HAWTHORNE,Ca., MAY 25TH, 2012 — The first commercial spacecraft launched from American soil has created history. At 9:56am EDT, the Dragon capsule, launched from the Florida on May 22nd, was grappled to the International Space Station, celebrating the first American commercial spacecraft docking to the ISS.
Slight delays with tracking sensors aboard the Dragon capsule caused the capture to take place in orbital night. Using exterior lights aboard the space station, Astronaut and current space station crew member Don Pettit controlled the massive robotic arm and joined it with the orbiting vehicle. “Looks like we caught a Dragon by the tail,” stated Pettit upon successful capture.
Cheers from ISS command in Houston, Texas and SpaceX central command in Hawthorne, California were heard over the comm to the station. Members of the SpaceX team could be seen hugging, cheering and wiping away tears of joy for such a monumental event.
NASA has looked to the private sector to take over orbital trips in this post-shuttle period and several U.S. companies are vying for the opportunity. The goal is to get American astronauts launching again from U.S. soil creating jobs at home and halting the outsourcing. Until their retirement last summer to museums, NASA’s space shuttles provided the bulk of space station equipment, modules and crews. Currently, American astronauts are riding on Russian rockets to orbit until SpaceX or one of its competitors can take over.
SpaceX became the first private company to launch a spacecraft into orbit and retrieve it in December of 2010. Musk, a co-creator of PayPal, founded SpaceX a decade ago. He’s poured millions of his own money into the company, and NASA has contributed $381 million as seed money. In all, the company has spent more than $1 billion on the effort.
This newest capsule is supposed to remain at the space station for a week before bringing back experiments and equipment. None of the other types of current cargo ships can return safely; they burn up on the way down.
This article is the copyrighted property of the writer and Communities @ WashingtonTimes.com. Written permission must be obtained before reprint in online or print media. REPRINTING TWTC CONTENT WITHOUT PERMISSION AND/OR PAYMENT IS THEFT AND PUNISHABLE BY LAW.