CAPE CANAVERAL, Florida: Opening a new era in private space flight, the US company SpaceX yesterday became the first commercial outfit to launch its own craft toward the International Space Station. The test flight of the Dragon space capsule, which launched atop SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket at 3:44 am (0744 GMT), aims to show that industry can restore US access to the ISS after NASA retired its space shuttle fleet last year. The mission is set to include a fly-by and berthing with the station in the next three days, before the capsule returns to Earth at the end of this month.
Shortly after liftoff, the cargo-carrying spacecraft entered orbit and live video images showed mission control staff at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California jumping from their seats, hugging and clapping. SpaceX chief executive officer and Internet entrepreneur Elon Musk said watching the rocket rise from the launch pad was an “extremely intense moment”. “Every bit of adrenaline in my body released at that point,” he told reporters after the flawless launch, which followed an attempt on Saturday that was scrubbed at the last second when computers detected high pressure in the central engine of the Falcon 9.
SpaceX engineers discovered the root cause was a faulty check valve and repaired it the same day. No humans are traveling aboard the Dragon, but six astronauts are already at the $100-billion space lab to help the capsule latch on, to unload supplies and then restock the capsule with cargo to take back to Earth. On May 24, the spacecraft’s sensors and flight systems are to undergo a series of tests to see if it is ready to berth, including a complicated fly-under at a distance of about 2.5 km.
If NASA gives the green light, the Dragon will then approach the ISS on May 25 in an attempt to berth with the station. The astronauts on board the ISS will maneuver the station’s robotic arm to help capture the capsule and attach it to the orbiting research outpost. The hatch of the Dragon is set to open on May 26 for unloading 521 kg of cargo for the space lab and restocking it with a 660-kg load to return to Earth. On May 31, the Dragon is to detach from the station and make a safe landing in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California.
SpaceX, owned by 40-year-old Musk, a billionaire who also co-founded PayPal, is the first of several US competitors to try sending spacecraft to the ISS with the goal of restoring US access to space for human travelers by 2015. “We are really at the dawn of a new era of space exploration, one where there is a much bigger role for commercial space companies,” Musk said, likening the space effort to the expansion of the Internet in the mid 1990s. “The Internet was created as a government endeavor but then the introduction of commercial companies really accelerated the growth of the Internet and made it accessible to the mainstream,” he added. “I think we are actually at that stage and the success of this mission – even what we have seen thus far – I think bodes well for that new stage of space exploration.
In near future we will see, people will go on MOON to spent their vacations with families…………………….
Source: Kuwait Times
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