Belfast Telegraph

Home News World

Private rocket heads for spaceport

A commercial rocket has blasted off with a load of supplies for the International Space Station.

The SpaceX company's Falcon 9 rocket took flight from Cape Canaveral, Florida, opening a new era of space flight.

It carried a capsule, named Dragon, packed with 1,000lb of space station provisions. This is the first time a private business, rather than a state government, has launched a vessel to the space station. Nasa and SpaceX stress that this is a demonstration flight.

The real test comes on Thursday when the Dragon gets close to the space station. It will undergo practice manoeuvres from more than a mile out. If all goes well, the docking will happen on Friday.

SpaceX's billionaire founder, Elon Musk, hailed the launch. He said on Twitter: "Falcon flew perfectly!! Dragon in orbit ... Feels like a giant weight just came off my back."

The White House quickly offered congratulations. John Holdren, president Barack Obama's chief science adviser, said: "Every launch into space is a thrilling event, but this one is especially exciting.

"This expanded role for the private sector will free up more of Nasa's resources to do what Nasa does best - tackle the most demanding technological challenges in space, including those of human space flight beyond low Earth orbit."

Launch controllers applauded when the Dragon reached orbit nine minutes into the flight, then embraced each other once the solar panels on the spacecraft popped open. Many of the SpaceX controllers wore untucked T-shirts and jeans or even shorts, a stark contrast to Nasa's suit-and-tie shuttle team.

This time, the Falcon's nine engines kept firing all the way through lift-off. On Saturday, flight computers aborted the launch with half a second remaining in the countdown, and a bad engine valve was replaced.

Nasa administrator Charles Bolden said: "The significance of this day cannot be overstated. It's a great day for America. It's actually a great day for the world because there are people who thought that we had gone away, and today says, 'No, we're not going away at all'."

Popular

From Belfast Telegraph