Friday, January 20, 2012

SpaceX Dragon Flight Delayed Until Late March

MSNBC reports that the SpaceX demonstration flight of Dragon to berth at the International Space Station will be delayed until late March.

SpaceX had planned to launch its unmanned supply ship from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Feb. 7. But the company said more testing was needed with the spacecraft, named Dragon. On Friday, officials confirmed that the Dragon's launch on SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket would not occur until late March.

SpaceX did not provide details on the further testing that would be required.

Space station commander Daniel Burbank said that he wanted to take part in the historic event, but that it was more important that SpaceX fly when it's ready. Burbank is due to return to Earth in mid-March.

UPDATE January 20, 2012 4:30 PM ESTFlorida Today reports that SpaceX has reserved March 20 with the Eastern Range for its launch.

UPDATE January 20, 2012 6:00 PM has more details on the SpaceX delay, including an estimate that the launch may be delayed into April.

The article quoted NASA commercial cargo manager Alan Lindenmoyer:

"Down at the Cape, the rocket's in good shape, it's ready to go," he said. "This is the first time they're checking out and integrating the Dragon with all its new systems on it. So I would say down at the Cape they're taking some extra time just to complete a full checkout of the vehicle and complete some integrated systems testing down there. ... They're closing out all the, what they call 'open tickets' on anything that needed resolution before they button it up and get it n final shape for flight."

At the SpaceX factory in Hawthorne, meanwhile, "their software engineers have been so busy finishing up the integration work with the integrated testing with the station and making sure everything they learned coming out of that testing was properly implemented into their software, they wanted to take some extra time and just do a good, solid job of software mission assurance testing.

"And they recognized they really hadn't tested the software to the same extent that they did for that previous flight and their engineers reported that to (SpaceX management) and they decided well, you know, they're going to take the time that's needed to make sure they're comfortable that flight software's ready to go."

UPDATE January 20, 2012 9:00 PM has comments by the Expedition 30 crew about the SpaceX delay.

CNN has learned the launch will be in late March at the earliest. SpaceX spokeswoman Kirsten Grantham says, “we need more time to check out and test the systems.” Grantham added, “Its an incredibly challenging mission.”

“Space flight is tough,” Burbank told me. “It’s really, really hard, and to think that anybody could just roll into this and very quickly field a system that’s gonna be ready to go on the first day planned, and be absolutely reliable, is a little bit unrealistic,” he said.

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