Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.


SpaceX makes historic launch

22 May 2012, 12:45

Cape Canaveral - SpaceX on Tuesday launched its Dragon space capsule toward the International Space Station, becoming the first private firm to attempt a test mission to the orbiting lab.

"Three, two, one and launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket, as Nasa turns to the private sector to resupply the International Space Station," said Nasa commentator George Diller, as the spacecraft blasted off at 03:44.

The test flight - which is set to include a fly-by and berthing with the station in the coming days - aims to show that private industry can restore US access to the ISS after Nasa retired its space shuttle fleet last year.

No humans are travelling aboard the Dragon, but six astronauts are already at the $100bn space lab to help the capsule latch on, to unload supplies and then restock the capsule with cargo to take back to Earth.

California-based SpaceX, owned by billionaire internet entrepreneur Elon Musk, is the first of several US competitors to try sending spacecraft to the ISS with the goal of restoring US access to space for human travellers by 2015.

The company successfully test-launched its Falcon 9 rocket in June 2010, then made history with its Dragon launch in December of that year, becoming the first commercial outfit to send a spacecraft into orbit and back.

Aborted attempt

Its reusable Dragon capsule has been built to carry both cargo and up to seven crew members.

Until now, only the space agencies of Russia, Japan and Europe have been able to send supply ships to the ISS.

The three-decade US shuttle programme, which ferried astronauts and cargo to the research outpost, ended for good in 2011, leaving Russia as the sole taxi to the ISS until private industry comes up with a replacement.

The Saturday launch attempt was scrubbed at the last second when computers detected high pressure in the central engine of the Falcon 9.

SpaceX engineers discovered the root cause was a faulty check valve and repaired it the same day.

The US space agency has given SpaceX about $390m so far of the total $680m that the company has spent on cargo development. SpaceX has a $1.6bn contract with Nasa for future supply missions.

$63m a ticket

Orbital Sciences Corporation is working on its own supply ship, with a preliminary launch scheduled for later this year, and has a $1.9bn contract with Nasa.

SpaceX also gets funding from Nasa for a separate effort to develop a commercial crew vehicle for carrying astronauts to space, along with competitors Blue Origin, Boeing and Sierra Nevada.

In a few years' time, SpaceX says it will be able to undercut the hefty price Nasa pays Russia for US astronauts to get a seat aboard the Soyuz space capsule - around $63m a ticket.

On 24 May, the spacecraft's sensors and flight systems are to undergo a series of tests to see if the craft is ready to berth with the space station, including a complicated fly-under at a distance of about 2.5km.

If Nasa gives the green light, the Dragon will then approach the ISS on 25 May in an attempt to berth with the station.

The astronauts on board the ISS will manoeuvre the station's robotic arm to help capture the capsule and attach it to the orbiting research outpost.

The hatch of the Dragon is set to open on 26 May for unloading and restocking. On 31 May, the Dragon is to detach from the station and make a safe landing in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California.


Tags spacex space

Read News24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Read more from our Users

Nigeria @ 56: Words to my green f...

A leader’s job is not to dictate, but rather to be respected, admired and be a trustee, of the land we love, with so much potential, a land which should be freer than free. Its still a long way to fufilling our destiny! Read more...

Submitted by
Isaac Asabor263
Recession: An opportunity for Nig...

The recession should be seen as an opportunity for the country’s promotion as long as we all collectively conduct ourselves in a patriotic manner, writes Isaac Asabor.  Read more...

Submitted by
Black and White

We want to imitate the whites in everything because we are ignorant of our inherent originality and content. We spend all our Naira to acquire his inventions because we so oblivious of our natural endowments that we allow him have it for free. Read more...

Submitted by
Nate Nat
Adamawa State University Mubi: A ...

ADSU integrity forum has accused the Sunday Joshua Wugira, a lawyer, of adopting unorthodox tactics by abusing his privilege by attacking the integrity of ADSU Vice Chancellor Dr. Moses Zira Zaruwa, writes a News24 reader. Read more...

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
My Country Nigeria (Part One)

Poetry by Abdulsalam Jubril.

Submitted by
Abdulsalam Jubril
Recession, dearth in leadership a...

Every leader has the opportunity to become great and making himself immortal in the lives and hearts of people for generations to come. Will Mr. President seize this opportunity?, questions Abdulsalam Jubril. Read more...