Feeds

Elon Musk's Dragon capsule reaches orbit successfully

SpaceX control - not NASA - calls the plays

Build a business case: developing custom apps

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. ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Jurassic squawk: Dinos were Earth's early FEATHERED friends
Boffins research: Ancient dinos may all have had 'potential' fluff
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.