Sunday, September 21, 2014

SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying a Dragon spacecraft, successfully launched

The SpaceX Falcon 9 carrying a Dragon spacecraft loaded with scientific equipment and cargo launches from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida, on Sept. 21, 2014.

Image Credit: NASA /Frankie Martin

An eruption of fire and smoke sent a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft skyward laden with 5,000 pounds of scientific equipment and supplies destined for use by the crew of the International Space Station.

"This launch kicks off a very busy time for the space station," said NASA's Sam Scimemi, director of the International Space Station, noting upcoming launches of a Soyuz carrying the next crew of the station and launches of cargo spacecraft within a month.

Lifting off at 1:52:03 a.m. EDT on Sunday, Sept. 21, from Launch Complex-40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon etched a yellow and white arc across the sky as it flew on a path roughly paralleling the East Coast of America.

The nine Merlin 1D engines of the first stage shut down as planned about 2 minutes and 41 seconds into flight and the single Merlin engine of the second stage ignited to carry the Dragon the rest of the way into orbit.

Cheers greeted the video from Dragon as the second stage pushed itself away from the orbit-bound spacecraft and a pair of solar array "wings" unfolded to recharge the Dragon's batteries.

"There's nothing like a good launch, it's just fantastic," said Hans Koenigsman, vice president of Mission Assurance for SpaceX. "From what I can tell, everything went perfectly."

Following the launch, the spacecraft starts a two-day chase to catch up with the space station. It is scheduled to complete this pursuit by Tuesday morning.

Once the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft reaches the ISS, European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Alexander Gerst and NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman will reach out with CanadArm-2, the station's robot arm, and maneuver the capsule to latch onto a port of the station.

The station crew later will unload the equipment and supplies inside the Dragon, including a glovebox-sized habitat holding 20 mice that will be used for microgravity research into bone density.

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