Spectacular SpaceX Launch Opens Historic New Era in Spaceflight

by Ken Kremer on May 22, 2012

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The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket lifts off at 3:44 a.m. from Space Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., to begin a demonstration test flight to the International Space Station as the first private spacecraft to dock at the orbiting laboratory complex. Credit: Ken Kremer

Following this morning’s (May 22) spectacular nighttime blastoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, human exploration of the cosmos embarked on a radical new course that will never be the same again.

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 bound for the International Space Station (ISS).

In a split second the page was turned to open a new era in humankinds exploration and exploitation of space that promises adventures to come that will one day be viewed as building a bridge from the dawn of the space age and the first human steps on the moon to starships that will one day ply the shores of interstellar space.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket topped by the Dragon cargo capsule thundered to space from Space Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 3:44 am (May 22) and is now safely in orbit with solar arrays deployed and is chasing the ISS flying some 249 miles overhead.

“I congratulate SpaceX for just an absolutely amazing countdown, launch and orbit insertion today, said Bill Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA headquarters in Washington. “I’ve had the pleasure of working down here at the Cape with a lot of fantastic teams that have put together a lot of quality rockets and launched a lot of amazing things. I tell you, the SpaceX team, there is none better than this team that has really done a phenomenal job today.”

The on time Falcon 9 blastoff came three days after the first launch attempt was aborted a 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 Merlin 1 C engines.

“Every bit of adrenaline in my body released at that moment,” said Elon Musk to reporters at the post launch media briefing about the moment the rocket lifted off the pad. Musk is the founder, CEO and chief designer of SpaceX. “People were really giving it their all. For us, it was like winning the Super Bowl.”

SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket clears the tower after liftoff at 3:44 a.m. from Space Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.,on the first commercial mission to the International Space Station. Credit: Ken Kremer/www.kenkremer.com

Dragon will be the first private spacecraft that will rendezvous and dock with the ISS. After conducting a complicated series of rendezvous tests and maneuvers, docking is expected on day 4 of the mission on Friday morning EDT, May 26.

“There’s still a thousand things that have to go right, but we are looking forward to this exciting mission,” said Alan Lindenmoyer, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program.

Dragon will fly within range of the robotic arm. NASA Astronaut Don Pettit will grapple it and berth the Dragon on the earth facing side of the Harmony module.

NASA TV will provide live docking coverage

Ken Kremer

About 

Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, scientist, freelance science journalist (Princeton, NJ) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calanders including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral and NASA Wallops on over 40 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight - www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter

zkank May 22, 2012 at 4:27 PM

While this isn’t as great a feat as landing on the moon, this is just as exciting and historic in its own right!

Now we wait anxiously for images of the docking…

Jon Souter May 22, 2012 at 4:36 PM

Congrats to SpaceX and NASA for getting to this point – onwards and upwards ;-)

Aerandir90 May 22, 2012 at 5:17 PM

Imagine the sense of euphoria when the first manned Dragon lifts off towards the ISS.. good times are ahead of us!

Mars May 22, 2012 at 6:25 PM

NASA’s pepelatses fly to ISS… http://www.seti-ceti.ru/235

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