- Terelle Jerricks
SpaceX‘s Falcon 9 rocket launched early this morning carrying what could soon be the first commercial spacecraft and with it, the dreams of commercial space flight and possibly a trillion dollar industry.
The rocket lifted off at 3:44 a.m. ET from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying an unmanned version of the private firm’s Dragon space capsule to rendezvous with the International Space Station. This successful launch came after multiple delays and an aborted launch May 19.
NASA administrator Charles Bolden called Falcon 9’s flight a picture-perfect launch at the press conference.
“There were people who thought that [NASA] had gone away [with the retirement of the space shuttles]. But today says no, we’re not gone away at all. We’ve got the SpaceX-NASA team, and they came through this morning with flying colors.”
Part of Falcon 9’s mission was to transport cremated remains and release them into orbit. The ashes were flown as part of a deal with Celestis, a company that specializes in “memorial spaceflights.”
The Dragon will undergo a gauntlet of test maneuvers and systems demonstrations before being allowed to berth with the space station on Friday.
William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration Operations Directorate, said that the Dragon could pass the overall demonstration flight even if it fails one of the tests.
This launch is another milestone in the quest for commercial spaceflight as described in the documentary film, Orphans of Apollo, which Random Lengths covered in May 2010.
It told the story of a generation of entrepreneurial space enthusiasts that witnessed the Apollo space missions in their youth and how they bought the Mir Space Station 1999, while the federal government proactively worked to have it destroyed to make way for the United States-led International Space Station.