Dragon is on the way to the International Space Station! The nine engines on the Falcon 9’s first stage ignited on time to lift the rocket and spacecraft off the ground. It will take about nine minutes for Dragon to reach orbit.
T-2 minutes, 30 seconds . . . The SpaceX launch director gave the go for launch. The Eastern Range operated by the Air Force also is ready for liftoff.
The support structure against the Falcon 9 rocket, called a strongback, has retracted to launch position.
The countdown is now in the hands of computers. The autosequencer took over at T-6 minutes and will manage the time-critical events from now through liftoff barring a problem. The launch team can manually step in if they have to.
At T-10 minutes, the SpaceX-3 mission has entered the terminal countdown phase.
The SpaceX launch team just conducted its poll and reported they are ready for launch. The terminal phase of the countdown begins at T-10 minutes.
SpaceX-3 carries four HD cameras that will be mounted on the outside of the station and beam back to Earth live video of the planet from the International Space Station. The video will be available online and high school student teams will operate the experiment which will analyze the effect of space on video quality. The ultimate goal is to help show what commercially available cameras should make future space trips. Find out more details about the experiment here.
The second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket will work a bit of double duty today by carrying five nanosatellites into orbit. Secured inside four specially designed carriers, the five tiny spacecraft will spring free into space soon after Dragon separates from the second stage on its mission to the International Space Station. You can read the details of each of the five CubeSats here. A video of one of the CubeSat missions is below.
At T-30 minutes, we remain on pace for liftoff on-time at 3:25 p.m. EDT. One of the experiments Dragon is carrying is called OPALS. It will demonstrate a data transmission using lasers which can carry far more data than radio frequencies. The increase is important because the research projects on the station produce a wide range of useful data for analysis. Find out more about OPALS here.