Friday, December 9, 2011

Another Date for SpaceX

Click the arrow to watch the video.

According to the latest This Week at NASA, the new launch date for the SpaceX Dragon is February 7, 2012.

But there's no guarantee it will be allowed to berth with the International Space Station.

According to the video:

Pending completion of its final safety reviews, testing and verification, SpaceX might also send Dragon to rendezvous with the International Space Station. comments:

The significance of the announcement coming from Mr Gerstenmaier should not be under-estimated, given his close relationship with the ISS’ other major partner, the Russians. Officials at RSC Energia and Roscosmos have been exhibiting a large degree of caution – as should be expected – over the arrival of a brand new vehicle at the orbital outpost.

So we're still not sure that Dragon will be allowed anywhere near the ISS.

The announcement was made today in Seattle by NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver.

Click here to read more in the Seattle Times.

According to the article:

SpaceX's Dragon capsule will fly within two miles of the space station, for a checkout of all its systems. Then it will close in, with station astronauts grabbing the capsule with a robotic arm. The Dragon ultimately will be released for a splashdown in the Pacific. None of the other cargo carriers come back intact; they burn up on re-entry.

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver today at The Museum of Flight in Seattle. Image source: NASA.

UPDATE December 9, 2011 9:45 PM EDTThe official NASA press release hints at more delays before they'll allow Dragon to fly to the ISS.

"SpaceX has made incredible progress over the last several months preparing Dragon for its mission to the space station," said William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. "We look forward to a successful mission, which will open up a new era in commercial cargo delivery for this international orbiting laboratory."

Gerstenmaier said, "There is still a significant amount of critical work to be completed before launch, but the teams have a sound plan to complete it and are prepared for unexpected challenges. As with all launches, we will adjust the launch date as needed to gain sufficient understanding of test and analysis results to ensure safety and mission success."

UPDATE December 10, 2011 7:45 AM ESTFlorida Today reports on the SpaceX launch date:

After blasting off atop a Falcon 9 rocket, preliminary flight plans call for the Dragon to reach the station within three or four days, NASA said.

The capsule would perform a series of systems tests before approaching and first flying close by the station.

If given the green light, the Dragon would close in for capture by a robotic arm operated by station crew members Don Pettit and Andre Kuipers, who are scheduled to launch to the station Dec. 21 on a Russian spacecraft.

They would pull the Dragon in for a roughly two-week stay.

Aviation Week reports:

Announcement of the launch date signifies resolution of an earlier stumbling block to the attempt. SpaceX had wanted to launch two Orbcomm low-Earth-orbit data-relay satellites as secondary payloads on the Falcon 9, raising concerns the secondaries might hit the station on a later orbit and damage it. The company cut back to one secondary payload, and agreed to deploy it below the station’s orbit.

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