Print 52 comment(s) - last by delphinus100.. on May 25 at 8:59 PM

Dragon capsule is on its way to the ISS

After scrubbing its planned launch on May 19 due to a faulty check valve, SpaceX proved its critics wrong this morning by successfully launching the Falcon 9 rocket with the Dragon capsule perched atop. The momentous launch took place at 3:44am EST this morning from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk -- also known for his ventures with Tesla Motors -- was understandably ecstatic about the success, and expressed his joy on Twitter, stating, “Falcon flew perfectly!! Dragon in orbit, comm locked and solar arrays active!! Feels like a giant weight just came off my back.”
With its solar arrays deployed, the Dragon capsule is on its way to the International Space Station (ISS) and should dock with the station on Friday.

Artist's rendition of the Dragon space capsule in orbit with its solar arrays deployed [Source: SpaceX]
John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology, issued this statement on behalf of The White House regarding the launch:
Congratulations to the teams at SpaceX and NASA for this morning’s successful launch of the Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Every launch into space is a thrilling event, but this one is especially exciting because it represents the potential of a new era in American spaceflight. Partnering with U.S. companies such as SpaceX to provide cargo and eventually crew service to the International Space Station is a cornerstone of the President’s plan for maintaining America’s leadership in space. This expanded role for the private sector will free up more of NASA’s resources to do what NASA does best -- tackle the most demanding technological challenges in space, including those of human space flight beyond low Earth orbit. I could not be more proud of our NASA and SpaceX scientists and engineers, and I look forward to following this and many more missions like it.
This marks the first time that a privately funded mission has made its way to the ISS. Upon successful completion of the mission, SpaceX will secure a lucrative $1.6 billion contract with NASA under which it will make 12 deliveries to the ISS.

Sources: SpaceX,

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RE: Lol, typos.
By Jeffk464 on 5/22/2012 8:50:19 AM , Rating: 2
Why use solar panels on short term flight vehicle? It seems like batteries or fuel cells make more sense.

RE: Lol, typos.
By nafhan on 5/22/2012 9:19:41 AM , Rating: 2
It probably makes more sense to just use a standard configuration, and the solar panels are part of that standard configuration. If they had both a battery and a solar version, it's possible one of them would be less reliable and/or more expensive.

Also, how long does something need to be in space for solar panels to make more sense than a battery? I don't know... However, it sounds like this is going to be a five day mission.

RE: Lol, typos.
By Reclaimer77 on 5/22/2012 9:31:19 AM , Rating: 4
It's part of the new Tesla Quick Charge (tm) technology! The Dragon will lower down power plugs to all 20 Tesla owners and orbit between the Earth and the Sun. The solar panels should decrease charging times by a whopping 37.5%!!

RE: Lol, typos.
By nafhan on 5/22/2012 2:52:38 PM , Rating: 2
I know you're joking, but I would somehow find the money to buy that system if it existed :)

RE: Lol, typos.
By JKflipflop98 on 5/22/2012 10:07:14 AM , Rating: 2
That, or they're just testing things out.

RE: Lol, typos.
By kattanna on 5/22/2012 10:27:57 AM , Rating: 5
Why use solar panels on short term flight vehicle?

solar panels provide a good weight to power ratio which it needs for its 3 day flight to the station, and to continue to poweer itself while docked for 3 weeks at the station, and then for its return flight back carry experiments back to earth.

batteries to contain that much power for the many weeks needed would be VERY heavy, or it would then be a drain on the station while docked, and thats if there is even a method of sending power to something docked.

so solar panels make very good sense here.

RE: Lol, typos.
By kattanna on 5/22/2012 11:58:46 AM , Rating: 2
also remember.. they are wanting to make this man rated someday, sooner rather then later, so there might be full environmental gear on board that needs continuous power

solely for testing right now.. but its the best time to do such tests.

RE: Lol, typos.
By Etsp on 5/22/2012 10:37:18 AM , Rating: 2
Probably weight was the deciding factor here.

The weight of the amount of batteries/fuel cells required to power the vehicle for the duration of its mission, with redundancy in case of problems, compared to the weight of smaller batteries and solar panels, (with a redundant solar panel) the solar panel solution was lighter.

Not to mention, fuel cells are a relatively new technology, I think it's unlikely that NASA feels the technology has been tested enough to be used for critical components in space.

RE: Lol, typos.
By JediJeb on 5/22/2012 11:43:13 AM , Rating: 2
Not to mention, fuel cells are a relatively new technology, I think it's unlikely that NASA feels the technology has been tested enough to be used for critical components in space.

Fuel cells were used on the Apollo missions, so I doubt they are too new a technology to be using here. It was a fuel cell oxygen tank malfunction that scuttled Apollo 13.

RE: Lol, typos.
By StormyKnight on 5/22/2012 11:26:50 PM , Rating: 2
They were used in project Gemini and the Space Shuttle. Fuel cell chemistry was discovered in the early 1800s. It is not a new or unproven technology.

RE: Lol, typos.
By JediJeb on 5/22/2012 11:40:19 AM , Rating: 2
What weighs more, solar panels, batteries, or fuel cells? I would imagine there are at least batteries and solar panels since you need power to open the solar panels.

RE: Lol, typos.
By The Raven on 5/22/2012 11:47:42 AM , Rating: 2
Batteries? Fuel cells? What you are forgetting is that in a state of zero Gs, all you have to do is roll your window down and start paddling with a wooden oar. They feel so light up there don't you know.

RE: Lol, typos.
By delphinus100 on 5/25/2012 8:59:11 PM , Rating: 2
Why use solar panels on short term flight vehicle? It seems like batteries or fuel cells make more sense.

Remember, this isn't a dedicated ISS (or other station) re-supply technology (though Europe's ATV also had solar panels, but Japan's H-II did not), it's essentially a cargo version of what's intended to be a manned spacecraft that may well have fairly long missions one day. (circumlunar and farther)

Also, SpaceX intends to later offer 'Dragon Lab,' a long-term, freely orbiting, recoverable research platforms, for experiments of the user's choice. In that unmanned role, it will need its own power for many months. (Think X-37b for civil use, and minus wings. It likely does similar things for the DoD.)

And remember, Russia's 'Progress,' an unmanned, non-recoverable version of the Soyuz, also for space station re-supply, doesn't dispense with its solar panels, either...

However, Boeing's CST-100 will use only batteries (as Dragon did on its first, three orbit flight). It's only purpose is to get up to a station and dock, and come down at some later time, carrying people both ways. It's basically an orbital taxi. No long-endurance plans at all for that design.

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