Space News
space history and artifacts articles

Messages
space history discussion forums

Sightings
worldwide astronaut appearances

Resources
selected space history documents

Websites
related space history websites


Photo Gallery: To orbit and back: SpaceX makes history with Dragon

December 8, 2010 — Space Exploration Technologies, better known as SpaceX, became Wednesday the first non-governmental entity to launch a spacecraft into orbit and recover it safely back on Earth.

The first mission for the company's Dragon capsule marked only the second flight of its Falcon 9 two-stage launch vehicle and first demonstration flight for NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program.

Lifting off at 10:43 a.m. EST (1543 GMT) from Space Launch Complex-40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, the Falcon 9 rocket lofted the Dragon spacecraft into a 186 mile (300 km) circular orbit. Carrying "thousands of patches" as well as SpaceX employee badges and ballast, the capsule rounded the Earth twice before firing its four thrusters and beginning its reentry into the atmosphere.

Dual drogue chutes and three main parachutes lowered the unmanned spacecraft to a splashdown at 2:04 p.m. EST in the Pacific Ocean, about 500 miles west of the California coast. Boats and aircraft staged in the area quickly made their way to recover the capsule and attached to it flotation devices.

"This [is] the first American human capable spacecraft to travel to orbit and back since the space shuttle took flight three decades ago," said Elon Musk, SpaceX's chief executive and technology officer. The success of the NASA COTS program shows it is possible to return to the fast pace of progress that took place during the Apollo era, but using only a tiny fraction of the resources."

Designed to ferry supplies and eventually astronauts to and from the International Space Station and other orbital destinations, Dragon's next flight -- targeted to lift off in mid-2011 -- will demonstrate the spacecraft's ability to rendezvous with the orbiting lab.
 


SpaceX's COTS Demo-1 flight insignia

Launch photos: collectSPACE/Robert Pearlman
NASA/Tony Gray and Kevin O'Connell
Orbit and recovery photos courtesy of SpaceX

To orbit and back: SpaceX makes history with Dragon

To orbit and back: SpaceX makes history with Dragon  To orbit and back: SpaceX makes history with Dragon

To orbit and back: SpaceX makes history with Dragon

To orbit and back: SpaceX makes history with Dragon

To orbit and back: SpaceX makes history with Dragon

To orbit and back: SpaceX makes history with Dragon

To orbit and back: SpaceX makes history with Dragon

Below: Video stills capture flight milestones: first stage separation, second stage ignition and views from orbit taken out Dragon's window.

To orbit and back: SpaceX makes history with Dragon

To orbit and back: SpaceX makes history with Dragon

Below: SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft photographed floating in the Pacific Ocean, where it splashed down after orbiting the Earth twice.

To orbit and back: SpaceX makes history with Dragon

back to collectSPACE

© 1999-2014 collectSPACE.com All rights reserved.
Questions? E-mail contact@collectspace.com