First commercial ISS resupply mission launches

Added by on October 8, 2012

SpaceX Falcon 9 launched on Sunday at 20:35 Eastern time marking the first time cargo has been transported to the International Space Station in an unmanned, private, American-made spacecraft.

The launch is part of a program between NASA and SpaceX to develop a reusable, reliable spacecraft capable of carrying cargo and astronauts into space and returning them safely to earth.

This launch mission, called the CRS -1 mission, is the fourth operational mission for SpaceX – the first launch was on December 9 2010 where SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 into orbit and returned the Dragon capsule to Earth via parachute.

As the launch approached, SpaceX mission control prepared the Falcon 9 rocket by fuelling it with kerosene and liquid oxygen. The Falcon 9 is capable of generating over 1m pounds of thrust that carry the rocket at a speed over 8,000km per hour into space.

Highlights of the liftoff include:

  • At 1min 20sec after liftoff, Falcon 9 was at supersonic speed
  • The Falcon 9 was at 163km in altitude and travelling at 3.5km/s at 5min 15sec after liftoff
  • The final stage of the Falcon 9 rocket separated at 10min 26sec after liftoff
  • At 10min 44sec after liftoff the Dragon capsule separated from its Falcon 9 rocket and reached orbit
  • 12min 15sec Dragon’s solar panels deployed

The Falcon 9 went in a North West direction – reaching space just off the cost over Newfoundland, Canada. The Falcon 9 separated from the Dragon capsule, which continued to use its thrusters to catch up with the ISS within about three days.

The mission is the first mission since NASA’s last mission to the ISS using its now retired space shuttle. The cargo includes food, batteries, life support systems and a fridge, called the Glacier, which can cool its contents to about -301 degrees fahrenheit. The Dragon capsule is returning cargo that include educational experiments, biological experiments, and crystals that have been studied to understand how they grow in a micro-gravity environment.

The Falcon 9 spacecraft is named after the fictions Millennium Falcon spacecraft from Star Wars. The Dragon capsule is named after Puff the Magic Dragon – a fictional character in children’s’ books – because the Drago capsule was considered to be ‘fantastical’ during its development.

Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX was founded in 2002 by former PayPal entrepreneur Elon Musk. It has developed the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9 launch vehicles, both of which were designed from conception to eventually become reusable. SpaceX also developed the Dragon spacecraft to be flown into orbit by the Falcon 9 launch vehicle, initially transporting cargo and later planned to carry humans. On 25 May 2012, SpaceX made history as the world’s first privately held company to send a cargo payload, carried on the Dragon spacecraft, to the International Space Station.