Early this morning, at 3:44 a.m. Eastern, SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, successfully launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. On-board was the Dragon capsule heading for the International Space Station. During the journey the capsule will be subjected to a series of tests to determine, and prove to NASA, that the vehicle is ready to dock with the space station.
The mission makes Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) the first commercial company in history to attempt to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station. The launch today was flawless, and the vehicle’s first stage performed nominally before separating from the second stage. Shorty there after the second stage successfully delivered the Dragon spacecraft into it’s intended orbit. If required tests are successful, and NASA decides that the Dragon capsule is allowed to approach it’s target, SpaceX will attempt to dock the capsule with the space station on May 25.
The initial launch for Falcon 9 was set for May 19 at 4:55am EDT, but a few seconds after the countdown ended, the mission was aborted when the on-board security system noticed pressure being built up in the combustion chamber for engine number 5. The launch window was only one second long, so the launch had to be rescheduled for another day. It turned out that a faulty valve caused the irregular pressure, something that was easy to fix.
At a press conference held after today’s launch, SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk began, “I would like to start off by saying what a tremendous honor it has been to work with NASA. And to acknowledge the fact that we could not have started SpaceX, nor could we have reached this point without the help of NASA… It’s really been an honor to work with such great people.”
Explaining the significance of the day, Musk also stated, “This mission heralds the dawn of a new era of space exploration, one in which there is a significant commercial space element. It is like the advent of the Internet in the mid-1990s when commercial companies entered what was originally a government endeavor. That move dramatically accelerated the pace of advancement and made the Internet accessible to the mass market. I think we’re at a similar inflection point for space. I hope and I believe that this mission will be historic in marking that turning point towards a rapid advancement in space transportation technology.”