Though not as big as the one in 1969, this is still a jump big enough to cause NASA to spend sleepless nights. SpaceX, short for Space eXploration Technologies, is due to make its maiden launch tomorrow, i.e. on the 19th of May, 2012. Going sub-orbital will be SpaceX’s baby steps towards actually going for a fully manned space mission.
The launch time on 19th May is 1:15 AM Pacific / 4:15 AM Eastern / 08:15 UTC as taken from the SpaceX site.
The live webcast link is: http://www.livestream.com/spaceflightnow?utm_source=lsplayer&utm_medium=embed&utm_campaign=footerlinks
SpaceX will launch their Dragon space capsule atop the powerful Falcon-9 rockets. The capsule will contain important supplies for astronauts at the ISS, like food, other essential supplies and certain science equipment.
This is a part of the NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Program and is designed to act as a replacement for the Space Shuttle, which carried man, machine and supplies. For now, man is excluded from the scenario and the first few missions will all be unmanned.
The Dragon space capsule doesn’t require much alteration to house a human being. That is definitely on the charts, but it is not clear how soon that’s going to happen.
NASA for the first time is stepping out of its own shell and allowing other companies to participate in space. SpaceX, having a $1.6 billion contract for 12 cargo flights with NASA, is one player. The other player is Orbital Sciences Corps. and they have been contracted to actually carry out manned flights. The contract is a lucrative $1.9 billion for 8 flights.
Orbital Corps also promises private spaceflight experience for those who can shell out the money. The exact amount is not known right now, though.
Go SpaceX Go! That’s the new motto. NASA is keeping its fingers crossed. This is one experiment that they definitely want to get right.