SpaceX Falcon 9/Dragon launch succeeds: first commercial company ever to send spacecraft to ISS

The Falcon 9 rocket's engines ignite on the SpaceX launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, May 22, 2012. Photo: SpaceX

Before dawn today at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, SpaceX successfully launched its Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon spacecraft to orbit. The mission makes SpaceX the first commercial space flight firm to attempt to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station. Next, the vehicle will undergo a series of tests to assess whether it is ready to berth with the ISS. From the company announcement:

The vehicle’s first stage performed nominally before separating from the second stage. The second stage successfully delivered the Dragon spacecraft into its intended orbit. This marks the third consecutive successful Falcon 9 launch and the fifth straight launch success for SpaceX.

“We obviously have to go through a number of steps to berth with the Space Station, but everything is looking really good and I think I would count today as a success no matter what happens with the rest of the mission,” [SpaceX founder and chief designer Elon] Musk said.

Video here. SpaceFlightNow has extensive coverage. For background, check out Miles O'Brien's recent piece on PBS NewsHour, which includes a visit to the SpaceX factory and an interview with Musk.


        1. “It’s was towed outside the environment… it’s not in an environment, it’s beyond the environment.”

          In all seriousness, that space junk may not impact our environment, but it can have a serious (and literal) impact on the space non-junk we have up there.

  1. 1st thing’s first: the “Video Here” link is broken.

    2nd thing is that Elon Musk just made history as the first private entrepreneur to launch for profit (as well as science.)

    What this bodes for the future is being guided by the care and cooperation from NASA.

    I can hope…

  2. I’m not sure if the “first private company” makes completely sense. In this case SpaceX is paid by the NASA to lift goods to the ISS – is this different to ESA and Arianespace? Arianespace is a French company, only partly owned by state agencies. 

  3. Not to be a debby downer, but it ain’t at the ISS yet. Why do we keep saying “first to launch to the ISS”? Let’s say that when it gets there. Better yet, let’s say it when there’s contact. That won’t be until Friday.

    1. Well, if you want to get technical, they already have their contract. COTS 2/3 is just a technical benchmark they need to fulfill before they can begin operation.

      The paperwork has been done for years now, progress is 100% limited by technical achievements, which is just the way we like it.

    1. I do wonder why that isn’t getting much mention. Leonard Nimoy did mention it on Twitter though.

      I recall that part of his ashes were almost sent to space before, but there was a rocket malfunction or something. That made bigger waves than him successfully getting into space.

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