After much gnashing and gritting of teeth, SpaceX’s second Falcon 9 and first Dragon launched at 10:43 a.m. EST to what become an event for the history books:
SpaceX launched the Dragon spacecraft from Florida on a two-orbit test flight Wednesday, and the company brought the automated capsule back to Earth less than three-and-a-half hours later. Liftoff occurred at 10:43 a.m. EST (1543 GMT) and splashdown was just after 2 p.m. EST (1900 GMT).
Although it was only a demonstration flight, all of the objectives were achieved. The only nit-picks were a flaming RP-1 hose as Falcon lifted off, and a balky thruster on Dragon, just one of the eighteen that were built in.
All in all, a stupendous achievement by a private company. But one must give NASA props too, they provided a lot of expertise through the COTS program. Plus $278 million. Cheap when compared with the now defunct Constellation Program which pumped $10 billion into a rocket that needed $500 million to launch in a test flight in 2009. And it was just a suborbital job.
You tell me what’s a more cost effective use of mainstream rocket technology?