Earlier this week, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) fired up their Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft in a successful test to prepare for launch to the International Space Station, set for Friday, March 1, at 10:10 a.m. EST. Space travel fans can follow along during the event via LiveStream starting at 9:30 a.m.
Monday, SpaceX teams ran through all the countdown processes as if it were launch day. All nine engines on the Falcon rocket were successfully fired for nearly two seconds, clearing the way for the historic launch.
Friday’s launch will be the fourth flight for SpaceX’s uncrewed Dragon cargo spacecraft and the fifth and final flight for the company’s two-stage Falcon launch vehicle. It it the second SpaceX operational mission contracted to NASA under a Commercial Resupply Services contract.
Did you ever wonder what they send to the International Space Station on resupply missions?
In addition to what we might expect; food, clothing and gear needed for survival in space, the 1493-pound mission manifest includes experiments sent from a variety of nations.
Japan’s Aerospace Exploration Agency, for example, is sending stem cells. The Canadian and European Space Agencies have experiments going up also. NASA and the Russians are sending various supplies, computer resources and replacement parts.
With favorable weather expected, coverage of the launch from NASA’s Launch Complex 40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida will begin at 8:30am on NASA TV.
Here is a short clip of that test-fire earlier this week-
Space travel gets farther from the dream stage and closer to reality every day. Today, SpaceX will attempt to become the first private company to dock a capsule with the International Space Station. It’s a critical step in NASA’s plan for private contractors to transport cargo and crew into space and another step towards a new generation of space travel.
Called the Commercial Crew Development Program, NASA’s goal is “to accelerate the availability of U.S. commercial crew transportation capabilities and reduce the gap in American human spaceflight capability. Through this activity, NASA also may be able to spur economic growth as potential new space markets are created,” the space agency said in a press release.
Just one such space market hopes to mine Near-Earth Asteroids (NEAs) for raw materials, ranging from water to precious metals employing cost-effective exploration technologies.
“Water is perhaps the most valuable resource in space. Accessing a water-rich asteroid will greatly enable the large-scale exploration of the solar system. In addition to supporting life, water will also be separated into oxygen and hydrogen for breathable air and rocket propellant,” said Eric Anderson, Co-Founder and Co-Chairman of Planetary Resources, Inc., in a multi-media news release earlier this month.
Touting benefits in the tens of billions of dollars, Planetary Resources says a single 500-meter platinum-rich asteroid contains the equivalent of all the platinum mined in history.
Late last month, SpaceX webcast a static fire test of the Falcon 9 rocket’s nine powerful Merlin engines in preparation for the company’s upcoming launch. Engines ran for two seconds before a planned abort.
The launch will be webcast live early Saturday morning, with commentary from SpaceX corporate headquarters in Hawthorne, California, at www.spacex.com.
Saturday’s flight by SpaceX is “a thoroughly exciting moment in the history of spaceflight, but is just the beginning of a new way of doing business for NASA,” said President Barack Obama’s chief science adviser, John Holdren in the Washington Times.
The webcast will begin approximately 40 minutes before launch when SpaceX hosts will provide information specific to the flight, an overview of the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft, and commentary on the launch and flight sequences.