The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket remains standing on Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida following a test firing of the vehicle's nine Merlin first-stage engines. Image released Feb. 25, 2013.
Credit: NASA/Jim Grossmann
The private spaceflight company SpaceX is counting down to launch an unmanned space capsule to the International Space Station today (March 1) and you can watch the blastoff live online with two official webcasts.
SpaceX is on track to launch a Falcon 9 rocket today from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida to send a robotic Dragon space capsule packed with precious NASA cargo for the space station. Liftoff is set for 10:10 a.m. EST (1510 GMT), with an 80 percent chance of good weather conditions, NASA has said.
The Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, Dragon spacecraft with solar array fairings attached, stands inside a processing hangar at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. The spacecraft will launch on the upcoming SpaceX CRS-2 mission. Image released Jan. 15, 2013.
Credit: NASA/Kim Shiflett
Both NASA and the Hawthorne, Calif.-based SpaceX will provide webcasts for the launch to give space fans options to tune in. NASA's launch webcast will begin at 8:30 a.m. EST (1330 GMT), and may include commentary from space station officials, astronauts and other agency officials. It will be broadcast live on the NASA TV channel, as well as streamed online by the space agency.
"SpaceX hosts will provide information specific to the flight, an overview of the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon spacecraft, and commentary on the launch and flight sequences, " SpaceX officials said in a statement. [See photos of SpaceX's Dragon on the launch pad]
Today's launch is the third SpaceX mission to the International Space Station and second Dragon mission to carry cargo for the orbiting laboratory. SpaceX launched a demonstration flight to the station in May 2012, and followed it with the first full-up cargo delivery mission in October of that same year. SpaceX is the first private company every to launch a mission to the space station.
The Dragon spacecraft launching today will carry about 1, 200 pounds (544 kilograms) of supplies to the space station. It will return 2, 300 pounds (1, 043 kg) of experiment results and other hardware back to Earth on March 25 when the space capsule is due to splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of Baja California — something robotic cargo ships for the station built by Russia, Europe and Japan cannot do.
SpaceX has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA to provide at least 12 unmanned cargo delivery missions to the space station using its Falcon 9 rockets and Dragon space capsules. The company is also developing a manned version of the Dragon capsule, a spacecraft designed to ferry seven astronauts into and from space, in hopes of flying NASA astronauts to the station in the future.
Quiz: How Well Do You Know SpaceX's Dragon Spaceship?
The spaceflight company SpaceX is one of several firms building private space taxis and cargo ships to launch astronauts and supplies into space. But there's more to SpaceX than meets the eye. Test your SpaceX know-how here.
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