Wednesday, December 8, 2010
The Little Rocket That Could
The SpaceX Falcon 9 launches today from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Photo source: Florida Today
SpaceX today launched their COTS-1 demonstration flight, proving for the first time in history that a commercial company could launch a craft into orbit and return safely to a soft landing.
According to a SpaceX press release:
This marks the first time a commercial company has successfully recovered a spacecraft reentering from low-Earth orbit. It is a feat performed by only six nations or government agencies: the United States, Russia, China, Japan, India, and the European Space Agency.
It is also the first flight under NASA’s COTS program to develop commercial supply services to the International Space Station. After the Space Shuttle retires, SpaceX will fly at least 12 missions to carry cargo to and from the International Space Station as part of the Commercial Resupply Services contract for NASA. The Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft were designed to one day carry astronauts; both the COTS and CRS missions will yield valuable flight experience toward this goal.
I was out on the Cape with a bus tour. The bus had just stopped at the Cape Canaveral Lighthouse. I videotaped the launch from that location.
Click here to watch the Lighthouse launch video. You need Windows Media Player and a broadband (cable modem, DSL) Internet connection to watch.
After the bus tour, I went by our space museum's history center. The SpaceX launch control center is next door. The SpaceX employees were outside celebrating with bottles of champagne, but still following Dragon's progress as it orbited overhead.
News reports are pouring in and will be posted at time permits. Click here for the Orlando Sentinel report.
Videos of the COTS-1 launch:
The NASA video.
The SpaceX video.