23 Mar 2012

The historic launch of the first commercially built space capsule sent to the International Space Station (ISS) is to occur April 30th.  SpaceX, a California based commercial company is going to launch the unmanned Dragon spacecraft on a demonstration flight to ISS at 12:22 p.m. EDT (1622 GMT) on April 30th as of right now.

Originally this mission was to occur in early February but had to be delayed for further testing.

The Dragon capsule will sit on top of the Falcon 9 rocket.  If SpaceX succeeds, they will become the first private company to dock with the International Space Station.

The ISS crew will grab onto the Dragon capsule as it nears the station using the space stations robotic arm.  It will connect on the Harmony node, an Earth facing portion of ISS. 

Dragon had been successfully launched in December 2010.  It orbited twice before splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.  That marked the first time a private company launched a vehicle into orbit and returned it safely.

SpaceX also hopes to use a version of the Dragon capsule to transport paying customers to low orbit.

The Tech-Stew Take Home

This launch and docking will be a momentous occasion for spaceflight, possibly ranking as high as the first space flights from 50 years ago.  The importance of the privatization of space can not be underestimated.  It is both necessary and inevitable.  We simply can't rely on the government for funding and development of space exploration.  Space exploration should be both a private and government funded effort.  This means organizations like NASA should continue to work with private companies to help accelerate our development of space technology and reach for the stars, which is ultimately humanity's destiny.

UPDATE:

As of 4/24/12, the SpaceX launch of the Dragon Capsule to ISS has been delayed at least a week, possibly as late as May 7th.  They required more time to finish hardware testing and review data for the docking.


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