Thursday, December 9, 2010

First Commercial Space Craft Launch Signals New Space Race

The odds were against them but SpaceX successfully launched and recovered the first commercially developed spacecraft in the world, opening up the race to space that has languished since the Russians launched Sputnik 1 in October,1957.

It is interesting to note that SpaceX solved the problem of cracked nozzles in two days, much faster than NASA, a US Government operation, has ever done. Of course some in Congress believe this was just luck and not to be relied on. Government always does things better and safer. Yeah! Sure!

This is a dangerous undertaking and accidents will happen, but what do you want to bet that space exploration in the next 53 years will be exponentially greater now that government is getting out of the way.

The world's first commercially developed space capsule was successfully launched into orbit and then recovered at sea Wednesday, signaling a historic move toward an era of privately operated rockets and spacecraft.

Barely eight years after Internet entrepreneur Elon Musk opened makeshift offices in suburban Los Angeles, his company accomplished something that none of the world's aerospace giants—and so far only five national space progams—have been able to achieve.

Closely held Space Exploration Technologies Corp. recovered its unmanned Dragon capsule after more than three hours of a seemingly problem-free demonstration flight, despite immense technical hurdles that many space experts and established contractors believed would take much longer to overcome.

Blasted 180 miles above the Earth from Cape Canaveral, Fla., by SpaceX's own nine-engine, 18-story Falcon 9 rocket, Dragon survived the rigors of the launch and then used its thrusters to precisely maneuver out of low-earth orbit.

The Apollo-like capsule—poised to carry cargo and perhaps eventually U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station—reached roughly 17,000 miles per hour before surviving a fiery re-entry and landing gently in the Pacific.

Dragon came close to its designated landing spot off the coast of Mexico, according to company officials, who had worried that flawless deployment and operation of it three main parachutes, each measuring 116 feet, could be the trickiest part of the mission.

Mr. Musk told reporters Wednesday "we are definitely going to be pushing the technology beyond what you have seen here," including changes to allow the Dragon capsule to land on the ground, refuel and take off again.

SpaceX's critics in industry and on Capitol Hill, however, counter it would be too risky to rely on fledgling rockets and start-up companies to access the space station and take astronauts into orbit and later deeper into space.

Read full WSJ article here.

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