SpaceX Launches Unmanned Capsule To International Space Station

Mindy Sparks
March 2, 2019

While NASA has continued to fly probes and robots into deep space, and has even landed on Mars, the inability to fly humans has remained an embarrassment for an agency that beat the Soviet Union in the Cold War space race to the moon.

NASA is anxious for reliable transit to and from the space station.

"Liftoff!" SpaceX tweeted at 2:49 a.m. ET.

I'm a space policy analyst, and I've observed that cost has been a major hurdle limiting access to space. Unlike many other news organizations, we have not put up a paywall. Though it suffered several setbacks, in 2008 it launched the first privately funded liquid-fueled rocket, the Falcon 1.

The station's three-member crew was expected to greet the capsule, carrying 180kg of supplies and test equipment, early on Sunday, NASA said. SpaceX has since focused on recovering key parts of the Falcon 9 to enhance reusability and reduce costs. Its Falcon 9 rockets have resupplied the space station 15 times in seven years, even though one of them blew up in 2015.

In 2018 alone, SpaceX made 21 successful launches. "We've launched a lot of Falcon 9 rockets now". The test payload was Musk's own red Tesla Roadster, with a mannequin named Starman in the driver's seat.

The dummy that will ride in the capsule - which SpaceX's Hans Koenigsmann prefers to call a "smartie" - has been nicknamed Ripley in honor of the character played by Sigourney Weaver in the "Alien" movies. Musk has also suggested that the Starship could serve as the foundation for a lunar base.

Keeping its options open, the United States space agency in 2014 awarded contracts to both SpaceX and Boeing for them to take over this task.

"We're on the precipice of launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil", NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine told reporters before the launch.

With NASA falling significantly behind schedule, because of technological difficulties and budget cuts, the Obama administration was left with a choice of whether to boost funds for NASA or change direction. The administration chose to reorient the program to focus exclusively on deep space.

SpaceX's live stream starts from 12am on March 1 and cycles through preparation stages and launch before the capsule goes into orbit. But those concerns have been alleviated, NASA officials said this week.

Following the retirement of American shuttles, NASA paid companies such as SpaceX and Boeing about $8 billion to build and operate crew capsules to carry astronauts to and from the space station.

Despite SpaceX's success at recovering and reusing its rockets, NASA is insisting on brand new boosters from SpaceX for the crew capsule flights.

"Early on, our goal was human spaceflight", he said. Around 11 minutes later, the Falcon 9 boosters and capsule detached from one another successfully.

If all goes to plan, this will be a huge milestone in the journey towards commercial space travel.

The Crew Dragon space capsule, launched from Cape Canaveral in Florida, is unmanned but it carries an astronaut test dummy named Ripley that is outfitted with numerous sensors to collect data from the flight.

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