CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., 8 Oct. 2012. NASA's first contracted cargo delivery flight to the International Space Station (ISS) began Sunday, with the launch of a Space Exploration Technologies Corp. (SpaceX) Falcon 9 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida with a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft onboard.
The mission, designated SpaceX CRS-1 by NASA officials, marks the first of at least 12 cargo missions SpaceX will fly to the space station through 2016. The NASA Commercial Resupply Services contract is valued at $1.6 billion.
"Just over one year after the retirement of the space shuttle, we have returned space station cargo resupply missions to U.S. soil and are bringing the jobs associated with this work back to America," NASA Administrator Charles Bolden says. "The SpaceX launch tonight marks the official start of commercial resupply missions by American companies operating out of U.S. spaceports like the one right here in Florida."
Expedition 33 crew members Sunita Williams of NASA and Aki Hoshide of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency will use the ISS robotic arm to grapple and install the Dragon spacecraft on 10 Oct. 2012. The capsule is scheduled to spend 18 days attached to the station, after which it will return for a splashdown in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern Calif.
Dragon is delivering 882 pounds of supplies--including 260 pounds of crew supplies, 390 pounds of scientific research, 225 pounds of hardware, and several pounds of other supplies to the orbiting laboratory.
Dragon will return 1,673 pounds of supplies, including 163 pounds of crew supplies, 866 pounds of scientific research, 518 pounds of vehicle hardware, and other hardware.
SpaceX is one of two companies that built and tested new cargo spacecraft under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program.