The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is now poised at the launch pad and set to open a completely new era in spaceflight. Hopes are sky high that Saturday mornings Falcon 9 launch represents the dawn of the commercial era in spaceflight akin to the startup of the commercial airline industry early in the 20th Century and will lead eventually lead to a vast expansion in the exploration and exploitation of space.
Engineers moved the rocket on rails last night about 600 feet from the processing hangar out to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and then raised it to the vertical launch position. See my photos here of the Falcon 9 taken less than 24 hours from the planned liftoff
The mission is designated COTS 2 and entails the first ever attempt by a commercial firm to dock at the International Space Station, a feat heretofore only accomplished by sovereign nations.
The 157 foot tall Falcon 9 is topped by the Dragon spacecraft also developed by SpaceX and slated to liftoff at 4:55 a.m. EDT (0855 GMT).
The high stakes mission is billed as a test flight and could be viewed by powerful Washington lawmakers as a boon or bust to the burgeoning commercial space industry.
Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, research scientist, freelance science journalist (KSC area,FL) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calendars including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, FOX, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now, Science 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, NASA Wallops, NASA Michoud/Stennis/Langley and on over 80 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight – www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter