Visionary leadership, hard work and determination today came together as we saw SpaceX successfully launch the Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, changing the course of history.
This represents the first time a private company has attempted to send a spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS). A highly complex mission, it also showcases the success and importance of private-public cooperation to accelerate innovation and also put space back on the front page, re-igniting the attention and recognition the industry deserves.
Nasa’s administrator Charles Bolden said: “Today marks the beginning of a new era in exploration… The significance of this day cannot be overstated; a private company has launched a spacecraft to the International Space Station that will attempt to dock there for the first time. “And while there is a lot of work ahead to successfully complete this mission, we are certainly off to good start.”
The primary objectives for the flight include SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft flying within 1.5 miles (2.5 kilometers) of the International Space Station to validate the operation of sensors and flight systems necessary for a safe rendezvous with station.
If the initial tests go well, Dragon will approach the ISS, and the station crew will grapple the vehicle with the station’s robotic arm and maneuver the vehicle to Node 2 nadir. At the end of the mission, Dragon will depart from the station, before returning to Earth and be recovered.
The mission has major significance because it marks a big change in the way the US wants to conduct its space operations. Nasa is attempting to offload routine human spaceflight operations in low-Earth orbit to commercial industry in a way similar to how some large organisations contract out their IT or payroll.
“We’re really at the dawn of a new era in space exploration, and one where there’s a much bigger role for commercial space companies,” Mr Musk said.
“I think perhaps there’s some parallels to the internet in the mid-90s where the internet was created as a government endeavour but then the introduction of commercial companies really accelerated the growth of the internet.”
We congratulate SpaceX and NASA and wish them a continued successful and safe mission!