SpaceX’s launch may not have gone to plan over the weekend, but this morning’s liftoff couldn’t have gone more smoothly, as the Falcon 9 blasted off from Cape Canaveral, right on schedule, at 03:44 Eastern Time.
Less than 30 minutes later, the Dragon capsule had been put into orbit and deployed its solar arrays, completing the first stage in the planned ten-day mission.
Docking with the International Space Station is expected to take place on Friday, however this will only happen with NASA’s go ahead, and between now and then, SpaceX and the Dragon still has plenty to prove.
Key tests include the Relative GPS system, which ensures the Dragon capsule doesn’t collide with the International Space Station when it approaches, plus that the Dragon operates as expected when the ISS crew take over control.
The Dragon is carrying clothing, water and food supplies for the Station, along with some experiments provided by the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program.
It’s not a one way flight either, as the Dragon is a re-usable craft and will be loaded with equipment no longer needed by the ISS, ready for its return journey to Earth, and it’s expected to splash-down on May 31.
Although this mission is cargo-based, the Dragon has been designed to seat up to seven astronauts for future flights, and these are expected to start in 2014.
In the meantime though, history will be made on Friday should the Dragon dock with the Space Station, as it will be the first privately operated craft to do so, and once the mission is complete, SpaceX can start planning regular trips.