The Washington DC-based National Space Society (NSS) congratulates SpaceX on the successful launch of Commercial Resupply Services 3 (CRS-3) from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) to the International Space Station (ISS) on April 18th at 3:25 pm EDT. NSS Executive Senior Operating Officer Bruce Pittman said, “The successful reusability tests of the Falcon 9 v1.1 during the CRS-3 mission are a vital step on the path to dramatically reducing the cost of access to space.”
The National Space Society will present two special awards to SpaceX at their 2014 International Space Development Conference (ISDC). Elon Musk, SpaceX Chief Designer and CTO, will accept the Robert A Heinlein Memorial Award. Gwynne R. Shotwell, SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer, will accept the Space Pioneer Award for the Entrepreneurial Business category.
The Dragon capsule berthed with the ISS at 9:06 AM EDT Sunday April 20th. This is the first flight of the upgraded Falcon 9 v1.1 to the ISS, and the fourth overall flight of the v1.1 version. In addition to carrying a record up mass (cargo) to the ISS, the Falcon 9 v1.1 demonstrated for the first time the unfolding of the landing legs on the first stage. CRS-3 was part of a series of tests of reusable spacecraft technology that are planned to eventually lead to the full re-use of the Falcon 9. If this occurs, it will drive a revolution in access to space via lowering launch costs.
The Dragon capsule pressurized area carried a record of one GLACIER and two MERLIN freezers for transporting experiment samples, a replacement Extravehicular Mobility Unit (EMU), or in everyday English, a spacesuit, plus additional supplies of food, water, and personal items. The unpressurized Dragon trunk contained the Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) and the High Definition Earth Viewing (HDEV) package made up of four commercial HD cameras. Dragon also brought VEG-01, a plant growth chamber to the ISS, where it will be used for experimental food production.
As expected for this early test flight, SpaceX did not recover the first stage, which “soft landed” in the ocean. At this time it appears that CRS-3 met SpaceX’s reusability milestones, including first stage re-ignition to slow the first stage on its return. Reusability tests of the Falcon 9 will continue throughout 2014, with a target of full first stage reuse by the end of 2014 or early 2015.
On Thursday April 17th the SpaceX Falcon 9R flew for the first time from McGregor, Texas, to a height of 250 m [VIDEO BELOW]. The Falcon 9R is a 3-engine successor to the single-engine “Grasshopper” and will continue the development of reusable SpaceX rocket technology. Later this summer the Falcon 9R will move to Spaceport America in New Mexico for high-altitude test flights.