Monday, May 21, 2012

SpaceX Launch Viewing Guide


The next opportunity for the SpaceX Falcon 9 launch to take the Dragon capsule to the International Space Station will be tonight! Or, more accurately, very early Tuesday morning.

I'll be tuned in to a number of feeds on various machines and on NASA television to watch again, with fingers crossed that we won't have anymore heart-breaking aborts with half a second left on the clock.

Cape Canaveral Air Station
One of my friends' kids in front of the Cape C sign!

The estimated launch window for this attempt will begin at 12:44am PACIFIC time, 03:44am EASTERN time, and 07:44 UTC ... another sleepless night! But it's always worth the fun and hype, particularly when all the SpaceTweeps get rolling on Twitter. Follow me at @Pillownaut for live-tweeting and join the conversations! Watch the re-tweets for other space folk from NASA and SpaceX you can follow.

Live coverage available for the hour before the event will be on:







SpaceX Employees
Coverage includes interviews with SpaceX employees

Some tidbits to keep in mind while watching and hoping for this amazing space exploration milestone? SpaceX has spent $1.2 billion dollars thus far in pursuit of what you will be watching. One-third of their funds have come from NASA. Another third has come from customers, and most of the rest came from investors. CEO Elon Musk has personally contributed $100 million.

To put this into perspective? Across SpaceX's entire history of development, including rocket design, testing & launch operations, they have still spent less than Facebook just paid for Instagram.

Another thing – and perhaps I'm splitting hairs, but many people and outlets have been reporting that "Dragon will dock to the space station".

Hate to rain on parades, because I am as invested emotionally in their success as any space enthusiast -- but I read the entire Mission Overview and Mission Objectives from the NASA Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) pages, and … wow. The capsule must pass MANY, MANY TEST HURDLES before being allowed to approach the ISS in a best case scenario.

SpaceX Mission Control
Hey is that Mark Zuckerburg on the top right?!

The crew of the ISS and two MCCs on Earth will closely monitor launch, engine firings, a "free drift" demo, abort capability, positioning systems tests, checkout maneuvers, instrumentation accuracy, acceleration & breaking in close proximity to the ISS, and many station fly-unders at various distances.

Of great import will be ability of the ISS crew to send commands to the un-manned Dragon, having it follow the station in orbit and position for possible docking.

Huge goals have been set, and time will tell if SpaceXers were cocky in setting them, or such a great set of inventors that we should have just thrown a human in that capsule. Hopefully, we'll see the first set of tests in less than 24 hours!