The SpaceX Dragon Launch Is Go!The date and time is set for SpaceX’s historic attempt to dock with the International Space Station. The launch is going to take place tomorrow, May 19th, at 4:55 AM EST, for those who can actually watch the liftoff.
Elon Musk, founder of SpaceX and co-founder of Paypal broke the news by tweet.
Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft stand at Space launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral
If you are interested in watching the launch, it will be streamed live from the company’s website, as they have done with other historic launches. The first Falcon 9 launch was broadcast, for example. They will begin broadcasting live at 3:30 AM, and a replay of the launch will air at 5:24.
The Dragon won’t dock immediately. NASA has created a whole gamut of tests that the Dragon must perform before they even let the craft near the multi-billion dollar station. First all the systems will be checked, then the craft will perform a flyby 1.5 miles away from the station. Only then, once it has demonstrated control and durability, will the Dragon module dock with the ISS.
Both the Falcon 9 and the Dragon module are incredible pieces of machinery. The Falcon 9 is a two-stage rocket weighing in at 735,000 pounds and measuring 178 feet long and 12 feet wide. Its first stage is powered by 9 Merlin engines, each of which produces 125,000 pounds of force. That means that, at liftoff, the Falcon 9 is pumping out 1,125,00 pounds of force. The second stage is much smaller, a single Merlin engine used to propel the payload into orbit.
The Dragon module is the first new man-rated capsule to be designed in decades, and it is the first designed by a private company rather than a government agency. It will be capable of carrying 7 astronauts into orbit, along with assorted cargo. It is, in its own right, a small space station capable or running itself in vacuum for days, or even weeks.
Space has invested at least $1 billion into the project, NASA several hundred million. SpaceX is writing the history of the private space industry, and whether it succeeds will have a long-standing impact on the relationship of private space companies and the government. So yeah, they might have a bit of pressure on them.