Wednesday, December 8, 2010

SpaceX's Dragon: Getting Closer to Commercial Service

"Millionaire's Private Space Capsule Splashes Down After Successful Maiden Voyage" (December 8, 2010)

"The first unmanned space capsule built by millionaire rocket maker Elon Musk blasted off on a maiden voyage today (Dec. 8), in a historic milestone for his private spaceflight company SpaceX and the commercial space industry.

"SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket, carrying the company's robotic Dragon space capsule, lifted off at 10:43 a.m. EST (1543 GMT) from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Launch Complex 40. The capsule's successful splashdown in the Pacific Ocean more than three hours later made SpaceX the first commercial company to re-enter a spacecraft from low-Earth orbit.

"Shortly after launch, at 10:52 a.m. EST (1552 GMT), Dragon jettisoned the Falcon 9's second stage and began circling Earth...."

The Dragon spacecraft is shaped like a gumdrop, isn't the sleek single-stage-to-orbit ideal spaceplane that we may see someday: but it's here, and it works.

There's more to be done before SpaceX is ready for regular cargo/passenger runs to the International Space Station, Bigelow Aerospace's upcoming orbital rental suites, and whatever other destinations pop up in low Earth orbit in the near future.

But SpaceX is close to having a commercial shuttle service. So, I gather, are a few other folks.

This isn't the 20th century any more, folks.

Here's a look at how SpaceX's Dragon works, and some photos, from

An inside look at SpaceX's Dragon capsule that will fly to the International Space Station on the Falcon 9 rocket.
Source All about our solar system, outer space and exploration

(Alan Ault, NASA, via, used w/o permission)
"...Here, NASA photographer Alan Ault snaps a photo of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket as it roars from a seaside launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying the first Dragon space capsule."

(SpaceX, via, used w/o permission)
"...SpaceX's 18-story Falcon 9 rocket - only the second ever launched by the company - launches toward space carrying the company's first Dragon spacecraft. A camera mounted on the rocket shows the view below as it soars into orbit."

(SpaceX, via, used w/o permission)
"...SpaceX's Falcon 9 rockets are two-stage rockets, with the second stage carrying the Dragon spacecraft in its nose cone. Here, a camera on the second stage shows the Earth far below as the rocket soared toward orbit. The first stage separated and fell into the Atlantic Ocean."

(SpaceX, via, used w/o permission)
"...While SpaceX launches spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific (flights from California's Vandenberg Air Force Base are also planned), the company is based in Hawthorne, Calif., which is home to its version of Mission Control. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk was at the company's mission control center for the launch."

(SpaceX, via, used w/o permission)
"...In the SpaceX hangar at Cape Canaveral, the Dragon spacecraft prepares for integration with the Falcon 9 launch vehicle. Visible at the base of the spacecraft is Dragon's heat shield, made of PICA-X, the SpaceX manufactured variation on NASA's Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator (PICA) heat shield material."

(, used w/o permission)
"...Even when outfitted with the full cargo storage system, Dragon has plenty of room. Visiting NASA astronauts Cady Coleman and Scott Kelly discuss spacecraft cargo operations with SpaceX engineers. Both experienced space travelers, Cady and Scott are scheduled for upcoming missions to the International Space Station."

(, used w/o permission)
"...Space's Dragon spacecraft fly on Falcon 9 rockets like this one shown in the company's hangar in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The rockets have two stages and rely on a liquid oxygen and kerosene propellant."

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