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SpaceX Successfully Launches Historic Flight in Florida

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Image Courtesy of Space X

(Orlando, FL-  WMFE) The supply ship built by Space Exploration Technologies is now in orbit and on its way to rendezvous with the International Space Station. With the successful launch of the test capsule loaded with supplies, NASA is a step closer to developing a commercial crew program to eventually ferry astronauts into orbit.

The Falcon 9 rocket, with a new valve in one of its engines, soared into the night sky over Florida after lifting off as planned from Cape Canaveral at 3.44 am Tuesday -- marking the first time a private company has launched a vessel to the ISS.

Space X president Gwynne Shotwell said the rocket could have flown even with the faulty valve that had delayed the launch on Saturday morning.

Ten minutes after the launch, the spacecraft was in orbit and had deployed its solar panels, beginning a sequence of rocket firings to maneuver close to the space station.

With Dragon now in orbit, the mission still has some way to go: after the spacecraft completes a complex series of tests to see if it can safely approach the ISS, NASA has the final say on whether to allow it to dock with the orbiting outpost.

Unlike Russia’s Soyuz, Space X’s Dragon will not mate directly with the orbiting observatory. Instead, astronauts will use the station’s robot arm to grab Dragon and slowly dock it with the station.

Astronauts plan to use a robotic arm to grab the Dragon and bring it into the station on Friday. If everything unfolds as mission managers hope, the Dragon will spend two weeks at the Space Station before detaching and heading home for a splashdown in the Pacific.


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