Monday, April 30, 2012

Falcons and Dragons reaching for the stars

Today marked a major milestone for the private space company SpaceX in their quest to launch the first commercial spacecraft, the Dragon, to the International Space Station. The milestone in question was a dress rehearsal test fire of their rocket launch system known as the Falcon 9. For the uninitiated, this is a pretty mundane event, but for spaceflight geeks everywhere this was nail-biting stuff. A recorded video of the test is up on SpaceX's LiveStream account.

I followed the event on the SpaceX stream, on Twitter and on the forum. According to the manager of NSF (Chris Bergin) the number of visits to the forum came close to about 50% of the number of visits for a big Shuttle launch! Remember, today was only a test fire, so interest in the upcoming launch is massive and the number of visits to sites such as NSF may end up breaking past records.
Artist’s rendition of the Dragon spacecraft separating from the Falcon 9 upper (2nd) stage. Image credit:
I'm not gonna go in to too much details on the event as that's best done by the professionals (for example, here and here). What I will say is that it's days like this that I get true confirmation that I'm a space geek! I spent almost two hours to follow a two-second rocket fire test! It's difficult to explain to those who aren't space enthusiasts just where the enthusiasm comes from. Moreover, with today's communication networks of forums and social media, space geeks the world over can come together to share in the excitement. For me, reading the various forum posts and tweets really amplified my own personal enthusiasm for the event.

Now we all have to wait another seven days for the real thing and it's gonna be hard not to keep checking back on the forums and Twitter for every little update. In fact, this kinda all goes to show that sometimes it's the anticipation of something, and not the thing itself, that brings the greatest joy. Still though, I'm really looking forward to seeing that rocket and spacecraft ride into the Floridian sky next week! Go SpaceX!

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