Tuesday, May 22, 2012

An Unmanned Shuttle Into Space

photo by SpaceX
Today (May 22, 2012) a private shuttle was launched into space to bring food, supplies, experiments and equipment to the international space station.
The space capsule is owned by Space Exploration Technologies Corp otherwise known as SpaceX and is the first non-governmental spacecraft to go to the space station.
There is, however, a partnership between NASA and SpaceX.
The capsule, named Dragon, was launched at 3:44 am from Cape Canaveral, FL.  The capsule was launched into space on the Falcon rocket.  Dragon is 14.4 feet long and 12 feet wide. It is packed with over 1,000 pounds!
Through a deal with a memorial space flight company, the ashes of Gordon Cooper, a Mercury program astronaut and Star Trek actor James Doohan are also being brought into space.

A previous attempt at a launch occurred on Saturday, but the attempt failed due to a faulty rocket engine valve.

SpaceX has a contract to fly at least 12 unmanned missions to the space station until 2015.

Dragon is expected to arrive at the space station on Thursday and perform a series of maneuvers and will approach the station on Friday. If all goes well, it will get approval from Mission Control in Houston to connect with the space station and astronauts Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers will use the station's robotic arm and grab Dragon.  Then, the two crafts will connect at a node and the doors connecting the two will open on Saturday.
Dragon is due to spend 10 days attached to the space station.
On May 31, Dragon will be repacked by the astronauts with experiments and other equipment and returned to earth.

Another company, Orbital Sciences Corp also has a contract with NASA to deliver cargo later this year.

Using the private sector shuttles has received criticism from lawmakers who claim that the privately made shuttles are less safe than the government made ones.  Does anyone else detect a politician who may have been financially encouraged to feel this way?

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