First Official SpaceX Mission Launch is a Success

Engineering on the Edge has been following the progression of the commercial entities that have stepped up to replace NASA’s retired space shuttle program for some time now. It’s astonishing how quickly the project has gone through testing. On October 7, the first official SpaceX mission lifted off from Cape Canaveral.

The launch marks the return of spacefaring capability to the United States. The U.S. government had been paying Russia to provide support for its crew onboard the International Space Station (ISS). The launch went off without a hitch and the Dragon is now (as of writing) on its way to dock with the ISS to deliver supplies and equipment.

SpaceX Launch

The SpaceX Falcon 9 and Dragon successfully launch from Cape Canaveral. Courtesy of NASA.

“This was a critical event in spaceflight tonight,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “We’re once again launching spacecraft from American soil with the supplies our astronauts need in space. NASA and the nation are embarking on an ambitious program of space exploration.”

Dragon will arrive at the ISS on Wednesday and pull itself into dock using a robot arm controlled by station commander Suni Williams. The first mission is carrying around 1,000 lbs of supplies and will return from orbit with almost 2,000 lbs of used equipment and materials used in experiments.

“This was an operational mission, so we’re operational [but that] doesn’t mean we’re going to stop learning and stop making these vehicles as reliable as possible,” said Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX.

Mini Update (10/08/12): It appears the launch wasn’t entirely flawless. Just before the Falcon went supersonic, one of the engines malfunctioned and exploded. The computer systems on board dealt with the problem by increasing thrust from the remaining engines.

Below you’ll find a video of the launch.

Sources: SpaceX, NASA

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