The cargo-laden Dragon capsule is on its own now in Earth orbit and headed to the International Space Station following a brilliant afternoon liftoff from Florida. The second stage separated from the spacecraft as expected and Dragon is to soon unfurl its two solar panels to begin recharging its batteries.
The second stage engine has shut down. Dragon will separate in about 30 seconds on its course to the space station.
The single engine on the second stage is now lifting the Dragon spacecraft into orbit following the burnout and separation of the first stage and its nine engines. The rocket is about 50 miles high and traveling at Mach 10. The second stage engine, the same kind as those on the first stage, lit on time and is performing as expected to keep Dragon on course for the International Space Station.
The SpaceX rocket continues to pick up speed as it pushed high into space. The rocket just crossed through the region of maximum dynamic pressure, known as Max Q, and all the systems are working as planned.
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.