SpaceX has successfully completed the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket in the first of what is hoped to be a series of important partnerships between private enterprises and NASA. If the mission is a success, the SpaceX rocket will deliver the Dragon capsule, complete with 1,200 pounds of supplies such as food and clothing as well as the cremated remains of over 300 people, to the six-person crew of the International Space Station.
The SpaceX rocket launched at 3:44 a.m. ET Tuesday from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Fla. after a faulty engine valve resulted in a failed launch Saturday that left the rocket bolted to the launch pad even as the countdown reached zero.
The SpaceX rocket is unmanned and marks the first time a private company has launched a rocket to the ISS.
Justin Kugler, an operations strategic analyst with the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, CASIS, a non-profit organization that serves as a liaison between private enterprises and the ISS, remarked of the achievement, “I think this mission is important because it’s the first step in a new model, a new way of doing business.”
Kugler supporter 16 treks to the ISS in his time as a NASA contractor. He continued, “In a way, this is NASA kind of coming into the 21st century by utilizing public/private partnerships to do more than we would have been able to do otherwise.”
The Hawthorne, Calif. Mission control center was filled with elation as employees remotely watched the successful launch. SpaceX Chief Executive Elon Musk commented, “For us, it’s like winning the Super Bowl,” adding, “I would really count today a success no matter what happens with the rest of the mission.” If the mission is a success, the capsule should reach the ISS on Friday and return to Earth on May 31.
A successful SpaceX mission could demonstrate for NASA the company’s determination to begin delivering supplies to the ISS under a $1.6 billion contract. NASA also holds another cargo contract with Orbital Sciences Corp., which is scheduled to test its rocket this summer.
Among the cremated remains aboard the Dragon capsule are the remains of famous Star Trek actor James Doohan, the character “Scotty,” whom is at last among the stars compliments of the Houston-based company, Celestis. Doohan, along with the remains of more than 300 others, in separate tubes, will be deposited in space.