The much anticipated SpaceX launch was stalled suddenly in the closing parts of the countdown sequence. The LIFT-OFF DID NOT OCCUR, on time. Space Flight Control, Houston, reported that there has been a “cutoff in the Launch Sequence” and that the launch was aborted. The exact nature of the problem is still unknown.
Latest Update: The SpaceX Launch Delayed Till Tuesday!
One of the computers apparently saw a parameter value that ‘it didn’t like’ and thus the engine had to shut down. The launch vehicle is stable and can be recycled for the next attempt.
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.
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.
The euphoria has to wait for a few more days to set in and the wait just gets longer. SpaceX’s first launch of its unmanned Dragon space capsule was scheduled for 7th May, 2012, but has now been shifted to May 19th at the earliest. There was some news of the launch happening on the 10th of May, but that has also been laid to rest.
SpaceX, short and snazzy for Space eXploration, is a private company which has won a contract from NASA for doing 12 flyby’s to the International Space Station, carrying food supplies and other essentials for the astronauts up there. NASA is closely monitoring SpaceX’s progress, providing logistical support as and where needed, since NASA wants a replacement for the Space Shuttle Program. Right now, only Russia has the capability to ferry astronauts to and from the Space Station. NASA wants its piece of the ISS pie back!
And thus SpaceX! The contracts, worth $1.6 billion, with SpaceX for 12 cargo deliveries and another with Orbital Sciences Corps, worth $1.9 billion, for eight cargo deliveries, will help NASA provide a stop gap arrangement for the maintenance of the International Space Station. NASA might want us to see differently. Says NASA astronaut Don Pettit:
Now government-run agencies like NASA can concentrate on the frontier aspect of being in space. They can define what we’re doing and then we can have the commercial entities supply us the goods and services we need in order to do the mission.
Fine, except that NASA has been watching SpaceX very closely, rather than just giving it a sideways glance.
Meanwhile, even before getting its feet wet – or in the air, in this case – SpaceX has been dreaming big. Co- founded, owned and managed by Elon Musk, the co-founder of PayPal, SpaceX wants to go to Mars. Why? Because he believes that the only chance that humans have for survival is becoming a multi-planet species.
There are a lot of positives for SpaceX – a launch in a few days, continued NASA support and a big dream for the future. Join the bandwagon in saying Go SpaceX, Go!
The next step in space will be taken on the 7th of May, but that was preceded on 30th April ’12 by the static fire of the launch vehicle. SpaceX, the company determined to take the mantle of NASA’s Space Shuttle program, will be launching their Dragon Space capsule on the 7th of May. Today they successfully static fired Falcon, the rockets that are meant to carry the Dragon into outer space.
Static fire means that the rocket doesn’t really launch and remains useable for a second time – or for the actual launch. The test wasn’t free of glitches, however. The scheduled test was at 1500 EST (or 1900 GMT), but while 47 seconds were remaining on the clock, the rocket’s engines showed a glitch, which was later traced down to a computer error.
The static launch was rescheduled for 1615 EST. There was no problem this time and the nine Merlin engines that will power the mammoth to space fired for two seconds, while the booster remained attached to the pads.
No fingers crossed
A static launch is a bit weird, but SpaceX doesn’t want to take any chances. NASA has been feeding this organization money and technology, so that they can be a proper replacement to the Space Shuttle. Here’s the time of reckoning. NASA is weighing the options of going on to build a new fleet of vehicles – Space Shuttle 2.0, if you wish – and of relying totally on SpaceX and SpaceX-like private companies to give them a lift to the heavens.
SpaceX is not the only one with the prestigious (and lucrative) NASA contract. Virginia based Orbital Technological Corp. have also gained NASA’s trust. They are contracted for eight cargo delivery missions using its own Cygnus and Antares rockets to the International Space Station. The first of the launches will happen later this year.
The actual launch will happen on May 7th. The launch will be telecast live on SpaceX’s website. Be sure to keep an eye out for us – we will keep you informed with the latest.
The future of American contribution in space seems to lie in the hands of private space companies. A private aerospace company, focusing on space flight, Space Exploration (or SpaceX) has been approved by NASA to send its Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station on an unmanned flight, scheduled sometime in late November and attempt a docking with the ISS in early December this year.
NASA has been relying heavily on private space vehicles to take up the mantle of ferrying hardware reliably to the International Space Station from its own space shuttle program. So much so that NASA has even been bottle-feeding them with cash in order to help them grow. Even manned flight is now in the cards, but not in the near future.
SpaceX will attempt to fly its Dragon Space Capsule past the ISS as its first mission target on November 30th and then attempt a docking with the ISS on the 9th of December this year. SpaceX and NASA are both contemplating a combination of the two missions into one, which will involve a brief fly-by before a docking attempt.
The four decade old Space Shuttle Program came to an end on the 21st of July this year after Atlantis landed and, since then, NASA has been looking at private players. SpaceX is a leader in this against three more players. As per revealed details of its contract with NASA, SpaceX will charge $1.6 billion for 12 cargo deliveries, making it $133 million per flight. This is tiny compared to the expenditure of more than $1 billion per flight of the space shuttle.
The Bigger Question(s)
If the Dragon cargo ship is delivered properly, using the Falcon rockets (made by SpaceX itself), it will be a dramatic vindication of NASA’s faith in private players in the wake of the end of the space shuttle program. The Falcon rocket parts are already assembled at the Cape Canaveral launch site. The Dragon spacecraft is yet to arrive and is expected in August or September.
The wide space left behind by the end of the space shuttle program leaves room for the super-reliable Soyuz to become the primary player in the space game. Roskosmos, the Russian space agency, realizes as much:
From today, the era of the Soyuz has started in manned space flight, the era of reliability
SpaceX is the not the only player in the game. Following it, but not very close behind, is Orbital Sciences Corp., which also has landed a NASA contract. It is planning its Cygnus’ ship for a February 2012 launch.
Reliability is a key question on everyone’s mind. If that is answered in the positive, there will be inevitable questions on the ethical decision to let private players enter into virgin territory, especially when manned space flight will be involved.