For some time I’ve been fascinated by the progress that the folks at SpaceX have made in developing a genuine, modern approach to basic space flight.
Part of it is their apparent culture (I say apparent because these are merely my impressions from afar) … one that values actual fresh thinking, bringing startup thinking to the long, very real tradition of American achievements in flight.
(A tradition that had been all but squandered in the past twenty years by a nation too quickly bored, flitting from ephemeral novelties that pass for culture to 140 character missives masquerading as deep thought … but I digress, so slap me upside the head and let’s get back to the point).
But I think it’s time to just stand back and acknowledge the blindingly obvious … these men and women are in the midst of accomplishing something truly special. They are building a new capability to launch stuff into space, and probably even get it back again in one piece.
They’re not alone, but they are ahead.
That is truly special, and something that deserves some real props.
Dragon to the Space Station
In the current mission SpaceX used the Falcon launch vehicle to launch a Dragon transport vehicle in low earth orbit, in order to resupply the International Space Station (ISS). Leaner and cleaner than a whole Space Shuttle mission, and frankly non-trivial.
For some reason I sort of lost track that it was coming up, and after seeing a story flip by just connected to a live stream, all impromptu, and simply watched the launch live while doing our morning “stand-up” (a metaphorical standup, since there were four or five of us, each in separate cities, all sitting down in a freebie g+ hangouts session).
Seriously, just how cool is that?
Cool enough that I was a bit more distractible than normal that morning, had to do most of my cheering with my “inside voice” (such as it is … well it could be worse, I could not even have tried to be quiet).
So anyway, did watch the launch live, and thinking about it still makes me smile. Of course, the live stream was posted a few places afterwards, and so far as I can tell SpaceX commendably posted it without further editing. So take a ten minutes, and just savor this as it unfolded.
Launch of the Falcon / Dragon to resupply the ISS – CRS-2.
Part of the magic of space flight, at least circa 2013, is still the uncertainty … you’re simply (still) not sure how it’s going to turn out, and the imminent possibilities of everything going unintentionally hyper-kinetic all-at-once, or perhaps simply inconveniently, suddenly inert is still a thrill.
Perhaps one day it’ll be all boring routine, but somehow I think it’ll still bring a bit of excitement.
Well anyway there was a bit of uncertainty right at the end of the insertion into orbit, and took a few thruster reboots and who knows what else (probably a java zero-day exploit lurking in there for all I know) to clear it all up, but a few days later all was good …
Dragon was “grappled and attached” to the International Space Station.
No muss, no fuss … they’re connected, it worked, and mission (almost) accomplished. At least the big parts are done, now what remains is a successful reentry and recovery, but since it’s unmanned that is really a bonus.
Yes it’s still not cheap, but darn it … it’s doable. And it’s being done!
Congrats to the SpaceX folks, and everyone else who’s helping to make this real.
For updates on this mission go to the CRS-2 mission livestream.