Econintersect: After an aborted attempt to launch on Saturday, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was successfully launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida Tuesday morning (22 May 2012). The payload was half a ton of supplies for the International Space Station that had its last manned NASA visit by the space shuttle Atlantis ten months ago. After that flight Atlantis, the last space shuttle vehicle in operation was permanently retired.
SpaceX is a privately held company headed by Elon Musk. Musk is perhaps better known as the co-founder of Pay Pal predecessor X.com and the CEO of Tesla Motors (NASDAQ:TSLA), developer of electric automobiles. Pay Pal has been a wholly owned subsidiary of E-Bay (NASDAQ:EBAY) since 2002.
SpaceX has flight status updates available here. The schedule for the mission is:
May 22/Launch Day: SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket launches a Dragon spacecraft into orbit from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
May 23: Dragon orbits Earth as it travels toward the International Space Station.
May 24: Dragon’s sensors and flight systems are subjected to a series of complicated tests to determine if the vehicle is ready to berth with the space station; these tests include maneuvers and systems checks in which the vehicle comes within 1.5 miles of the station.
May 25: NASA decides if Dragon is allowed to attempt berthing with the station. If so, Dragon approaches. It is captured by station’s robotic arm and attached to the station, a feat that requires extreme precision.
May 25 – 31: Astronauts open Dragon’s hatch, unload supplies and fill Dragon with return cargo.
May 31: After approximately two weeks, Dragon is detached from the station and returns to Earth, landing in the Pacific, hundreds of miles west of Southern California.
SpaceX is one of several commercial space ventures. As GEI News reported eight months ago, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic officially opened a facility named “Spaceport America” last October to service commercial flights of shuttle-like hybrid space craft to be used for individuals to take commercial space flights.