For the first time a commercial spacecraft is going to visit the ISS. The space capsule is expected to depart at 9.44 am (Dutch time). Follow it live here!
10 am: For now we can call the first major mission of SpaceX a great success. The coming days will show whether SpaceX can also live up to further expectations. We will of course keep you informed!
9.56 am: Both solar panels are folded out. And again cheers at SpaceX. This is an important moment. There are still a lot of challenges ahead, but folding out the solar panels is crucial for the rest of the mission.
9.53 am: The Dragon is now in orbit around the earth. There is applause at SpaceX. But we are not there yet. Now Dragon has to unfold the solar panels.
9.49 am: It looks good. Everything goes as far as is known, according to plan. The Dragon is now at an altitude of about 220 kilometers and follows the mapped out route nicely.
9.44 a.m. The Dragon capsule has been launched! But it is still exciting. Does the Dragon capsule adhere to the schedule and can it end up in orbit around the earth?
9.41 am: Ready for the launch. Three more minutes. And everything still looks good.
9.32 a.m. The way things are looking now, real launches are taking place today. Several stakeholders have just given their 'go' and the weather still looks great. Follow it live here!
9.31 a.m. Just over fifteen minutes and then the Dragon capsule goes up in the air! "For the first time in history, a private company is going to prove that it can bring a stock to the ISS," SpaceX summarizes the mission on Twitter briefly. And that is exciting. "If the mission is unsuccessful in a certain aspect, SpaceX will learn from it and try again," says SpaceX on Twitter. "We emphasize that it is a test flight," says Kevin Brogan during the live broadcast of SpaceX. "But if we didn't trust it, we wouldn't test."
On this photo - made by André Kuipers - the launch platform can be seen clearly.
9:00 am: And you can now also follow the launch live on the SpaceX site. 45 minutes to go before the launch.
8.50 a.m. NASA TV has already started broadcasting here. The images are not yet spectacular: you can see how the rocket and Dragon are ready for the launch. The broadcast can also be followed on the SpaceX site in about ten minutes.
8.43 a.m. Below we briefly described what the mission of Dragon will look like. SpaceX also made a wonderful animation for the occasion that shows how the Dragon capsule is launched, connects itself (with the help of the robot arm) to the ISS and then lands on earth again with a big splash. Certainly nice to have a look!
8.39 a.m. Whether launching today does not only depend on SpaceX, NASA and the required material. There is another factor that plays a role: the weather. And that looks good, NASA has just reported. The way things look now, is being launched. Meteorologists estimate the chance of good weather at the time of the launch at 80 percent. Nice numbers!
8.31 a.m. The launch of the Dragon capsule is broadcast live. Another half an hour and then the broadcast starts here.
André Kuipers is ready for it. This is evident from this photo he tweeted yesterday. "Ready to watch the approach of Dragon in bright sun and darkness. Sunglasses, head lamp, reading glasses. Now launching," writes Kuipers. Photo: André Kuipers.
The mission of Dragon in the picture. Launch, go to the ISS and land on Earth again. Images: NASA.
7.51 am: In a final press release for the launch, SpaceX confirms once again that the launch is planned for today. The launch was canceled at the last minute on Saturday due to problems with one of the rocket engines. The pressure in the engine was too high. The problem was solved on Saturday, SpaceX now reports. After a thorough analysis it became clear that the Dragon is now really ready for launch. This morning around 9.44 am Dutch time is the day.
7.45 am: Today is (hopefully) the big day. The Dragon capsule is - after much delay - finally launched. The space capsule is owned by SpaceX and will fly to the ISS, connect to the ISS and then return to Earth. A milestone: a commercial spacecraft has never visited the international space station. SpaceX launches the capsule in close collaboration with NASA. The American space organization therefore benefits enormously. NASA is currently dependent on the Russians for the launch of astronauts and supplies for the ISS. The spacecraft of the Americans - the space shuttle - has been retired for almost a year. NASA is working on a successor, but could use some reinforcement in the meantime. If today's flight goes well, SpaceX can offer that reinforcement. The company is expected to bring astronauts and supplies to the ISS on a regular basis. Nowadays, it can sometimes go down in the books as the day on which commercial space travel becomes mature.