SpaceX successfully takes rocket and expectations into orbit

SpaceX buoys NASA commercial space flight campaign

falcon 9
Carrying a ton of expectations on its back, Space Exploration Technologies' (SpaceX) Falcon 9 rocket launched and successfully achieved orbit on its inaugural flight test. 

The two-stage, 178ft, liquid oxygen and kerosene Falcon 9 rocket carrying a dummy load lifted off at 2:45 EDT and apparently performed its flight flawlessly though system analysis on the rocket's flight will ultimately determine how successful the test was. Today's test flight took the Falcon 9 about 155 miles above Earth.  Its  first stage fell into the Atlantic Ocean and Space X said it anticipates it will recover the rocket. 

21 critical future NASA missions 

While there are still at least three test flights to go, the plan is that the rocket and its Dragon capsule will ultimately be the first commercial spacecraft to carry astronauts into orbit.   SpaceX already has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to bring cargo to the International Space Station.  

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk this week tried to keep expectations about the launch in perspective saying: "I hope people don't put too much emphasis on our success, because it's simply not correct to have the fate of commercial launch depend on what happens in the next few days," he said. "But it certainly does add to the pressure, and there's more weight on our shoulders because of that. I wish there weren't." 

As noted in MSNBC's Cosmic Log, some in Congress and the space community have expressed grave doubts about the ability of SpaceX and other commercial launch providers to meet NASA's requirements for future spaceflight.  He pointed out that the potential players include the Boeing Co. and Lockheed Martin, which have been doing launches for NASA and the U.S. military for decades.

Still the successful launch doesn't hurt President Obama's plan to reshape NASA and utilize more commercial space companies for resupplying the ISS and other low Earth orbit duties. 

Follwing the launch NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said:  

"Congratulations to Space X on today's launch of its Falcon 9 launch vehicle. Space X's accomplishment is an important milestone in the commercial transportation effort and puts the company a step closer to providing cargo services to the International Space Station.

"Preparations are proceeding for the first NASA-sponsored test launch under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services project later this year. COTS is a vital development and demonstration partnership to create a commercial space transportation system capable of providing cargo to the station. "This launch of the Falcon 9 gives us even more confidence that a resupply vehicle will be available after the space shuttle fleet is retired."

Follow Michael Cooney on Twitter: nwwlayer8   

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