Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

DEBATE

Gaza: A Truce At All Costs?

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

Central African Republic: Brazzaville ceasefire talks deliver fragile deal

Read more

FOCUS

Sluggish tourist season in Crimea

Read more

ENCORE!

Bartabas : Mixing Christ with Spanish music and dancing horses

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

Shifts in the propaganda war waged between Israelis and Palestinians

Read more

IN THE PAPERS

French MPs face quandary in pro-Palestinian rallies

Read more

THE INTERVIEW

Yezid Sayigh, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut

Read more

#TECH 24

Mind the Gender Gap : getting more women into the tech sector

Read more

INSIDE THE AMERICAS

Bolivian children: heading to work aged 10

Read more

  • Wreckage from missing Algerian plane reportedly found: Malian TV

    Read more

  • France says missing Algerian plane 'probably crashed'

    Read more

  • Deadly strike on UN shelter in Gaza Strip

    Read more

  • Pope meets with Sudanese Christian woman sentenced to death for apostasy

    Read more

  • Algerian jet vanishes: 'We should eliminate the missile hypothesis'

    Read more

  • Italy’s Nibali cruises to easy victory in 18th stage of Tour de France

    Read more

  • Iraqi parliament elects moderate Kurd as president

    Read more

  • US, European aviation agencies lift travel restrictions to Tel Aviv

    Read more

  • No end to fighting until Israel ends Gaza blockade, Hamas says

    Read more

  • Two foreign women shot dead in western Afghanistan

    Read more

  • At least 60 killed in attack on prison convoy near Baghdad

    Read more

  • Cycling is ‘winning the war on doping,’ says expert

    Read more

  • Ceasefire agreed for Central African Republic

    Read more

  • Can Jew-kissing-Arab selfie give peace a viral chance?

    Read more

  • Botched Arizona execution takes nearly two hours

    Read more

Business

SpaceX commercial rocket blasts off to space station

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-05-22

SpaceX company's Falcon 9 rocket blasted off towards the International Space Station on Tuesday in the first ever commercial space flight of its kind. The rocket carried a capsule named Dragon that is packed with 1,000 pounds of provisions.

AP - A first-of-its-kind commercial supply ship rocketed toward the International Space Station following a successful liftoff early Tuesday, opening a new era of dollar-driven spaceflight.

The SpaceX company made history as its Falcon 9 rocket rose from its seaside launch pad and pierced the pre-dawn sky, aiming for a rendezvous in a few days with the space station. The rocket carried into orbit a capsule named Dragon that is packed with 1,000 pounds of space station provisions.

It is the first time a private company has launched a vessel to the space station. That’s something only major governments have done - until Tuesday.

“Falcon flew perfectly!!” SpaceX’s billionaire founder, Elon Musk, said via Twitter. “Dragon in orbit ... Feels like a giant weight just came off my back.”

The White House quickly offered congratulations.

“Every launch into space is a thrilling event, but this one is especially exciting,” said John Holdren, President Barack Obama’s chief science adviser. “This expanded role for the private sector will free up more of NASA’s resources to do what NASA does best - tackle the most demanding technological challenges in space, including those of human space flight beyond low Earth orbit.”

Launch controllers applauded when the Dragon reached orbit nine minutes into the flight, then embraced one another once the solar panels on the spacecraft popped open. Many of the SpaceX controllers wore untucked T-shirts and jeans or even shorts, a stark contrast to NASA’s old suit-and-tie shuttle team.

This time, the Falcon’s nine engines kept firing all the way through liftoff. On Saturday, flight computers aborted the launch with a half-second remaining in the countdown; a bad engine valve was replaced.

The real test comes Thursday when the Dragon reaches the vicinity of the space station. It will undergo practice maneuvers from more than a mile out. If all goes well, the docking will occur Friday. Musk will preside over the operation from the company’s Mission Control in Hawthorne, Calif., where he monitored the liftoff.

The space station was zooming over the North Atlantic, just east of Newfoundland, when the Falcon took flight.

NASA is looking to the private sector to take over orbital trips in this post-shuttle period; several U.S. companies are vying for the opportunity. The goal is to get American astronauts launching again from U.S. soil. SpaceX officials say that could happen in as little as three years, possibly four.

Until their retirement last summer, NASA’s shuttles provided the bulk of space station equipment and even the occasional crew member. American astronauts are stuck riding Russian rockets to orbit until SpaceX or one of its competitors takes over the job. Russia also is making periodic cargo hauls, along with Europe and Japan.

Musk, a co-creator of PayPal, founded SpaceX a decade ago. He’s poured millions of his own money into the company, and NASA has contributed $381 million as seed money. In all, the company has spent more than $1 billion on the effort.

Hundreds of SpaceX and NASA guests poured into the launching area in the wee hours of Tuesday, eager to see firsthand the start of this new commercial era. The company had a single second to get its rocket flying, and that’s all it needed.

Everyone, it seemed, was rooting for a successful flight - even Musk’s rivals.

“The shuttle may be retired, but the American dream of space exploration is alive and well,” said Mark Sirangelo, chairman of Sierra Nevada Corp.’s space systems, which is developing a mini-shuttle to carry space station crews in another few years.

The six space station astronauts were especially enthusiastic; the crew beamed down a picture on the eve of the launch, showing the two who will use a robot arm to snare the Dragon.

In December 2010, SpaceX became the first private company to launch a spacecraft into orbit and retrieve it. That test flight of a Dragon capsule paved the way for this mission, which also is meant to culminate with a splashdown of the capsule in the Pacific.

This newest capsule is supposed to remain at the space station for a week before bringing back experiments and equipment. None of the other types of current cargo ships can return safely; they burn up on the way down.

SpaceX and NASA officials stress this is a demonstration flight and that even if something goes wrong, much can be learned.

“Whatever happens today, we could not have done it without (at)NASA, but errors are ours alone and me most of all,” Musk said via Twitter right before Saturday’s launch abort. The company will try again no matter what; two more Dragon supply missions, in fact, are planned this year.

Musk, 40, is the chief executive officer and chief designer for SpaceX. He also runs Tesla Motors, his electric car company.

NASA retired its space shuttle fleet last summer. The three remaining shuttles - Discovery, Endeavour and Atlantis - are now relegated to museums.

Date created : 2012-05-22

  • AEROSPACE

    Launch of commercial space rocket cancelled

    Read more

  • SPACE

    Soyuz blasts off, carrying Galileo satellites to space

    Read more

  • AEROSPACE

    Rocket carrying space's heaviest cargo blasts off

    Read more

COMMENT(S)