A day later than planned, the first test flight and re-entry of a commercial spaceship has been completed successfuly.
SpaceX’s Falcon 9 spacecraft took the Dragon capsule into orbit yesterday morning. The Dragon returned to Earth at about 2:02pm, safely splashing down in the Pacific Ocean near Mexico following two orbits of the Earth.
NASA administrator Charles Bolden’s said it was a historic achievement, and compared the achievement to the way Charles Lindberg’s pioneering flights laid the way for commercial aviation.
“This is the first in a new generation of commercial launch systems that will help provide vital support to the International Space Station and may one day carry astronauts into orbit,” he said.
“This successful demonstration flight is an important milestone in meeting the objectives outlined by President Obama and Congress, and shows how government and industry can leverage expertise and resources to foster a new and vibrant space economy.”
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk was a little less eloquent – but even more enthusiastic, describing the test flight as ‘mind-blowingly awesome’.
“There’s so much that can go wrong and it all went right,” he said. “I’m sort of in semi-shock.”
The flight was delayed for a day, following the discovery of a three-inch crack in the engine nozzle on the rocket’s second stage.
The successful test marks an endorsement for NASA’s plans to replace the soon-to-retire shuttle fleet with third-party ‘taxi’ services under a plan called the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program.