Updated 5:48 a.m.:
Members of NASA and SpaceX staff convened for a press conference Tuesday morning, including William Gerstenmaier, Alan Lindenmoyer, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell and SpaceX CEO and Chief Designer Elon Musk.
Lindenmoyer is the manager for Commercial Crew & Cargo Program at NASA, while Gerstenmaier is the associate administrator, human explorations and operations, also at NASA.
Both Lindenmoyer and Gerstenmaier had glowing praise for the SpaceX team, while Shotwell and Musk started the press conference with thanks to the SpaceX staff, NASA, the Air Force and the Federal Aviation Administration.
“We do have a lot of work left to do,” continued Shotwell, “and we’ll keep everybody informed as to the progress.”
“We could not have started SpaceX nor could we have reached this point without the help of NASA,” said Musk, who also expressed appreciation for the SpaceX staff and partners. “It’s great when you’ve given every ounce that you have to see it come to fruition in this way.”
“I would really count today as a success no matter what happens for the rest of the mission,” he added.
Asked how he felt during the launch, aside from what he expressed over Twitter, Musk said, “every bit of adrenaline in my body released at that point. It’s obviously an extremely intense moment. The main thing I was wondering was would we have a valve-related issue on launch and would the first stage perform nominally. But it actually worked perfectly. So, I was really glad to see that. ... I feel very lucky.”
Musk went on to compare the moment with winning the Super Bowl.
As for the naysayers of commercial spaceflight, Musk said, “I hope that the success of this mission thus far at least...will dispel some of the doubts that people have.”
“I think in some cases people had legitimate concerns,” he continued, “because there’s no precedent for what we’re doing here. ..I think this should dispel the doubts of anyone if they are reasonable. ”
Also, contrary to reporting by Reuters Monday, Musk said, “There are no human remains that I’m aware of on Dragon right now.”
As for the next big challenge, it is to open the guidance navigation control door, which Musk compared to opening the bay doors in the film “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
One reporter, citing that SpaceX was a trending topic on Twitter, asked why everyone on the planet should care about the launch. After a brief pause, Musk fielded the question, “What this mission really does is it heralds the dawn of a new era of space exploration — one where there is a...private space element.” Musk went on to compare it to the rise of the Internet — something he would know about, having co-founded the online payment service PayPal. “I think we’re at a similar inflection point in space.”
Updated 5:11 a.m.:
“Today marks a new era in space exploration,” said Bolden in Cape Canaveral, Fla.
“The significance of this day cannot be overstated,” he continued, ”While there’s a lot of work ahead to successfully complete this mission, we’re certainly off to a good start.”
“We’re handing off to the private sector our transportation to the International Space Station so that NASA can focus on what we do best: Exploring even deeper into our solar system.”
“Congratulations to the SpaceX and NASA teams, and godspeed Dragon,” he concluded before taking questions.
“What it does today is it demonstrates what we said is the future of American space exploration,” Bolden said when asked what effect the launch might have on naysayers of commercial spaceflight.
“It’s a great day for America. It’s actually a great day for the world. There are people who thought we had gone away. And today says, ‘No ,we have not gone away at all.’”
“It was just a picture-perfect launch,” he continued. “This is what makes people in the space business get up in the morning and come to work.”
Bolden concluded the press availability quickly, saying he was on his way back to Washington, D.C.
Updated 4:35 a.m.:
NASA has posted the above video replaying the launch, after officially signing off their live coverage. Meanwhile, reactions have already started to trickle in. John P. Holdren, the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology issued the following statement:
“Congratulations to the teams at SpaceX and NASA for this morning’s successful launch of the Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Every launch into space is a thrilling event, but this one is especially exciting because it represents the potential of a new era in American spaceflight. Partnering with U.S. companies such as SpaceX to provide cargo and eventually crew service to the International Space Station is a cornerstone of the President’s plan for maintaining America’s leadership in space. This expanded role for the private sector will free up more of NASA’s resources to do what NASA does best -- tackle the most demanding technological challenges in space, including those of human space flight beyond low Earth orbit. I could not be more proud of our NASA and SpaceX scientists and engineers, and I look forward to following this and many more missions like it.”
Updated 4:03 a.m.:
Falcon flew perfectly!! Dragon in orbit, comm locked and solar arrays active!! Feels like a giant weight just came off my back :)— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) May 22, 2012
As solar rays on the rocket deployed, video shows SpaceX staff on the ground hugging and high-fiving as the Falcon 9 enters orbit. The successful launch marks an historic event for NASA and SpaceX, marking the first commercial spacecraft to be sent to the International Space Station. But the mission has just started, with the Dragon capsule needing to successfully complete a number of maneuvers and tests before docking with the space station.
The six member crew on board the space station was able to watch the launch prior to entering into their morning planning meetings, according to NASA.
Updated 3:51 a.m.: The video angle aboard the Falcon 9 showed a successful separations so far and a glowing red rocket cowl. The launch marks the first attempt to send a commercial spacecraft to rendezvous with the International Space Station.
According to NASA, the rocket entered orbit around 3:52 a.m. to applause at mission control.
Updated: 3:44 a.m.: And the rocket is airborne with everything looking good so far. The vehicle was soon supersonic, and reached “maximum aerodynamic pressure.”
Updated 3:42 a.m. - “Launch director is go for launch.” It looks like we’re almost there.
Updated 3:37: The countdown clock is at less than 10 minutes before launch:
Updated 3:30 a.m.:
NOTE:Contrary to reporting by Reuters Monday, Musk said during a press conference Tuesday morning that “there are no human remains that I’m aware of on Dragon right now.” However, on Sunday, according to Space.com’s Clara Moskowitz, Space Services Inc.’s CEO Charles Chafer confirmed the remains were on board via his Facebook page.
Reuters reported Monday afternoon that the Falcon 9 also carries “holding lipstick-tube-sized canisters filled with cremated remains,” including Mercury Astronaut Gordon Cooper and actor James Doohan, best known as Star Trek’s Montgomery “Scotty” Scott, the fictional craft’s chief engineer. Those are among the remains of 300 individuals being carried by the rocket.
Updated 3:15 a.m.:
Again, while we’re waiting: On May 18, NASA posted a video chronicling the agency’s commercial space-flight endeavor. The mini-documentary chronicles the history of NASA’s emerging partnerships. The agency shared the video over its Twitter feed Tuesday morning. The video describes the International Space Station as “our permanent home in space” and outlines Orbital Sciences and SpaceX as the competitors closes to the final stages of testing with NASA.
While we’re waiting, I noticed that noted Star Trek actor and Reading Rainbow host LeVar Burton is awake and watching the Falcon 9 launch, at least according to his Twitter feed. Burton is known for playing, among other roles, Star Trek The Next Generation’s Geordi LaForge:
Updated 2:50 a.m.: We are about 1 hour away from launch time, with programming on NASA’s live video feed starting at 2:30 a.m.
Meteorologists at CCAFS in Fla. are calling for an 80 percent chance of acceptable weather at #dragonlaunch time, which is 3:44 a.m. EDT.— NASA Kennedy / KSC (@NASAKennedy) May 22, 2012
Fueling of the Falcon 9 rocket has started and weather conditions over the launch pad are “really, really good,” according to NASA.
Original Post: The launch of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket was delayed until Tuesday at 3:44 a.m. Below is the live video feed of the launch provided by NASA:
The launch had been scheduled for early Saturday, however it was called off with no more than a half second to go due to a faulty valve. The launch, if successful, would mark the first attempt to send a commercial spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station. Atop the Falcon 9 is SpaceX’s Dragon capsule. The capsule is filled with food, a laptop and other provisions. The capsule is scheduled to reach the space station on Thursday and dock with the station on Friday, after completing a number of maneuvers.
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