The First Private Orbital Spacecraft Launch

The SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket has launched successfully, carrying the Dragon spacecraft into orbit. Dragon is the first private spaceship in history. It would be able to carry seven astronauts to orbit. Watch the launch and the separation videos here.

Launch video

Separation and orbit

Live coverage

14.13 The Dragon spacecraft has splashed down in the Pacific Ocean completing a flawless mission. Congratulations again, SpaceX! 10.56: I will post updates through the day, as more information becomes available from SpaceX. What a perfect launch. Now we only need for the orbits to complete and a successful re-entry. This is exciting. Congratulations, SpaceX. 10.54: Dragon will orbit now two or three times before splashing down on the Pacific Ocean. 10.53: Dragon separation verified. It's now in orbit and flying good. 10.52: Engine shutdown as expected. Dragon is in orbit! 10.51: All telemetry systems say all is OK. Way to go, SpaceX! 10.49: Second stage now pushing the Dragon. Guidance and propulsion nominal. That means all is good. Two minutes left on stage to burn. 10.46: All systems nominal. Falcon 9 is now supersonic and on its way to orbit. 10.43: We got launch! Godspeed, Falcon 9! 10.42: 20 seconds. 10.40: Everything on position. Launch director has given the go for launch. 10.38: Five minutes. Stopping battery charging. Falcon 9 is now on internal power. 10.37: OK, get ready, because this one seems the good one. 10.30: Countdown has restarted. Launch is go now. 10.08: Mission control says that they will be doing some preliminary steps before the countdown restarts, just like usual. 10.04: The Falcon 9 is quite a nice rocket. How many people would like to be on board, even having 50 per cent chance of dying along the way? I know I would. One day I will go back to space. Like, without using pills. 9.55: Elon Musk, co-founder of SpaceX, said about this mission has a 50 per cent chance of going well. Hopefully, everything will work perfectly. Otherwise, we are in for some serious space fireworks. Either way, we win! (just kidding, fellow space nerds. Fingers crossed for 100 per cent success). 9.47: The launch is go! The abort was caused by a false telemetry reading on the ordinance interruptor. It was a false abort and, after updating the database on the ground, all systems look good. 9.46: New zero time for launch: 10.43am. 9.36:According to NASA - who partially funded the Dragon through a Space Act Agreement under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program - "SpaceX controllers have resumed liquid oxygen loading. Working towards 10.42 am launch depending on resolution of issue." 9.34: Did I ever tell you that I met and interviewed Buzz Aldrin, second man on the Moon, inventor of the orbital vehicle rendezvous and proponent of a really good plan to get to Mars, through its moon Phobos? An awesome talk with an awesome man. You can learn all about him and other space things using his Buzz Aldrin Portal to Space iOS application. 9.29: I'm biting my nails. If successful, this launch will be an important step towards recovering manned crew launch capabilities in the United States, instead of depending on Russian rockets. 9.21: Mission control has confirmed that there's no launch scrubbing and all systems look good after reset. 9.20: Engineers still evaluating. SpaceX says that they still have two opportunities for launch. Weather looks good. 9.16: SpaceX controllers are now reviewing telemetry data. Their new launch target is 10.42am. Stay tuned. 9.14: Still no reason for the launch abort. Vehicle is safe, all systems appear to be nominal, but something has caused the "Abort, abort, abort" signal. They have to repeat it three times while clacking their heels for the signal to work. 9.12: Countdown has been reset to 13 minutes, but it hasn't restarted yet. 9.05: Right now, mission control is going through checks and changing some controls to manual. 9.03: Abort. Abort. Abort. Launch sequence stopped. Vehicle power is nominal. 9.01: All stages are now autopowered. 9.00: All controls have given the go flight. All sequences have started. Looks great.

If something fails, the next launch windows are 10.38am to 10.43am and 12.16am to 12.22am.

The mission

Nine Merlin engines - developed by SpaceX - will be responsible of launching the Falcon from Kennedy Space Center to orbit. Its first stage will burn for three minutes over the Atlantic Ocean. When it separates from the rocket, it will splash down, slowed by parachutes, and the stage would be recovered by crews on the ocean. If everything is good, it would be reused in future Falcon 9 rockets.

The second stage would get the rocket to orbital velocity. The engine will shut down when the vehicle reaches orbit. A few minutes later, the Dragon capsule would separate. During all this time, instruments would be capturing data live, to be used in the next launches. After orbit, the Dragon would splash onto the Pacific Ocean, where it would be recovered by SpaceX.

If everything goes well, this will be the first time in history that a private spacecraft reaches orbit and safely returns to Earth. Needless to say, today could be a great day for space exploration.

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