Space X Private Spacecraft Becomes First Ever to Head For International Space Station

falcon 9

SpaceX became the first private company to launch a spacecraft on a mission to the International Space Station on Tuesday as their unmanned capsule took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. It’s mission? To carry food, clothes and other supplies for the astronauts on the station.

The company was founded by South African born American engineer Elon Musk in 2002, shortly after selling PayPal. A few short years later, and after a ton of work, SpaceX now has a $1.6 billion cargo-delivery contract with NASA. NASA is turning routine flights to the station over to companies like SpaceX so that it can focus more on more ambitious projects.

The launch of the SpaceX capsule, Dragon, went off without a hitch and marks the third successful flight in a row for the company’s Falcon 9 rocket. It also marked the second test flight of a Dragon capsule, the first having occurred in 2010 when a Dragon capsule orbited the Earth twice before splashing down into the Pacific Ocean.

While engineers at SpaceX’s launch control room in Florida were elated as Dragon reached orbit, Musk felt the intensity of the moment from the company’s mission control in California. “Every bit of adrenalin in my body released at that point,” he said during a post-launch press briefing.

NASA administrator Charles Bolden also expressed his satisfaction with the launch to reporters: “While there’s a lot of work ahead to successfully complete this mission, we’re certainly off to a good start.”

Bolden certainly isn’t kidding when he says there’s still a lot of work ahead. Before Dragon can approach the station, SpaceX will have to prove to NASA that the spacecraft is firmly under control and that there is no danger of an accidental collision with the station. To do so SpaceX will have to take the capsule to its limits. One such test they’ll be running on Thursday is to have Dragon fly about 1.5 miles below the station while the station astronauts will test the communication systems. If all goes well, NASA will allow Dragon to dock with the station on Friday.

Dragon is scheduled to return to Earth on May 31, holding any cargo the station astronauts wish to send home.

This mission is just the beginning for SpaceX. Already they are planning to modify Dragon so that it can carry people and the company says that it hopes to by flying astronauts by 2015.