Spectacular SpaceX Dragon Launch

by Dr. Ken Kremer

Following the spectacular May 22 nighttime blastoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and the Dragon commercial resupply capsule, the successful docking at the International Space Station (ISS) and the safe splashdown on May 31, human exploration of the cosmos embarked on a radical new course that will never be the same again.

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SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket poised at Pad 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Credit: Ken Kremer

Dragon is the world’s first commercial spacecraft. It is the linchpin in NASA’s bold Commercial Crew and Cargo program aimed at significantly driving down the cost of transporting cargo and crews to low Earth orbit by using private commercial companies to foster competition and innovation in the free market setting of the new, post shuttle Era of Commercial Space Transportation.

The long awaited liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket at 3:44 a.m. lit up the Florida Space Coast for miles around as it roared off Pad 40 at Cape Canaveral, Florida on a history making mission as the first private spaceship bound for the International Space Station (ISS). I witnessed the spectacular predawn launch as a member of the press from an elevation of 525 feet on the roof of the iconic Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB), where all the Space Shuttle missions and Apollo moon landing flights were prepared for blastoff. In a split second the page was turned to open a new era in humankind’s exploration and exploitation of space.

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SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket poised at Pad 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station prior to May 22 liftoff. Credit: Ken Kremer

Prior to blastoff I toured the SpaceX launch pad for a close-up look and photo shoot of the Falcon 9/Dragon duo poised for liftoff from Space Launch Complex- 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The on time Falcon 9 blastoff came three days after the first launch attempt was aborted at T Minus 0 when a computer automatically shutdown the already firing engines as it detected a high chamber pressure in one of the nine first stage engines.

Dragon is the world’s first commercial spacecraft whose purpose is to carry supplies to and from the ISS and partially replace the cargo capabilities previously performed by NASA’s now retired fleet of space shuttle orbiters. Dragon was designed, developed and built by Hawthorne, Calif., based SpaceX Corporation, founded in 2002 by CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk.

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SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket clears the tower after liftoff at 3:44 a.m. on May 22, 2012 from Space Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., on the first commercial mission to loft the Dragon cargo resupply vehicle to the International Space Station. Credit: Ken Kremer

Three days after liftoff, Dragon became the first private spacecraft to rendezvous and dock with the ISS on May 25. Astronauts Don Pettit of NASA and Andrea Kuipers of ESA deftly berthed Dragon at an open Earth-facing port on the Harmony module after being dramatically captured by the astronauts using the station’s 58 foot long robotic arm in a landmark event in space history as the Dragon and the ISS were passing about 251 miles above Earth.

The astronauts opened the hatch and ‘Entered the Dragon’ for the first time a day later on May 26 and then proceeded to unload the nearly 1100 pounds of stowed cargo and refill it with more than 1300 pounds of science samples and trash for the return trip to Earth. With the successful splashdown all objectives of the historic test flight were fully achieved. The first operational Dragon cargo mission could launch as early as September 2012.

Read more about the Dragon mission in Ken’s articles at Universe Today:
Historic opening of New Space Era
History making docking at Space Station
Dragon’s ocean splashdown

Astronomy Outreach by Ken Kremer
Rittenhouse Astronomical Society (RAS) at the Franklin Institute:Philadelphia, PA, June 13, Wed, 7 PM. “Curiosity Mars landing, DAWN at Asteroid Vesta & GRAIL Lunar Orbiters”

Adirondack Public Observatory – Adirondack State Park: Tupper Lake,NY, July 13 & 14.
“8 Years of Mars Rovers & Search for Life- Mars & Vesta in 3 D”.
http://www.apobservatory.org/pages/etc/events_KenKremer.html
http://apobservatory.org/pages/img/etc/kremer_poster_med.jpg

Ken Kremer:  Spaceflight magazine & Universe Today
Ken has a selection of his Shuttle photos and Mars mosaics for sale as postcards and frameable prints.

Please contact Ken for more info or science outreach presentations:
Email: kremerken@yahoo.com   website:  www.kenkremer.com
http://www.universetoday.com/author/ken-kremer/

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This entry was posted in June 2012, Sidereal Times and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Spectacular SpaceX Dragon Launch

  1. brandeditems8 says:

    The Asian guy will be doing all the work. The woman will be entertaining the boring crews with the help of her comedy acting. The white male will be getting all the credit. I love diversity.

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