft capable of returning a significant amount of supplies back to Earth -- will return with scientific materials and space station hardware.
The Falcon 9 rocket, powered by nine Merlin engines, performed nominally today during every phase of its approach to orbit, including two stage separations, solar array deployment, and the final push of Dragon into its intended orbit. Dragon will now chase the space station before beginning a series of burns that will bring it into close proximity to the station. If all goes well, Dragon will attach to the complex on October 10 and spend over two weeks there before an expected return to Earth on October 28.
“We are right where we need to be at this stage in the mission,” said Elon Musk, CEO and Chief Technical Officer, SpaceX. “We still have a lot of work to do, of course, as we guide Dragon’s approach to the space station. But the launch was an unqualified success.”
The CRS-1 mission follows a historic demonstration flight last May when SpaceX’s Dragon became the first commercial spacecraft to attach to the space station, exchange cargo, and return safely to Earth. The flight signaled restoration of American capability to resupply the space station, not possible since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011.
About SpaceX
SpaceX designs, manufactures, and launches the world's most advanced rockets and spacecraft. The company was founded in 2002 by Elon Musk to revolutionize space transportation, with the ultimate goal of enabling people to live on other planets. Today, SpaceX is advancing the boundaries of space technology through its Falcon launch vehicles and Dragon spacecraft. SpaceX is a private company owned by management and employees, with minority investments from Founders Fund, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, and Valor Equity Partners. The company has more than 1,800 employees in California, Texas, Washington, D.C., and Florida. For more information, visit SpaceX.com.

NASA Unveils the Orion Spacecraft


NASA has plans for the space exploration, despite the fact that the Shuttle program is over.  NASA's new spacecraft, the Orion, has just been unveiled during the 50th anniversary celebration of the Kennedy Space Center. Orion, in conjunction with the private industry SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, will ensure that NASA has its hands in space exploration for years to come.

The Orion photo above shows the different parts of the spacecraft. On top, a launch abort system is in place if the spacecraft needs to quickly separate from the rocket in case of emergency. The crew module is where the crew hangs out, and the service module has support equipment. It bears a striking resemblance to the old Apollo spacecraft that we used to get to the moon. This reflects NASA's new mission of single purpose, focused spacecraft, as opposed to the one-use-for-everything Space Shuttle.

According to SpaceFlightNow the plans are for a test flights in 2014 in 2017, followed by a flight with a crew of up to four astronauts in 2021. 

SpaceX's Dragon to Become First Commercial Aircraft to Visit International Space Station

The title pretty much says it all. At 4:45am EST on May 19th, SpaceX will live stream the launch of their Dragon spacecraft on a Falcon 9 rocket. It's a huge day for space geeks such as myself, but I'm glad that the coverage is extending to the mainstream.

For all of the talk about budget cuts to NASA and ending the shuttle program, it's great to report on the future of space travel. I really believe that space (and the ocean) need to be explored to better understand what role we play in this vast universe. It's not about finding aliens, but about doing the science that's hard to do within the physical confines of Earth. But I won't lie and say I wouldn't be excited if we found a Mass Relay ...

Note that this is a demonstration mission, but assuming everything goes well cargo (and potentially astronauts) will be ferried back and forth in the future.

For more info check out their press kit.