Fans of Social Media and NewSpace have a rare opportunity to tweet about their passion – and experience history. Their chance will come as Space Explorations Technologies works to conduct the second demonstration flight under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services or COTS contract. However, spaces are limited, only 50 social media followers will be selected to be present for the launch, currently scheduled to take place at 9:38 a.m. EDT on May 7.
Registration for this event is, unfortunately, already closed (registration closed on April, 6). Followers of Facebook, Twitter and Google+ were eligible.
The NASA Social will take place May 6-7 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) located in Florida. If the NASA ‘Tweetups’ held prior to this are any indication, NASA will have special guests including officials and astronauts with the space agency to discuss how commercial space efforts are proceeding. NASA recently won the “Shorty” award for the space agency’s Twitter efforts. This marked the third straight year that NASA has walked away with this prize.
SpaceX will be launching one of the private space firm’s Dragon spacecraft atop a Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station. This will be the first time a private company has attempted this feat. The Hawthorne, Calif., based company lobbied for and received permission to combine the second and third demonstration flights – into one. If everything goes according to plan SpaceX will have completed the three demonstration flight requirement under the $1.6 billion COTS contract – in just two missions.
For those lucky few who win a spot on the social, tours of NASA facilities will be on the itinerary as will opportunities to speak with representatives from both NASA and SpaceX. This will culminate with the launch of the Falcon 9 – potentially into history. Only U.S. citizens were allowed to register.
Some of the more challenging components of this dual-mission include flying under the space station to test out the Dragon’s sensors and flight systems that are vital to conduct safe rendezvous with the orbiting laboratory. Next, the crew on board the station will attempt to grapple the commercial spacecraft and berth it the Earth-facing node of the Harmony Module. This is the same port that the Japanese Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) HTV spacecraft is berthed to.
It is hoped that the crew will be able to successfully off-load the supplies. If all goes occurring to plan, the Dragon will then re-enter Earth’s atmosphere and conduct a splash down in the Pacific Ocean, just off the California Coast. This will make it unique amongst all of the other cargo vessels that fly to the station, the European ATV, Russian Progress and HTV – are all expendable and thus burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.
The COTS program was initiated under the Bush Administration in 2006. Technical support as well as financial assistance has been provided to encourage commercial firms such as SpaceX and Orbital Science’s Corporation to produce viable spacecraft. It is hoped that these firms will then be able to takeover low-Earth-orbit (LEO) operations while NASA focuses on sending crews beyond LEO.
For more information about COTS, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/cots
To find all the ways to connect and collaborate with NASA, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/connect
To follow SpaceX on Twitter, visit: http://www.twitter.com/SpaceX
For more information about the International Space Station, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/station
For more information about SpaceX or the Dragon spacecraft, visit: http://www.spacex.com