Friday Rocket Blast To Be Streamed Live

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?

[Photo Credit- NASA]

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-

SpaceX Mission Viewing Available Live

The first SpaceX mission to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) happens October 7, 2012. The flight begins a series of missions to deliver and return cargo to the ISS under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract aboard the privately run Dragon spacecraft.

SpaceX’s Dragon will bring 1,000 pounds of supplies to the six person Expedition 33 crew aboard the ISS. Those astronauts will load us a robotic arm to grapple Dragon, attach it to the ISS then load an estimated 730 pounds of scientific materials and 504 pounds of space station hardware to be returned to Earth.

NASA’s goal with the Commercial Crew Development Program 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.Florida’s Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex is offering the public an opportunity to view this night launch from the NASA Causeway with a limited number of Special Access Passes that can be purchased for $20 plus tax, in addition to admission. Bus boarding will begin at 5:30 p.m. EDT for transportation to the NASA Causeway.

Launch viewing is also available from Kennedy Space Center Visitor Complex, including live mission control commentary, and is included with regular admission. The night launch is scheduled for 8:34 p.m. EDT from Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

In other SpaceX news, earlier this month SpaceX’s Grasshopper vertical takeoff and landing test vehicle (VTVL) took its first test flight hop from the company’s rocket testing facility in McGregor, Texas, shown in this video:

The short hop of approximately 6 feet is a major milestone for Grasshopper, part of a reusable first stage for SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket. As seen in the video, “Grasshopper” is a Falcon 9 first stage, a Merlin-1D engine, and four steel landing legs along with a a steel support structure.

SpaceX is developing vehicles that are fully and rapidly reusable in line with a NASA goal of reducing cost and increasing the efficiency of spaceflight.

Grasshopper is expected to test out hovering at about 100 feet in the next several months.

[Flickr photo by FlyingSinger]

Space Travel Update: Man On Mars, Soon

As the SpaceX Dragon mission to the International Space Station comes to a successful close, the future of space travel comes a bit closer. That’s good news for NASA and America’s refocused space program. But they better not get too comfortable with their accomplishments so far, another company already has plans for a human settlement on Mars by 2023.

Mars One plans to send the first crew of four astronauts on a seven-month journey to Mars by April 2023 to establish the first human settlement. Sending a new team to the settlement every two years, the plan calls for over 20 humans to live and work on the red planet by 2033.

“A manned mission to Mars is one of the most exciting, inspiring and ambitious adventures that mankind can take on,” says Mars One on its website. “We see this as a journey that belongs to us all, and it is for this reason that we will make every tread a step we take together.”

To finance the operation, Mars One plans on bringing all of us along on the ride, watching and helping decide as the teams of settlers are selected, trained and prepared for the mission.
Secretly working out the plan since early 2011, the Mars One team has met with international aerospace companies who can design and deliver the essential hardware components for the Mars mission.

[Flickr photo by NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center]

Commercial Space Travel Set Back But Not Discouraged

Commercial space travel, well on its way to replacing traditional space exploration, took a step back Saturday, aborting a mission to the International Space Station (ISS). Just a little step back though – the launch is set to try again early Tuesday after swapping out a faulty part.

SpaceX scrubbed Saturday’s mission less than a second before liftoff after high temperatures were detected in one of the rocket’s engines.

After Tuesday’s re-launch, SpaceX will fly its Dragon capsule to the ISS to test sensors and propulsion systems, both of which have never before operated in space. If all systems are go, the unmanned capsule will practice docking at the ISS.

Saturday’s scrubbed launch is a good example of why America’s space program is headed in this “commercial” direction. Hours after the scrub, SpaceX had the solution to the problem in place and had moved on to planning for Tuesday’s re-launch. Run the old NASA way, detailed systems engineering, computer simulations and time-consuming analysis would have taken much longer and cost much more.

NASA, fully supportive of SpaceX to the tune of $2 billion, is excited and prepared.

“We’re ready to support when SpaceX is ready to go,” Alan Lindenmoyer, Manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Program, said in a press conference Saturday.

The new era in space exploration is coming; it’s just been slightly delayed.

Flickr photo by IronRodArt – Royce Bair (NightScapes on Thursdays)

Historic Space Travel Event Signals Start Of New Space Race

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

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.