Privately-funded Space Exploration Technologies, the company operated by Internet entrepreneur Elon Musk, received final clearance from the US Air Force on Thursday for its debut rocket launch from Florida.
The company known as SpaceX was set to launch its Falcon 9 rocket between 11am and 3pm yesterday from its newly refurbished launch pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, just south of the Kennedy Space Center.
Musk, who moonlights as chairman and chief executive of electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors, put the odds of a successful flight at around 75 percent.
“I think we’re probably three-quarters likely to succeed. I hope that fate favors us tomorrow,” Musk said on a conference call with reporters.
The company has flown smaller rockets from the Kwajalein Atoll’s Omelek Island in the Pacific with mixed success, which Musk says is typical of any new technical system, particularly rocketry. The Falcon 9’s goal is to reach orbit and typically, about half of the first flights of new rockets end short of reaching that mark.
The 55m-high, liquid oxygen and kerosene-fueled booster will carry a mock-up of a SpaceX capsule known as the Dragon, which NASA plans to use to fly cargo — and perhaps astronauts — to the International Space Station (ISS).
NASA is retiring its shuttle fleet after two more flights this year to complete assembly of the ISS, a US$100 billion project of 16 nations. No replacement is planned under the NASA budget proposal for the year beginning Oct. 1, which is pending before US Congress.
While NASA shifts its focus to research and technology development, the Obama administration is looking to private firms like SpaceX to pick up NASA’s share of the ISS resupply business. Russia, Europe and Japan fly cargo ships to the ISS, while Russia operates the only space taxi service for crewmembers. China, which has also flown people in orbit, is not part of the ISS partnership.
Yesterday’s planned flight is part of SpaceX’s US$400 million development effort to design and fly discount rockets for governments, companies and research institutes. Of that, US$100 million came from Musk, co-owner of the PayPal electronic payment system that eBay Inc acquired in 2002 for US$1.5 billion.
SpaceX is selling its Falcon 9 rockets, which can carry 12 tonnes to an orbit about 360km above Earth, for about US$50 million — less than half what is typically charged for rides on similar US rockets.
“If the vehicle lifts off the pad, no matter what the outcome is, we’re going to learn something that’s going to make the second flight more likely and the third flight and the fourth flight,” added Ken Bowersox, a SpaceX vice president and former NASA astronaut.
The firm plans to fly up to three Falcon 9/Dragon test missions for NASA, then begin delivering cargo to the ISS under a US$1.6 billion contract next year. NASA also has a US$1.9 billion ISS resupply contract with Orbital Sciences Corp, which plans to debut its Taurus 2 rocket next year.
South Korea yesterday said that it would lift COVID-19 restrictions on social gatherings next week as the country prepares to switch to a “living with COVID-19” strategy amid rising vaccination levels. A new panel established this week is drawing up a plan for a gradual lifting of curbs, aiming to lift restrictions and reopen the economy next month on the expectation that 80 percent of the adult population will be fully vaccinated. From Monday, the South Korean government is to allow gatherings of up to four unvaccinated people and ease operating-hour restrictions imposed on venues such as restaurants, cafes and cinemas, South
Black ticks on their foreheads marking the eye to be operated on, dozens of patients in green overalls wait in line, beneficiaries of a pioneering Indian model that is restoring sight to millions. With a highly efficient assembly line model inspired by McDonald’s, the network of hospitals of the Aravind Eye Care System performs about 500,000 surgeries a year — many for free. More than one-quarter of the world’s population, or about 2.2 billion people, have a vision impairment, and 1 billion of the cases could have been prevented, WHO data shows. There are about 10 million blind people in India, and
‘AVOIDABLE SITUATION’: After being tortured in his home country, a Sri Lankan and his family are at risk of deportation from the UK, despite his academic fellowship A scientist conducting groundbreaking research into renewable energy is facing deportation with his family to Sri Lanka, where he was tortured, after receiving contradictory information about his case from the British Home Office. Nadarajah Muhunthan, 47, his wife, Sharmila, 42, and their three children, aged 13, nine and five, went to the UK in 2018 after Muhunthan, who is working on thin-film photovoltaic devices used to generate solar power, was given a prestigious Commonwealth Rutherford fellowship. The award allowed him to reside to the UK for two years to research and develop the technology. His wife obtained a job caring for
A top global law firm is no longer representing the University of Hong Kong (HKU) in seeking the removal of a Tiananmen memorial from its campus after it came under heavy criticism in the US for helping China purge dissent, the Washington Post reported. Mayer Brown is the latest international company to face pressure over how its actions in China contradict its more progressive statements in the West. The 8m high Pillar of Shame sculpture by Danish artist Jens Galschiot has stood on HKU’s campus since 1997, the year the city was handed back to China. It features 50 anguished faces and tortured