RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Private space enterprise company SpaceX successfully launched the Falcon 9 and Dragon capsule this morning from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 3:44 a.m. EDT. This is the first private space company to attempt a rendezvous in space with the International Space Station. SpaceX describes this morning's launch as "a demonstration flight" heading to the International Space Station. SpaceX stated prior to the launch, "The spacecraft is carrying cargo, no people, to the station in a test flight to show that a privately built spacecraft can be launched to and rendezvous with the station." The cargo SpaceX mentioned is primarily food and supplies for those currently on the International Space Station.
NASA released this statement following the launch:
"SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket launched from Space Launch Complex-40 at Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on May 22, 2012 at 3:44:38 a.m. EDT. The on-time liftoff occurred after a smooth countdown that saw favorable weather and no technical problems. The Falcon 9 carried SpaceX's Dragon capsule, embarking on a demonstration flight to the International Space Station. In addition to berthing with the station and delivering cargo, Dragon must exhibit a range of capabilities to meet two flights' worth of objectives, such as on-orbit maneuvers, rendezvous capabilities and vehicle performance."
If SpaceX successfully completes the entire mission, the company can develop a cargo ship and contract with NASA on a $1.6 billion agreement for a dozen future cargo flights. The future goal is for NASA to contract with private companies, like SpaceX, to ferry our astronauts into space using their spacecrafts because of the end of NASA's shuttle program.
The joint NASA and SpaceX schedule has Dragon reaching the International Space Station on Thursday, May 24, 2012. Tests must be conducted that day prior to docking, and if they are successful, then Dragon will be allowed to dock at the station Friday, May 25, 2012. If that next crucial step is completed, then the hatches will be opened Saturday, May 26, 2012.
The SpaceX Launch Control Center was based at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida this morning. The photo below shows the launch team operating the countdown to liftoff of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company's Dragon spacecraft atop.
Mission controllers also monitored the launch at SpaceX's Headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
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