SpaceX Completes First Delivery Trip to Space Station, Proves US Space Industry Is Still Alive

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SpaceX Dragon capsule in the Pacific after CRS-1 mission to ISSSpaceX Dragon capsule in the Pacific after CRS-1 mission to ISS
Dragon after splashdown at 12:22PM PT on October 28, 2012. (c) SpaceX

For everyone that said “the US doesn’t have a space program any more,” “NASA is dead,” or “Your kid can’t be an astronaut,” here is proof that you were dead wrong. This week Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) became the first US commercial company to deliver cargo to the International Space Station and safely return cargo from space. This mission, dubbed CRS-1, is the first of up to twelve SpaceX Dragon deliveries under a Commercial Resupply Services contract with NASA.

“This historic mission signifies the restoration of America’s ability to deliver and return critical space station cargo,” said SpaceX CEO and Chief Technical Officer Elon Musk in a press release. Not only is it a big accomplishment for our emerging commercial space industry, it actually puts us ahead of the rest of the world! Since the retirement of the space shuttle last year, no other space vehicle — from any country — could return significant amounts of cargo from the space station. Dragon brought back 1,673 lbs. of “return cargo” that included the first scientific samples to be returned to Earth in over a year. This is a BIG deal to scientists!

SpaceX CRS-1 PatchSpaceX CRS-1 Patch

SpaceX Mission Patch for CRS-1 (c) SpaceX

This is SpaceX’s second trip to the ISS, their first being only a demo flight. Orbital Sciences Corp. also has a contract from NASA to deliver supplies, though they have yet to test either their new Antares rocket or Cygnus capsule. Orbital plans to launch their rocket from Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on the coast of Virginia sometime in December. (I’ll post details on how to see the launch from the New England area in November.)

SpaceX is also receiving some additional NASA funding for a follow-on program to take crews to and from the ISS. The DragonRider capsule variant will accommodate up to seven people for short duration trips to space. Yes, you read that correctly: a commercial company will be providing rides to a space station! It may not be a Pan-Am Space Clipper, but it does mean our kids can still dream of becoming astronauts.

Check out more from NASA or SpaceX.

The Dragon spacecraft is grappled by the space station's Canadarm2 .The Dragon spacecraft is grappled by the space station's Canadarm2 .

The Dragon spacecraft is grappled by the space station’s Canadarm2 on October 10, 2012. Credit: NASA.

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