News / USA

Dragon to Venture to Space Station

TEXT SIZE - +
Suzanne Presto


 

Dragon to Venture to Space Stationi
X
May 19, 2012
It's a historic mission that has been years in the making. VOA's Suzanne Presto reports that SpaceX, a private company that has received more than $380 million in funding from NASA, is gearing up to launch an unmanned spacecraft to the International Space Station.


It's a historic mission that has been years in the making. SpaceX, a private company that has received more than $380 million in funding from NASA, is gearing up to launch an unmanned spacecraft to the International Space Station.

On Friday afternoon, weather officials said conditions were favorable for the pre-dawn launch Saturday from Cape Canaveral in Florida.


Gwynne Shotwell is the president of SpaceX, which developed and owns the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon space capsule. Speaking alongside NASA officials at a news briefing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida Friday afternoon, she said the SpaceX team is in awe of the opportunity before them.


"You know, I think we're going to be biting off our fingers between now and hour 75," Shotwell said, referring to the nerves SpaceX employees would be coping with during the the first three days of the milestone mission.


"Launch is obviously key. You've got to get Dragon successfully to orbit, so that's a pretty nerve-wracking timeframe," continued Shotwell. "This is actually a difficult mission from the perspective of the launch window. We have a near-instantaneous launch window, so if by 4:55 am [Eastern] and a couple of seconds, we haven't lifted off, we will have to scrub."


That is because the space capsule is trying to meet up with a moving target. The International Space Station is zooming around the Earth every 90 minutes. Shotwell explained that if the rocket does not launch at exactly the right time, there would be massive propellant requirements in order to catch up to the space station.


If the company is successful, it will join the United States, Russia, Europe and Japan as the only entities that have sent a spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station.


Shotwell says the company's nearly 1,900 employees probably will not be getting much sleep between the launch and the Dragon's docking. That is set for the third day of the mission, if all goes smoothly.


The unmanned Dragon spacecraft will carry 544 kilograms of cargo, including commemorative patches, clothing, meals and student experiments. Nothing is considered critical to the space station's crew.


Phil McAlister, the acting director of NASA's commercial spaceflight development program, praised the partnership between the government agency and the California-based company. He said opening up space to non-government entities is necessary for the future of exploration.


"Once we get private enterprise and economic interests out to low-Earth orbit, there will be no turning back," said McAlister.


NASA and SpaceX officials alike emphasize that this is a test flight, so they are viewing it as a learning opportunity.


SpaceX says it hopes to carry people into space within three years.

You May Like

Multimedia Relatives of South Korean Ferry Victims Fire at Authorities

46 people are confirmed dead, but some 250 remain trapped inside sunken ferry More

War Legacy Haunts Vietnam, US Relations

$84 million project aims to clean up soil contaminated by Agent Orange More

Wikipedia Proves Useful for Tracking Flu

Technique gave better results than Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Google’s Flu Trends More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politicsi
X
Michael Eckels
April 19, 2014
There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Ukraine, Russia, United in Faith, Divided in Politics

There is a strong historical religious connection between Russia and Ukraine. But what role is religion playing in the current conflict? In the run-up to Easter, Michael Eckels in Moscow reports for VOA.
Video

Video Face of American Farmer is Changing

The average American farmer is now 58 years old, and farmers 65 and older are the fastest growing segment of the population. It’s a troubling trend signaling big changes ahead for American agriculture as aging farmers retire. Reporter Mike Osborne says a new report from the U.S. Census Bureau is suggesting what some of those changes might look like... and why they might not be so troubling.
Video

Video Donetsk Governor: Ukraine Military Assault 'Delicate But Necessary'

Around a dozen state buildings in eastern Ukraine remain in the hands of pro-Russian protesters who are demanding a referendum on self-rule. The governor of the whole Donetsk region is among those forced out by the protesters. He spoke to VOA's Henry Ridgwell from his temporary new office in Donetsk city.
Video

Video Drones May Soon Send Data From High Seas

Drones are usually associated with unmanned flying vehicles, but autonomous watercraft are also becoming useful tools for jobs ranging from scientific exploration to law enforcement to searching for a missing airliner in the Indian Ocean. VOA’s George Putic reports on sea-faring drones.
Video

Video New Earth-Size Planet Found

Not too big, not too small. Not too hot, not too cold. A newly discovered planet looks just right for life as we know it, according to an international group of astronomers. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Copts in Diaspora Worry About Future in Egypt

Around 10 percent of Egypt’s population belong to the Coptic faith, making them the largest Christian minority in the Middle East. But they have become targets of violence since the revolution three years ago. With elections scheduled for May and the struggle between the Egyptian military and Islamists continuing, many Copts abroad are deeply worried about the future of their ancient church. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky visited a Coptic church outside Washington DC.
Video

Video Critics Say Venezuelan Protests Test Limits of Military's Support

During the two months of deadly anti-government protests that have rocked the oil-rich nation of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro has accused the opposition of trying to initiate a coup. Though a small number of military officers have been arrested for allegedly plotting against the government, VOA’s Brian Padden reports the leadership of the armed forces continues to support the president, at least for now.
Video

Video More Millenials Unplug to Embrace Board Games

A big new trend in the U.S. toy industry has more consumers switching off their high-tech gadgets to play with classic toys, like board games. This is especially true among the so-called millenial generation - those born in the 1980's and 90's. Elizabeth Lee has more from an unusual café in Los Angeles, where the new trend is popular and business is booming.
Video

Video Google Buys Drone Company

In its latest purchase of high-tech companies, Google has acquired a manufacturer of solar-powered drones that can stay in the air almost indefinitely, relaying broadband Internet connection to remote areas. It is seen as yet another step in the U.S. based Web giant’s bid to bring Internet to the whole world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
AppleAndroid