Issue Date: May 28, 2012
Commercial Spacecraft Heads To Space Station
In the wee hours of May 22, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) successfully launched its Dragon spacecraft on its Falcon 9 launch vehicle. This is the second demonstration mission for NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services Program and the first time a commercially developed and built spacecraft has been launched to the International Space Station (ISS). “Today marks the beginning of a new era in exploration: A private company has launched a spacecraft to the International Space Station that will attempt to dock there for the first time,” NASA head Charles F. Bolden Jr. said after the launch. The goal of the mission is to show that a commercial craft can successfully reach and dock with ISS, thus giving NASA direct access to the station now that the agency has retired its shuttles. In addition to noncritical supplies, Dragon is also carrying 15 science experiments designed by students in grades 5–12 that will assess the effects of microgravity on physical, chemical, and biological systems.
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