Filed under: Wings
SpaceX has become the first non-governmental entity to launch a spacecraft into orbit and recover it safely back on Earth. The Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from the Space Launch Complex-40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and propelled the Dragon spacecraft into a 186 mile circular orbit. The capsule circled the Earth twice before firing its four thrusters and reentering the atmosphere. It touched down in the Pacific Ocean and boats and aircraft recovered the unmanned re-usable capsule. Dragon's next flight, scheduled for the middle of next year, will demonstrate the spacecraft's ability to rendezvous with the orbiting lab and future plans include filling it with cargo and eventually an astronaut.
This could be the first of a whole fleet of privately built space vehicles as the commercial space industry ramps up. The private rocket and spacecraft could be hauling astronauts to the space station in two to three years, leaving the NASA budget available to focus on more ambitious projects including trips to Mars. SpaceX, was founded by Elon Musk, who is also behind the electric car company Tesla. It launched a Falcon 9 rocket in June, but that test was done without an real capsule.