Last week began the very exciting saga of SpaceX’s attempt to be the first commercial company to dock with the ISS. I’ve got a bunch of friends who either interned or currently work for SpaceX, so I followed it quite closely. A friend and I drove over to Cape Canaveral for their Friday launch at 4:55 am. At T-0.5 seconds, the launch was aborted due to high pressure in the combustion chamber of engine 5. It turned out to be a bad turbopump valve that was a fairly quick fix. Unfortunately, they scrubbed the launch on Friday since they missed the instantaneous window to dock with the ISS. The next attempt was Tuesday at 3:54am, so I drove over that night as well. My friend hooked me up and got us seats with all the SpaceX employees in a special viewing area probably 6 miles closer than the public could get (and where I was on the previous attempt). The atmosphere was tense as everyone held their breath to see what would become of the object they had spent so much time and effort on. Here’s what happened:
The engine was so bright that it was literally like a little sun. It briefly looked like daylight outside. The sound didn’t hit us until probably 30 seconds or so in. It was this deep rumbling that shook the grandstands we were sitting on. The night was really clear with almost no light pollution, so as the Falcon 9 got further away, it looked like a shooting star. The rest, as they say, is history. At time of writing, Dragon is docked to the ISS. The grappling was another really exciting moment that I watched live on NASA TV. Here’s my favorite video from that:
Watching that reminds me of some of the early Apollo videos at NASA. You can’t help but get excited with them. I love the sense of camaraderie everyone there has. I’m really glad to see so much good ol’ American engineering and innovation going on in the commercial space market and I can’t wait to see how far it goes.
On a lighter note, a friend and I decided to shove a rocket engine in a pool noodle and see what would happen. Last time we did this, it went surprisingly straight. This time, well, it wasn’t exactly Falcon 9.