Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Dragon Fire!


Yeah, so this happened. Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) launched a rocket, with a cargo capsule and everything, hoping to rendezvous with and help re-supply the International Space Station:

Falcon 9 Rocket and Dragon C2+

Spacetweeps worldwide followed hundreds of twitter feeds and multiple live streams to exalt over the commercial space industry milestone, not the least of which were dozens of SpaceX and NASA employees, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk (@elonmusk), and ex-Trek cast members LeVar Burton (@levarburton) and Wil Wheaton (@wilw).

Blastoff, MECO and the opening of the Solar Arrays were met with bro-hugs, bursts of applause, and loud cheers from both mission control sites at the Cape and Space X Headquarters in Hawthorne, California.

Matt Sachtler of SpaceX
Happy Faces in SpaceX Mission Control

First hurdles cleared! Now begins the testing phases. Yesterday, the free drift demo went well, as did the abort burn tests. Over the next week, many demonstration maneuvers will commence prior to berthing.

The CanadArm will grasp Dragon and guide it to the to Earth-facing side of the Harmony node, where it can attach to the station. The ISS crew will open the hatch, conduct an air inspection, and then unload cargo (food, water, ice, clothing, student experiments, and various systems hardware) for the station residents.

Details are available in the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Mission Overview and Mission Objectives documents.

SpaceX webcast of Falcon 9 Launch
Another piece of "secret" cargo that isn't really all that secret since ABC covered it, is the collection of small tubes carrying the ashes of 300+ humans. Among the individuals' remains set to orbit, compliments of Celestis, are Mercury 7 Astronaut Gordon Cooper, and actor James Doohan, who played Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott on Star Trek.

To read the entire manifest, got to the SpaceX-D USOS (U.S. On-Orbit Segment) Cargo document on the server.