SpaceX's Dragon begins first cargo mission to International Space Station

SpaceX's Dragon begins first cargo mission to International Space Station

Summary: After a successful test earlier this year, Elon Musk's private venture has begun the first of a dozen planned missions to supply and return cargo from the International Space Station.

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SpaceX has launched the first of a dozen planned missions to supply the International Space Station, after having successfully tested its Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket earlier this year.

The test in May was designed to see whether the Dragon could successfully reach and dock with the ISS, but Sunday's launch marked the beginning of SpaceX's true commercial operations. The US ditched its shuttle programme last year, so it now has to rely on private enterprises to carry cargo to and from the inhabited satellite.

spacex-dragon-launch-oct
SpaceX's unmanned Falcon 9 rocket has taken off on its first operational cargo trip to the ISS. Credit: Nasa TV

The unmanned Dragon, which is carrying crew supplies and space station hardware, took off from Cape Canaveral at 8:35pm Eastern Time on Sunday, or 1:35am on Monday in British Summer Time.

"We are right where we need to be at this stage in the mission," SpaceX chief Elon Musk, the PayPal and Tesla Motors founder, said in a statement. "We still have a lot of work to do, of course, as we guide Dragon's approach to the space station. But the launch was an unqualified success."

Dragon is due to attach to the ISS on Wednesday and hang around for two weeks, before coming back to Earth on 28 October — it is currently the only space station cargo craft that can bring back a "significant amount" of supplies with it, and will return with space station hardware and scientific materials.

SpaceX's ISS cargo contract with NASA is worth some $1.6bn (£1bn). At some point in the future, the company hopes its craft will be able to carry people, too.

Topics: Nasa / Space, Emerging Tech

David Meyer

About David Meyer

David Meyer is a freelance technology journalist. He fell into journalism when he realised his musical career wouldn't pay the bills. David's main focus is on communications, as well as internet technologies, regulation and mobile devices.

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11 comments
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  • SpaceX's Dragon begins first cargo mission to International Space Station

    good use of taxpayers money. look at the result of your hard earned tax dollars. this is what i like with the us system of governing, use taxpayers money to develop a technology and when it is ready to launch, give it to the private enterprise to manage and develop further... private enterprises are the best to manage anything convertible to money. nice going...
    kc63092@...
    • SpaceX

      I agree. SpaceX vehicles and engines have all been developed in house without using NASA technology. By doing so they have been able to put material into space at a much lower cost. This is a good use of taxpayer money vs sending it to Russia for them to re-supply the ISS. SpaceX rocks!
      jiminlex
      • Elon Musk

        jiminlex-this is not a good use of taxpayer money. The cost per/lb with the shuttle was about $11,000 per/lb. It is now about $180,000 per/lb. You say that is effective use of taxpayer money? Not where I come from. Also, Musk is a big buddy of obama, who is funding this other company Tesla. Do a little research and you will see our tax dollars are going to SpaceX to subsidize this endeavor. The timing of the demise of NASA is closely coordinated with the Musk endeavor. Do your homework.
        gentlemanjim1969
        • Where are you getting those numbers?

          I easily found the shuttle costs that match up with what you put in, but all of the sources I found for the Falcon 9 topped out at around$1,100/lb.
          brble
        • And Dick Chenney was CEO of Haliburton

          Just before becoming Vice President. Ever notice all the government contracts Haliburton has? Like most of the support contacts for servicing the military in Iran and Afghanistan. How profitable is that?

          Nothing new here, many corporations (worldwide) are on government welfare, does the defense industry ring a bell?
          GoPower
      • SpaceX Falcon is NASA-derived...not that there's anything wrong with that

        @Jiminlex
        Credit where credit is due: Elon Musk himself admits to having taken a lot of NASA R&D to develop the Falcon and its systems, so to say "without using NASA technology" is disingenuous at best. What SpaceX has done exceptionally well is take the NASA technologies that made sense and develop them towards producing a rocket that made the best commercial sense.

        NASA, as a government agency, rarely concerns itself with "value": getting the most rocket "bang" for the least taxpayer "buck."

        SpaceX has drilled down into what aspects of rocket launch are the most costly and where the greatest savings can be made, and so has pursued R&D where they can have the greatest impact.

        Some are obvious: Let's assemble and checkout with the rocket laid down where it is easy to work on, then stand it up at the launch pad. Some are powerful, but not obvious: even the governments own bean counters had to admit that SpaceX's flat management and tight engineering teams lead to a massive cost savings over NASA's typical multi-layered bureaucratic morass.
        JJMach
  • SpaceX's Dragon begins first cargo mission to International Space Station

    good use of taxpayers money. look at the result of your hard earned tax dollars. this is what i like with the us system of governing, use taxpayers money to develop a technology and when it is ready to launch, give it to the private enterprise to manage and develop further... private enterprises are the best to manage anything convertible to money. nice going...
    kc63092@...
  • God Shuffled His Feet-A Novel by Mark Ellenbogen-Great Apocalyptic fun!

    Tesla-Space X-and Elon Musk to save mankind!! Fun and fast paced new science fiction novel
    A must read--God Shuffled His Feet—A Novel by Mark Ellenbogen
    Available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Goodreads.
    Exciting fun novel with a humorous apocalyptic twist. Elon Musk-Tesla and Space X help save mankind from total destruction! Meet astronomers Ravi Najir and Sam Klein, two PHD doctoral students from Humboldt, California, about to have their world turned upside down----literally. The duo wins a $250,000 grant and a coveted year long viewing slot using the Hubble Space Telescope to observe the heavens. Little do they know that what they are about discover, will rock the Earth, their lives, and the heavens all at once!
    High in the far reaches of space, up where the Crab Nebula is supposed to be, a new solar system has formed and Klein and Najir are about to discover it. Within minutes of accessing their chosen Hubble coordinates, two new celestial bodies are discovered where none existed before!!
    Dubbing their discovery the Master Kush Formation; the two unlikely heroes are quickly rocketed to fame and glory over night. A new sun and a fully habitable blue-green planet have taken the place of the Crab Nebula. God plans to wipe the Earth clean and start over!!!
    The clock is ticking and time is running out. Only a few will make it. The boys enlist the help of Elon Musk, Tesla and Space X to manage the technology and transport the saved. Do you have what it takes? Open up God Shuffled His Feet for the ride of your life!! Peppered with interesting trivia, thoughtful humor and some suspenseful science fiction God Shuffled His Feet will entertain while provoking some thought in the process.
    bld4me
  • It’s ridiculous that America ditched the Space Shuttle program ...

    Instead of relying upon a outside company for its space transportation needs, the Space Shuttle program should be updated/ modernized to handle transporting supplies to the ISS & other space activities.

    I don’t say this to disparage nor to undermine Space X but America needs its own space transportation program to maintain it’s space self sufficiency.

    It’s definitely positive that a company such as Space X exists & I’m not against America cooperating with other companies nor countries in space exploration but at the same time, it’s important America also maintains its space self sufficiency.
    BlazingEagle
    • It’s ridiculous that America ditched the Space Shuttle program ...

      Blazing Eagle, read about the NASA Constellation program, Orion and X33 and others. From Space.com

      NASA and its various partners explored a number of different vehicle options to succeed the space shuttles, but none were brought to fruition, said Roger Launius, space history curator at the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, in Washington.

      "The landscape is littered with failed shuttle follow-on programs," Launius told SPACE.com.

      One by one, each program ended after development plans bumped up against funding and politics – an experience familiar throughout NASA's history.

      "There's a whole series of factors – some of them were political, but a lot of the problems were technical," Launius said. "Could they have been solved if they had more money? Probably. So, was it a technical problem or a political problem?

      I personally say it was a failure of government leadership.
      wagsplace@...
  • Space Shuttle was a boonedoggle.

    Very poor attempt at a reusable spacecraft.
    Dr_Zinj