News / USA

SpaceX Capsule Ready to Launch to Space Station

SpaceX Dragon Capsule Leaves ISSSpaceX Dragon Capsule Leaves ISS
x
SpaceX Dragon Capsule Leaves ISS
SpaceX Dragon Capsule Leaves ISS
Suzanne Presto
— The California-based company SpaceX is set to launch the first of a dozen missions to deliver critical supplies to the International Space Station for the U.S. space agency.
 
But, on the eve of the mission, the launch weather forecaster said there is a 40-percent chance that poor weather could delay the launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida Sunday night [Monday, October 8th at 0035 UTC].
 
The SpaceX unmanned Dragon capsule is set to launch atop a Falcon 9 rocket toward the International Space Station for the second time ever.
 
The company made history in May when its space capsule became the first private vehicle to dock with the ISS.

SpaceX proved worthy in demo
 
SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell told reporters at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida Saturday evening that the rocket and capsule in this first operational mission are largely the same as the ones used in the successful demonstration flight.
 
"I'm not sure any [members] of the engineering team, frankly, or myself feels like this [mission] is substantially different than the last one with the exception that we got there once," said Shotwell.  "We demonstrated we could do it. So there might be a teeny, teeny bit of relaxation.  Uhm, not a lot though." 
 
NASA has awarded SpaceX a $1.6 billion contract to provide 12 supply flights to the ISS.  
 
Space station partners Russia, Europe and Japan have the ability to deliver cargo to the ISS, but their cargo vessels burn up in the atmosphere during reentry.  The United States has not been able to send supplies to the ISS since NASA retired its space shuttle fleet last year.      
 
U.S. launch capability is not just a matter of national pride.
 
"When you have a launch vehicle that is in your country, it just makes it a lot easier because literally shipping and customs can kill you when you're trying to get overseas, and this really makes the process faster and allows us to react to anomalies in real time," explained NASA's space station program manager Mike Suffredini.

Scientific & re-supply mission
 
The Dragon will be filled with about 450 kilograms of supplies, including materials critical to scientific research.
 
The capsule will also carry a freezer for experiments - prompting talk that NASA might send ice cream as a sweet surprise to the astronauts.
 
At the end of the month, the capsule will return to Earth carrying space station hardware as well as scientific materials, including research samples.
 
Julie Robinson, a program scientist at NASA, called the first commercial cargo launch "a momentous milestone for research."   
 
"The SpaceX Dragon is a really important vehicle for us because it supports the laboratory use of ISS both in bringing cargo up to the space station and in bringing research samples home, and it has a great return capability," said Robinson.  "It essentially replaces that capacity that we lost when the shuttle retired."

NASA looking beyond Earth orbit
 
The U.S. space agency is focusing on developing a new generation of space vehicle that can travel to an asteroid or Mars, and it is investing in private companies to handle low-Earth orbit transportation, such as trips to the space station. 
  
Howard McCurdy, a professor of public affairs at American University in Washington, says this strategy is a gamble. 
 
"It's a big bet, because what the United States is betting is that the commercial sector can do what NASA seemed incapable of doing in the last days of the shuttle flights, and that is developing a low-cost, high-reliability launch vehicle that can take people and cargo from the surface of the Earth to low-Earth orbit and bring the people back occasionally," says McCurdy.
 
SpaceX says it expects to be ready to carry people into space within three years.  
 
If this first resupply mission goes as planned, astronauts will use the space station's robotic arm to grab and dock the Dragon capsule three days after launch.  Dragon will return to Earth at the end of October.

You May Like

Video On the Scene: In Gaza, Darkness Brings Dread and Death

Palestinians fear nighttime raids, many feel abandoned by outside world, VOA's Scott Bobb reports More

African Small Farmers Could Be Key to Ending Food Insecurity

Experts say providing access to microloans, crop insurance, better storage facilities, irrigation, road systems and market information could enable greater production More

University of Michigan Wins Solar Car Race

Squad guided its student-designed solar-powered vehicle to fifth consecutive time victory in eight-day bi-annual American Solar Challenge More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelteri
X
Scott Bobb
July 30, 2014 8:16 PM
Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video A Summer Camp for All the World

VIDEO: During workshops and social gatherings, the Global Youth Village summer camp encourages young people to cooperate and embrace their differences, while learning to communicate with people from other countries. VOA's Deborah Block has more.
Video

Video From Cantankerous Warlock to Incorruptible Priest, 'Harry Potter' Actor Embraces Diverse Roles

He’s perhaps best known as Mad Eye Moody, the whimsical wizard in the Harry Potter franchise. But character actor Brendan Gleeson's resume includes dozens of films, and he embraces all the characters he inhabits with equal passion. In an interview with VOA’s Penelope Poulou, Gleeson discussed his new drama "Calvary" and his secret to success.

AppleAndroid