Tuesday, November 23, 2010

SpaceX Cargo Flight Cleared by FAA

Space News reports that "After more than a year-and-a-half of review, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Nov. 22 granted Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) the license it needs to launch a cargo capsule into space and have it re-enter the atmosphere for recovery at sea."

SpaceX is expected to launch its Dragon cargo capsule atop its Falcon 9 rocket Dec. 7 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., in the first of three increasingly complex missions to be conducted under a $278 million Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) agreement with NASA. The company is on the hook to begin regular resupply runs to the international space station starting next year under a separate, fixed-price contract valued at $1.6 billion.

The Falcon 9 rocket has flown once successfully with a qualification unit of the Dragon onboard. On the upcoming COTS mission, the full-fledged Dragon capsule is expected to complete up to four Earth orbits, transmit telemetry data, receive commands, maneuver, re-enter the atmosphere and make a safe water landing in the Pacific Ocean for recovery.

"This will be the first attempt by a commercial company to recover a spacecraft reentering from low-Earth orbit," Brost said in the statement. "It is a feat performed by only 6 nations or governmental agencies: the United States, Russia, China, Japan, India, and the European Union."

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