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SpaceX launches private spaceship into orbit

Posted by Richard on December 8, 2010

The first operational test of the Dragon spacecraft, capable of carrying up to 7 astronauts, appears to be a success. This morning, SpaceX launched the Dragon into orbit atop its Falcon 9 launch vehicle. Gizmodo has video.

This was only the second launch of the Falcon 9 (the first was in June), and the first under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. The plans for this flight were ambitious: 

The upcoming demonstration mission will launch from Cape Canaveral and should follow a flight plan nearly identical to the first Falcon 9 launch, but this time the Dragon spacecraft will separate from the second stage and will demonstrate operational communications, navigation, maneuvering and reentry. Although it does not have wings like Shuttle, the Dragon spacecraft is controlled throughout reentry by the onboard Draco thrusters which enable the spacecraft to touchdown at a very precise location – ultimately within a few hundred yards of its target.

While Dragon will initially make water landings, over the long term, Dragon will be landing on land. For this first demo flight, Dragon will make multiple orbits of the Earth as we test all of its systems, and will then fire its thrusters to begin reentry, returning to Earth for a Pacific Ocean splashdown off the coast of Southern California. The entire mission should last around four hours.

It looks like they're well on their way to a successful mission.

UPDATE: Splashdown! And complete success!

The Dragon spacecraft the first private space to reach orbit and return to Earth. It just splashed down in the Pacific Ocean, after a perfect launch, separation, orbit and re-entry. This is a huge milestone in the history of space exploration.

Woohoo! Congrats to Elon Musk and the entire SpaceX team!

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10 Responses to “SpaceX launches private spaceship into orbit”

  1. Rick Shultz said

    It was really a thrill to watch the video of the launch. It looks as if SpaceX does really have it together as far as a low earth orbit system is concerned. It’s kind of sad that NASA couldn’t do

    something as impressive as this is. They did seem to have one minor umbilical detachment problem as the vehicle cleared the tower, but other than that it looked really good.

  2. Rick Shultz said

    I would love to shake Elon Musk’s hand! A Le Brouere cheese wheel in space! Gouda nuff for me!

    What a helluva sense humor he must have! Nee! Nee! Roflmao!

  3. rgcombs said

    OK, you’ve befuddled me. Le Brouere cheese wheel? Is there something I’ve missed? No reference to cheese on the SpaceX site’s news update. None on the updated Gizmodo post. If this is a reference to something else, please provide a link.

  4. rgcombs said

    Oh, and BTW — yes, they have it together for low earth orbit already. (And they’ve achieved that with remarkable speed and cost efficiency — compare their development timetable and costs, from first Falcon 1 test to today’s Falcon 9 triumph, to any government agency launch vehicle development schedule.)

    But the Falcon 9 is capable of placing small payloads (10,000 lbs.) into geosynchronous orbit. And the next version, Falcon 9 Heavy, will be able to lift 19,500 kg (over 40,000 lbs.) into geosynchronous orbit.

    These guys are going to revolutionize space travel. With or without cheese wheels. 🙂

  5. Electronic Engineer CV said

    Thanks for the Gizmodo..amazing to watch.

  6. David Bryant said

    The payload (a wheel of Le Brouere cheese) was a tribute to a Monty Python sketch about a cheese shop with no cheese.

  7. Rick SHultz said

    Sorry Richard. I simply assumed that you had seen the article about the Dragon payload. I was

    about to supply you with a link but David has already done so. Being retired on disabilty I sometimes

    forget that other people still work every day and don’t have time for these tidbits. Again, sorry.

  8. Rick Shultz said

    And you’re right about SpaceX’s achievement. I can’t think of ANYTHING NASA has ever done that could compare favorably or even at ALL with schedule SpaceX has kept. It’s sad but I guess it’s true when they say that an elephant is a mouse built to government specs. :=)

  9. rgcombs said

    No problem, Rick, I understand. And thank you, David, for the link. What a great story! My admiration for Elon Musk has gone up another notch. Cheesy comestibles in space — I love it!

  10. David Bryant said

    ”Cheesy comestibles in space …”

    Well, they would have to be soft, and not too crumbly. Brie should be fine, but Parmesan might get crumbs floating all over the place. BTW, most cheese doesn’t freeze well — I presume the payload compartment was heated, but haven’t yet read that anywhere.

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