Just before 3:00 a.m. PDT with a short burst of the thrusters, Dragon again began approaching the ISS. Minutes later, with the Dragon 220 meters from the station, astronaut Kuipers sent a command via the UHF communications link and Dragon aborted its approach as expected and returned to the 250 meter hold position. Test one was complete. Kuipers planned to send a command for Dragon to hold at 235 meters, but problems with Dragon’s onboard thermal camera used for the rendezvous with the ISS kept it at the 250 meter point. After a few minutes the test resumed and Kuipers issued Dragon a hold command at 235 meters, but it happened a bit earlier than planned. Over the next half hour or so, the teams in Hawthorne and Houston were busy evaluating the data from the onboard sensors to make sure both the station and Dragon agreed on their relative positions before moving any closer, particularly inside the simply named “Keep Out Sphere” that surrounds the ISS at 200 meters.
I have mixed feelings on this one. Great to see a space program going forward, not so excited about how. I just have a nagging feeling this type of private industry is going to…and this is probably to worst euphemism to use here…but “crash and burn” seems apt. While I don’t doubt that we can do things cheaper and probably faster in a private company, both market forces and natural ones can have massive side effects. We’ll see how this plays out, but until the private industry survives a real test, I’m not sure its going to be viable long term without massive public support (which kinda makes you wonder what will happen to the tech if one of these companies fails and gets bought out by someone we don’t want to know how to make these kinds of rockets). —- ISS Welcomes SpaceX Dragon — First Private Spacecraft at Station | Autopia | Wired.com http://m.wired.com/autopia/2012/05/spacex-docking/