Feeds

Elon Musk's Dragon capsule reaches orbit successfully

SpaceX control - not NASA - calls the plays

New hybrid storage solutions

The Dragon space capsule built by SpaceX, the American private space company bankrolled and directed by famous PayPal nerdwealth tycoon Elon Musk, launched successfully from Cape Canaveral today.

The Dragon capsule launches from Cape Canaveral atop a Falcon 9 rocket. Credit: NASA TV

Don't need no NASA launch controller

The Dragon, designed to carry cargo and then perhaps astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), took off at 3:42 pm UK time atop a Falcon 9 rocket stack also manufactured by SpaceX. At 3:58, SpaceX launch control reported that Dragon had achieved orbit successfully: at 4:01, it was announced that the capsule had separated from the second stage of the Falcon.

Today's launch is the beginning of the first test flight of the Dragon, intended to prove that the capsule can fly successfully to orbit and return to Earth safely - in this case splashing down in the Pacific having orbited the planet twice. In future SpaceX has ambitions to bring the capsule down on land, saying that its "Draco" guidance rockets will permit it to come down accurately within a small target area.

As well as an existing Commercial Off The Shelf (COTS) deal to haul supplies and cargo to the ISS, SpaceX hopes to be selected for future "Commercial Crew" deals under which astronauts will be carried to and from the station. The company believes that both Falcon 9 and Dragon are capable, reliable and safe enough for manned flight.

Commercial Crew and Cargo are different from previous NASA operations, in that private companies will not only provide the rockets and spacecraft but operate them too. Previously, NASA has had much more of a role in designing and then running the craft used in programmes such as Shuttle and Apollo.

Elon Musk is known to believe that this is a very expensive and unwieldy way to carry out space exploration. SpaceX and its equipment were designed from the first to be efficient and affordable: the company has only 1,100 employees (as compared to the tens of thousands at NASA and the established rocket contractors) and the Falcon's Merlin engines use kerosene fuel rather than troublesome cryogenic hydrogen.

The ambitious new player is also known to have even loftier aspirations than replacing the Shuttle on trips to and from the ISS. In 2015, under current plans, the USA will select the new, Apollo style heavy lift rocket which will be needed to assemble manned missions beyond Earth orbit - to the asteroids or Mars, under President Obama's vision.

The old-style NASA Constellation plans for this were axed due to cost: but SpaceX is known to have massive successor designs to the Falcon 9 series rockets - dubbed Falcon X - which could do the job.

For now, though, SpaceX needs to maintain its place among its COTS competitors for the Commercial Crew and Cargo work before taking on the mighty mainstream US rocket biz for the 2015 heavy lift deal. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Chelyabinsk-sized SURPRISE asteroid to skim Earth, satnav birds
Space rock appears out of nowhere, buzzes planet on Sunday
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
Square Kilometre Array reveals its 1.6TB-a-day storage and network rigs
Boolardy Engineering Test Array - aka BETA - is about to come out of Beta
LOHAN invites ENTIRE REG READERSHIP to New Mexico shindig
Well, those of you who back our Kickstarter tin-rattling...
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.