Thursday, July 21, 2011

SpaceX Dragon to Dock with ISS in December

A NASA illustration of the SpaceX Dragon docked at the International Space Station. Image source: SpaceX.

Aviation Week reports that NASA has agreed to allow SpaceX to combine its second and third cargo demonstration flights so that the Dragon capsule can dock with the International Space Station in November.

With the STS-135 space shuttle supply mission to the International Space Station drawing to a close, agency officials are honing plans for a late November launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9/Dragon on the first U.S. commercial cargo delivery mission to the orbiting science laboratory, NASA ISS program manager Mike Suffredini says.

Agency and company officials reached agreement on planning dates of Nov. 30 for the launch and Dec. 7 for the rendezvous and berthing of the Dragon cargo spacecraft with the station during a July 15 meeting ...

The strategy combines the second and third Dragon demonstration missions outlined in NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems program agreement. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk proposed as much following the company’s Dec. 8 initial demonstration flight.

CBS News reported July 20 on SpaceX. Click here to watch the video. It's fairly simplistic, typical of network news these days, sadly.

Discover Magazine has this article published online July 19 about "privately trained astronauts" flying for companies such as SpaceX. The article also references Astronauts4Hire, a company that looks for individuals willing to train as commercial astronauts. Its web site says the company "is incorporated as a nonprofit organization in the State of Florida with pending federal 501(c)(3)status," although on its Contact page the mailing address is in Phoenix, Arizona.

UPDATE July 21, 2011 5:30 AM EDTThe Torrance Daily Breeze published this Associated Press article July 20 on both SpaceX and Orbital. It states that for the December test flight, "The lower and upper stages of the rocket are at Cape Canaveral, Fla. The capsule is almost finished."

As for Orbital:

And maybe a month or two later, Orbital hopes to have its first test flight to the station. First, it has to finish building its launch site at Wallops Island, Va., which should be done in just a few weeks. Then later this year it will have a test launch of its new rocket, the Taurus II, and finally it will use that new rocket to launch its capsule, Cygnus, to the space station, said company spokesman Barron Beneski.

UPDATE July 22, 2011Space News reports that NASA and SpaceX "technically have agreed" to combine the final two demonstration flights.

“We technically have agreed with SpaceX that we want to combine those flights,” William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for space operations, said at a July 21 media briefing at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. “We are doing all the planning to go ahead and have those missions combined, but we haven’t given them formal approval yet.”

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