SpaceX to launch the first-ever private rocket to the International Space Station
By Meagan McGone
Editor's note: On May 2, SpaceX announced that it is delaying its launch date scheduled for May 7. A new date has not been confirmed.
BREVARD - After several delays, Space Coast residents may occupy front-row seats to witness history.
California-based Space Exploration Technologies Corp., also known as SpaceX, is set to launch the first-ever private rocket to the International Space Station from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Originally scheduled for April 30, the new launch date is set for Monday, May 7.
SpaceX's Dragon capsule, developed under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program, will fly unmanned to dock the International Space Station atop a Falcon 9 rocket. If the mission is successful, the company will prove its ability to carry out a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to deliver cargo in 12 flights to the International Space Station.
In a news release, Mike Horkachuck, NASA's project executive for SpaceX, compared the launch to the lead-up to Apollo.
"You had Mercury, then you had Gemini, and eventually you had Apollo," he said. "This would be similar in the sense that, we're not going to the moon or anything as spectacular as that, but we are in the beginnings of commercializing space. This may be the Mercury equivalent to eventually flying crew and then eventually leading to, in the long run, passenger travel in space."
The Dragon capsule will carry about 1,200 pounds of pounds of cargo that can be used by those living on the International Space Station. The mission should last about 21 days.
Because the mission is a test flight, the cargo is not material deemed critical to the crew, Mr. Horkachuck said in the news release.
According to www.nasa.gov, SpaceX has two successful launches under its belt, and in December 2010, it became the first private company to launch a spacecraft into Earth's orbit and recover it. But the company's founder, Elon Musk, is still far from reaching his ultimate goal.
"Besides ensuring the continuance of life, creating a base on Mars would be the most exciting adventure ever," Mr. Musk tweeted on April 9.
As of press time, the launch was scheduled for 9:38 a.m. Detailed updates can be found at www.nasa.gov/spacex.