May 18, 2012
SpaceX Launch Closing In, Pending Good Weather
Lee Rannals for RedOrbit.com
In less than 24 hours, America will take a new leap into both the commercial industry and space as the SpaceX Dragon Capsule will launch towards the International Space Station.
A year ago, Cape Canaveral would be seeing a space shuttle blast off on a mission to the orbiting laboratory. However, that throne is now set to be taken over by private companies, rather than NASA.
The test flight will see SpaceX shipping off its first supply capsule to the space station, taking with it several space experiments.
The coming day has been met with much anticipation. But it has not come without delays, keeping excited space enthusiasts on the edge of their seat for the event.
Originally, the launch was scheduled for April 30, but has since seen two delays, leading the occasion to take place on Saturday, May 19 at 4:55AM EDT.
A Falcon 9 rocket will take the Dragon capsule up into space, carrying over 1,000 pounds of cargo along with it. Most of the cargo will be food and clothing, but some items are student experiments that will explore the effects of zero gravity.
Assuming all goes according to plan, the capsule will perform a series of maneuvers, including a test flight that will run the Dragon capsule 1.5 miles under the space station before it gets the go-ahead to dock on Tuesday.
Two California high school students will have an experiment onboard that looks into the effect space has on fermenting wine. The experiment will see if a seven-inch tube of yeast and grape juice ferments into wine any faster, or slower, than on Earth.
If weather does keep the rocket at bay on Saturday morning, then the next window of opportunity will be on Tuesday at 3:44 a.m. The exact time of the launch is important so that the capsule is on schedule to reach the space station's orbit.
Once the Dragon capsule docks with ISS, it will mark the first time a commercial spacecraft has visited the orbiting laboratory. Elon Musk and the rest of the SpaceX crew will be holding their breath as their baby pushes through, opening up a new era in commercial space ventures, and potentially earning them $396 million as part of their agreement with NASA.
Upon completion of the mission, SpaceX would enter into a $1.6 billion contract for a dozen cargo flights to the space station.
As the dawn of this new generation of space travel breaks on Saturday, RedOrbit will be at Kennedy Space Center providing in-field coverage for the big moment.