SpaceX has successfully launched the first private mission with the International Space Station, lifting off from Kennedy Space Center (KSC), Florida at 03:44 local.
“Dragon separated and the solar arrays have deployed,” says SpaceX. Technicians and crew were seen celebrating inside and outside the KSC control centre.
After a tense series of crucial tests and launch scrubs, the Dragon capsule successfully reached orbit approximately 9min into the flight. After separation from the upper stage, the capsule’s solar power arrays were deployed.
If all goes according to plan, the Dragon capsule will approach the ISS slowly, circling the station and testing systems before ultimately docking on 25 May, approximately 75 hours into the flight.
Though the spacecraft is carrying over 1,000lb (460kg) of supplies, the flight is primarily considered a test and proving flight. The launch marks only the third for Falcon 9, and the second for Dragon. If successful, Dragon will become qualified for its first official ISS resupply flight, one of 12 under NASA’s commercial orbital transportation services (COTS) contract.
SpaceX is developing a human-rated version of the Dragon capsule to ferry crew to the ISS under the second phase of NASA’s commercial crew development (CCDev) programme, and has submitted a bid for the third round, known as the commercial crew integrated capability (CCiCap).
Zach Rosenberg, Flight Global