Private rocket soars into space on first flight

Space Exploration Technologies, also known as SpaceX, successfully launched their Falcon 9 rocket for the first time at 1845 UTC ( 2:45 pm EDT) of Friday from Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, United States.

Musk at Mission Control

SpaceX (Space Exploration Technologies Corporation) is an American space transport company founded by PayPal co-founder Elon Musk.

It has developed the Falcon 1 and Falcon 9, both of which are partially reusable launch vehicles.

The Falcon 9, second in the Falcon series of rockets, has a first stage that is powered by nine Merlin 1C engines, and a second stage powered by one Merlin vacuum engine.

Today’s inaugural launch carried the Dragon Spacecraft Qualification Unit (DSQU), a boilerplate version of the Dragon capsule.

The Dragon is intended to take cargo — and possibly people — to the International Space Station through NASA’s COTS program. The program is intended to help develop commercial space transportation, a goal that fits with President Obama’s recent change of direction for NASA. Under President Obama’s new plan, NASA would hand over the mundane task of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) launches to private companies, and instead concentrate on new technology development.

However, no private firms yet have the capability to independently launch humans into space, without NASA assistance. SpaceX CEO and founder Elon Musk hopes that the Falcon 9 will eventually fill the void in human rated commercial rockets, but he also recognizes the inherent risk and danger of rocket launches. “There’s nothing more fear and anxiety-inducing than a rocket launch,” said Musk.

Not everyone agrees with President Obama and Elon Musk. Republican Senator Richard Shelby doesn’t think private firms are ready for the challenge of taking humans into space, preferring that government funding be directed to NASA instead. “Today the commercial providers that NASA has contracted with cannot even carry the trash back from the space station, much less carry humans to or from space safely,” the Senator said.

Although today’s launch succeeded, Musk had said earlier neither the success nor failure of the Falcon 9 would be the ultimate arbitrator of the fate of NASA’s new commercial-friendly direction. “They sort of focus everything on us and try to create a situation where our first launch of Falcon 9 is somehow a verdict on the president’s policy, which is not right,” he said.

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