In Pictures: The SpaceX blast into history

NASA watches as SpaceX gets set for first space shot

  • If all goes smoothly – and it hasn’t so far -- Space Exploration Technologies or SpaceX will this month send its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon space capsule into low earth orbit on the first public resupply mission to the International Space Station. The Dragon will stay about 18 days and deliver a little over 1,000 pounds of cargo. A successful mission will go a long way toward bolstering the idea of non-NASA spacecraft ferry equipment and ultimately astronauts to the space lab. It won’t be an easy task by any means. “This is a really tough flight. What we’re asking them to do is amazing,” NASA’s William Gerstenmaier said. Here we take a look at the components of this historic event.

  • Diagram and facts on the SpaceX Falcon 9

  • Illustration and diagrams describing the SpaceX Dragon reusable spacecraft which has been cleared to make the first test flight to the International Space Station by a privately owned vessel.

  • Here NASA astronaut Megan McArthur conducts a crew equipment interface test with the SpaceX Dragon capsule.

  • In a processing facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex-40 in Florida, the SpaceX Dragon capsule is rotated into a horizontal position for joining with the second stage of the company’s Falcon 9 rocket.

  • SpaceX technicians stow cargo in the Dragon capsule in preparation for its scheduled liftoff aboard the Falcon 9 rocket.

  • More preparations to load cargo into the SpaceX Dragon capsule.

  • The Falcon 9 rocket and its Dragon capsule are lowered onto a transporter at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Space Launch Complex-40.

  • According to NASA, shortly after launch, Dragon will undergo a series of checkout procedures to test and prove its systems in advance of its docking with the station. It will approach from the Earth-facing side, then hover at a distance of 2.5 kilometers so that its sensors and flight systems can be examined to ensure that it is safe to proceed. The spacecraft also will demonstrate its capability to abort the rendezvous. Once Dragon is cleared for capture, Canadarm2 will perform a cosmic catch: it will grapple the capsule and install it on the space station.

  • During the 18 days that Dragon will spend docked to the International Space Station; the crew will unload its cargo of about half a ton of food and clothing packed inside the pressurized section.

  • Dragon’s full scale drop test.

  • SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket with the Dragon capsule lifts off from launch complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Dec. 8, 2010.

  • Another shot of SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket with the Dragon capsule.

  • President Barack Obama and Head of SpaceX Elon Musk tour Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

  • President Barack Obama (L) and Head of SpaceX Elon Musk

  • The Falcon 1 rocket built by SpaceX sits on the launch pad awaiting liftoff at the U.S. Military's Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Test Site on Omelek Island, near Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean's Marshall Islands in November 2005.

  • The Freedom Star, a former space shuttle solid rocket booster recovery ship, is now a floating high tech camera and radar platform that will be stationed in the North Atlantic to track and capture images of the first commercial spacecraft carrying cargo to the International Space Station.

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