SpaceX Successfully Launches Dragon/Falcon 9 for First Official Cargo Run
October 8, 2012 4:45 PM
SpaceX's first official cargo run launch
Dragon is expected to reach the ISS this Wednesday, and will return to Earth in late October
SpaceX made another historical climb to the International Space Station (ISS), marking its
first official cargo run
as part of its contract with NASA.
SpaceX's unmanned Dragon capsule launched atop a Falcon 9 rocket Sunday, Oct. 7 at 8:35 p.m. ET from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The Dragon is carrying 882 pounds of cargo, including important scientific experiments. It will return with twice as much cargo, making the Dragon a unique spacecraft considering many Russian, Japanese and European cargo ships are destroyed upon re-entry and cannot return cargo from the ISS. Even Russian Soyuz rockets are too small to carry anything other than astronauts.
The launch was declared a success, despite troubles with one of the
Falcon 9's nine first-stage engines
during ascent to orbit. The other eight engines compensated for the failing unit, allowing Dragon to travel into space.
Dragon is expected to reach the ISS this Wednesday, and will return to Earth in late October. During its time at the ISS, cargo will be unloaded and reloaded.
SpaceX stepped in with new methods for American space transport after NASA retired its space shuttle fleet throughout 2011. This retirement left American astronauts with no way of their own to the ISS, with the exception of catching a pricey ride aboard a Russian Soyuz rocket. NASA turned to the private sector, where SpaceX offered its Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket.
In May of this year, SpaceX launched
Dragon and Falcon 9 to the ISS for the first time
. It made a successful cargo run, which ended with the Dragon plunging safely into the Pacific Ocean.
After that run, NASA and SpaceX signed a $1.6 billion contract, which allows SpaceX to make 12 total cargo runs to the ISS through 2015. Yesterday's launch marks the first of the 12.
"Just over one year after the retirement of the space shuttle, we have returned space station cargo resupply missions to U.S. soil and are bringing the jobs associated with this work back to America," said Charles Bolden, NASA Administrator. "The SpaceX launch tonight marks the official start of commercial resupply missions by American companies operating out of U.S. spaceports like the one right here in Florida."
Bolden also added that "nonbelievers," who previously said SpaceX and other private companies couldn't pull this off, can see this successful launch as an excuse to get behind SpaceX.
Beyond the 12 cargo runs, SpaceX is also working on spaceships capable of carrying astronauts to the ISS. The company is looking to create a manned version of the Dragon, which is expected to transport astronauts starting somewhere between 2015 and 2017.
SpaceX's next cargo run will take place in January.
"A lot of people pay zero for the cellphone ... That's what it's worth." -- Apple Chief Operating Officer Timothy Cook
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