Updated: Floating Launch Pads and the Future of Space Exploration
Update: CRS-5 was postponed until Saturday January 10, 2015 at 4:47 a.m. EST. Click here to view the webcast which will begin at 4:30am.
With 90 seconds left of the countdown for the first launch in 2015 from Cape Canaveral a cry of, “Hold! Hold! Hold!” came from the control room. SpaceX was about to launch a Falcon9 mission to bring supplies to the six-member crew of the International Space Station when a launch team member realized that there was an actuator drift on the second stage thrust vector control system.
This particular Falcon 9 mission is significant because, unlike any other in history, the SpaceX team is attempting to land the booster rocket on a floating platform dubbed the “autonomous spaceport drone ship”.
SpaceX founder Elon Musk gives the mission a 50-50 chance of succeeding. Previously company has performed soft landings of booster rockets in the ocean, only to have the rockets tip over and break in the waves.
CRS-5 is scheduled to launch at 5:09am (EST). I’ll probably get up to watch, especially because night launches are spectacular. NASA has contracted SpaceX and the Falcon 9 rocket to carry astronauts to the ISS once again. If this mission goes well it bodes well for the future of the US space program.
Image credit: SpaceX CRS-5 Press Kit