According to CNN International, SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launched from Florida Wednesday morning, marking what could be a significant step toward commercial space travel. A private company has launched a spacecraft in a bold demonstration test for NASA. The Space Exploration Technologies rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral on Wednesday morning.
The Falcon 9 is carrying a capsule named Dragon. The company, known as SpaceX, hopes to place the capsule in orbit and then bring it back to Earth three hours later. It will be the first time a commercial business tries to recover a spacecraft re-entering from orbit. The plan is for Dragon to circle the world twice, then parachute into the Pacific Ocean, 500 miles off the Mexican coast. NASA is hiring companies like SpaceX to haul supplies to the International Space Station following next year’s shuttle retirement.
The launch marks the second flight for a Falcon 9 and the first for the spacecraft. The first attempt for the demo flight was aborted two minutes and 50 seconds before a scheduled 9:03AM EST launch after a faulty signal in one of the devices that controls switching off the rocket motors. A little over nine minutes after launch SpaceX announced the Dragon spacecraft had reached orbit and cheers could be heard from the launch team. The SpaceX rocket and spacecraft are designed to carry cargo and/or human payloads to the International Space Station as part of the Commercial Orbital Transportation System that will replace the space shuttle. The Falcon 9 rocket is nearly 158 feet tall and made its first flight into orbit back in June. The Dragon capsule is nearly 17 feet tall and 12 feet in diameter. The system can carry 7,297 pounds of pressurized cargo into orbit. The Dragon spacecraft is designed to carry five to seven passengers to orbit as well.
The launch and a successful re-entry would be steps toward commercial space ventures that could eventually ferry astronauts and cargo to the International Space Station. It also coincides with the scaling back of some publicly-funded space programs. NASA is set to retire its shuttle fleet in 2011.
SpaceX Dragon Capsule Test Launch Video,