SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket blasted off on time at 8:35 p.m. this evening from Cape Canaveral, placing a Dragon freighter into orbit that is bound with supplies and equipment for the International Space Station. Dragon separated from the second stage and successfully deployed its solar panels.
This is the first of 12 resupply missions that SpaceX is contracted to fly under contract with NASA under the Commercial Resupply Services program. The vehicle will be berthed at the space station on Wednesday morning.
A press release from SpaceX:
Cape Canaveral, FL — Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) today successfully launched its Dragon spacecraft aboard a Falcon 9 rocket on the first official cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station. The launch went off on schedule at 8:35 p.m. ET from Launch Complex 40 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The SpaceX CRS-1 mission marks the first of at least 12 SpaceX missions to the space station under the company’s cargo resupply contract with NASA. On board the Dragon spacecraft are materials to support investigations planned for the station’s Expedition 33 crew, as well as crew supplies and space station hardware.
Dragon – the only space station cargo craft capable of returning a significant amount of supplies back to Earth — will return with scientific materials and space station hardware.
The Falcon 9 rocket, powered by nine Merlin engines, performed nominally today during every phase of its approach to orbit, including two stage separations, solar array deployment, and the final push of Dragon into its intended orbit. Dragon will now chase the space station before beginning a series of burns that will bring it into close proximity to the station. If all goes well, Dragon will attach to the complex on October 10 and spend over two weeks there before an expected return to Earth on October 28.
“We are right where we need to be at this stage in the mission,” said Elon Musk, CEO and Chief Technical Officer, SpaceX. “We still have a lot of work to do, of course, as we guide Dragon’s approach to the space station. But the launch was an unqualified success.”
The CRS-1 mission follows a historic demonstration flight last May when SpaceX’s Dragon became the first commercial spacecraft to attach to the space station, exchange cargo, and return safely to Earth. The flight signaled restoration of American capability to resupply the space station, not possible since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011.