view from Exploration Tower at Port Canaveral of the SpaceX
Falcon 9 launch to the International Space Station from
Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at
1:52 a.m. Sunday morning Sept. 21, 2014. This is a two and a
half minute time exposure of the launch.
— A SpaceX cargo ship rocketed toward the International Space
Station on Sunday, carrying the first 3-D printer for astronauts
In all, the
unmanned Dragon capsule is delivering more than 5,000 pounds of
space station supplies for NASA.
reach the space station Tuesday. It's the fifth station shipment
for the California-based SpaceX, one of two new commercial winners
in the race to start launching Americans again from home soil.
The space station
was soaring over the South Pacific when the SpaceX Falcon 9
thundered into Florida's pre-dawn sky. Sunday's weather was ideal
for flying, unlike Saturday, when rain forced a delay. The rocket
was visible for nearly three minutes as it sped out over the
Atlantic, with the Orion constellation as a backdrop.
beautiful morning it was," said Sam Scimemi, NASA's space
station division director.
Sunday was a
red-letter day for NASA in more ways than one.
flawless launch, the space agency's Maven spacecraft was on the
verge of reaching Mars. The robotic explorer was scheduled to go
into orbit around Mars late Sunday night.
station-bound 3-D printer was developed by Made in Space, another
California company. It's sturdier than Earthly models to withstand
the stresses of launch, and meets NASA's strict safety standards.
The space agency envisions astronauts one day cranking out spare
parts as needed. For now, it's a technology demonstrator, with a
bigger and better model to follow next year.
A $30 million
device for measuring ocean winds is also flying up on Dragon,
along with 20 mice and 30 fruit flies for biological research and
metal samples for a golf club manufacturer looking to improve its
spacesuit batteries are on board as well, along with the usual
stash of food, clothes and electronic gear. Routine U.S.
spacewalks were put on hold following last year's close call with
an astronaut's flooded helmet. That problem was solved, then the
battery fuses were called into question. NASA hopes to resume
spacewalks next month.
NASA is paying
SpaceX and Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp. to make regular
station deliveries. The SpaceX service began two years ago.
Just this past
week, SpaceX — led by billionaire Elon Musk — won an even
bigger and more prestigious contract to transport U.S. astronauts
to the orbiting outpost, along with Boeing. Dragon rides could
begin as early as 2016 or 2017.
NASA's ability to
launch its own crews ended with the shuttle program in 2011.
Russia has been providing rides on its Soyuz spacecraft for a
astronaut is scheduled to blast off from Kazakhstan aboard a
Russian Soyuz later this week, along with two Russians, one of
them a woman, a rarity for Russia. They will join the one
American, one Russian and one German already in orbit.
delighted with Sunday's success and the road ahead, and could
hardly wait for the party to begin.
like a good launch," observed Hans Koenigsmann, vice
president of mission assurance for SpaceX. "It's just