Liftoff was at 3:44 a.m. yesterday from SpaceX’s launch pad at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. Dragon is now flying toward the International Space Station and will run a series a tests on its way.
"Every bit of adrenaline in my body released at that moment," commented SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk on the launch. "People were really giving it their all. For us, it was like winning the Super Bowl."
It was a textbook launch as SpaceX said that the "first stage performed nominally before separating from the second stage and Falcon 9 lifted Dragon into orbit.
“We obviously have to go through a number of steps to berth with the Space Station, but everything is looking really good and I think I would count today as a success no matter what happens with the rest of the mission,” Musk said.
However, a planned SpaceX launch last weekend was aborted during its launch attempt. "They stayed focused and kept moving forward," said William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. "Things are moving in the right direction."
Dragon, which is powered by solar arrays that are already expanded, is now expected to rendezvous with the ISS as soon as it can get close enough to the station so that a "robotic arm to grapple it and connect it to the station."
NASA will decide on May 25 if Dragon will be allowed to approach ISS. The cargo will be unloaded between May 25 and May 31. The return to earth is planned for May 31 when the capsule is expected to fall into the Pacific Ocean, a few hundred miles off the coast of Southern California.