News Column

SpaceX Cargo Flight Heads to Space Station

Oct. 8, 2012

A privately operated U.S. spaceship headed toward the International Space Station Monday after rocketing into space in a first-time contract with NASA.

The crewless Dragon cargo spacecraft in the SpaceX CRS-1 mission, operated by Space Exploration Technologies Corp. of Hawthorne, Calif., is scheduled to reach the low-Earth-orbit space station about 7:22 a.m. Wednesday.

A two-stage Falcon 9 rocket -- which lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on schedule at 8:35 p.m. EDT Sunday -- is carrying a capsule called Dragon that contains about half-ton of food, clothing, equipment and science experiments, including 23 designed and built by students.

The student projects include one from Santa Monica, Calif., middle-school students who want to know if Silly Putty has different properties in the weightlessness of space than it does on Earth.

Silly Putty displays unusual physical properties. It bounces but breaks when given a sharp blow and also can flow like a liquid. It was first created by accident during U.S. research World War II to find rubber substitutes.

The Dragon cargo also includes a freezer that can store laboratory samples at temperatures as low as 300 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Ice cream is included in the freezer, a rare treat for space crews, CBS News reported.

If all goes as planned, U.S. astronaut and station commander Sunita Williams, a U.S. Navy officer who holds the record for the longest space flight by a woman, and Japanese astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, who grew up in New Jersey, will to grab the Dragon with the lab's robot arm and maneuver it to a berthing.

The station crew will then unload the equipment and supplies. As they do, the astronauts plan to load the capsule with nearly a ton of no-longer-needed gear and experiment samples that previously had no way of getting back to Earth.

The Dragon is designed to make round trips to and from the space station so that components and experiment samples can be transported back to Earth for the first time since U.S. space shuttles stopped flying last year.

Sunday's launching was the first of a dozen SpaceX flights under a $1.6 billion contract with NASA.

The craft is scheduled to return to Earth near the end of the month, with splashdown about 250 miles off the coast of Southern California.

Source: Copyright United Press International 2012

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