SpaceX Successfully Launches Dragon Into Space. Watch Out For The Hulk

Early Tuesday morning, SpaceX became the first commercial organisation to send a spacecraft bound for the International Space Station.

The successful launch of the Falcon 9 rocket, which in ten minutes had propelled the Dragon capsule into Earth orbit, marks what could be the first stage of a new era of manned space exploration. One that does not rely on national governments to fully fund, build and operate the systems. One that does not operate purely on political motivations, but on commercial and ideological ones.

The launch was only the beginning for the Dragon. Once in space, it had to successfully deploy it's solar panels, which it did. Dragon runs on solar charged battery cells, so deployment of the panels was critical to Dragon continuing on, or dropping back to Earth, dead. Nearly three hours after launch, the capsule would also have to open it's guidance, navigation and control bay doors, which it did to great relief. The first day consisted mostly of testing the Draco thrusters, making certain operators on the ground can control the unmanned capsule as it prepares to dock with the ISS sometime today, or early tomorrow. Approaching the station is extremely dangerous for the crew members on board, therefore it is of the utmost importance that the Dragon can position itself and control it's speed so that the station's Canadarm can grab hold of it, at a distance of only about ten metres.

Dragon is carrying 1000 pounds of cargo, including supplies for the station-bound crew, experiments, and the ashes of 308 space enthusiasts, including astronaut Gordon Cooper and actor James Doohan, to be released into the void. After a couple weeks, it will be loaded with nearly double that weight in return cargo and garbage, and return to Earth in early to mid June, where it will splash down and be retrieved by SpaceX to be reused in a future mission.

This mission is an important one for the company. It's more then a test of equipment, it's a demonstration that their equipment is worth investing in, and worth NASA contracting with SpaceX to handle future cargo deliveries, thus freeing up NASA's time and budget for other, larger projects. One cannot disregard NASA's involvement in all this. They built the systems in the sixties that made this sort of thing possible. Former NASA scientists are part of the design and launch crews of SpaceX and nearly all commercial space companies. They launched the Falcon 9 from Cape Canaveral, a government facility. And NASA is still the only astronaut training facility in the US, and an owning partner in ISS, and have a need to get supplies to the astronauts they have up there. 

As it stands, the future of SpaceX remains in cargo delivery. Only Russia, in the entire world, maintains space craft capable of delivering humans to space. But, without these first steps, they can never hope to have the technical knowledge, and the physical ability to move towards that next stage.
Via Wired.
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.


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