SpaceX Delays Dragon's First Launch to ISS
January 17, 2012 9:36 AM
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The launch was originally set for February 7, but SpaceX wants to conduct more tests
SpaceX has announced that it is delaying the launch of its unmanned space capsule to the International Space Station (ISS), which was
set to make the journey on February 7
Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or SpaceX, will be the first commercial company in history to dock at the ISS. It plans to send its unmanned Dragon spacecraft, which is SpaceX's reusable spacecraft, to the ISS this year.
SpaceX was originally set on launching its Dragon space capsule on February 7, but the company announced yesterday that the flight will be postponed in order to conduct additional testing.
"In preparation for the upcoming launch, SpaceX continues to conduct extensive testing and analysis," said Kirstin Grantham, SpaceX spokesperson. "We believe that there are a few areas that will benefit from additional work and will optimize the safety and success of this mission. We are now working with NASA to establish a new target launch date, but note that we will continue to test and review data.
"We will launch when the vehicle is ready."
The Dragon's voyage to the ISS is a big deal, considering it will be the first made by the private space transport industry. The rendezvous is part of NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, which many commercial spaceflight companies have been interested in joining. SpaceX is expected to deliver food, hardware and supplies to the ISS, and upon successful completion of the missions laid out in its Space Act Agreement with NASA, SpaceX will receive as much as $396 million.
The need for a commercial company to step in and take over the errands to the ISS became crucial after NASA retired its space shuttle program throughout 2011. The retirement of the Discovery, Endeavour and Atlantis space shuttles
marked the end of NASA's 30-year space shuttle program
, and also left American astronauts looking to hitch a ride with the Russians when making runs to the ISS. But depending on Russia was expensive, with costs per seat on a Russian spacecraft
expected to rise to $63 million
The Dragon capsule, which made its maiden flight in December 2010, will launch atop SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket once the spacecraft is ready.
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RE: put up or shut up
1/17/2012 10:31:45 AM
ECONOMIC MODEL OF REUSABLE VS. EXPENDABLE LAUNCH VEHICLES
"Generally, expendable launch vehicles will continue to have a significant economic advantage over reusable vehicles until launch rates increase by well over 100 times."
"In short, according to Musk, the Falcon Heavy will offer approximately twice the performance of the Delta IV Heavy at approximately one third the cost; or, as he helpfully added, six times the value. Determining the actual price of a Delta or Atlas is not an easy proposition, a tactic Musk compared to a rug bazaar in that the price is determined by what the vendor perceives the buyer can pay. At the moment, the buyer is the US government, and it is paying dearly.
Assuming the Falcon Heavy’s numbers are accurate, the pricing and performance figures offered in Musk’s presentation raise a number of very interesting and, no doubt to some, uncomfortable questions. They also have the potential to completely alter the basis of what currently passes for space policy.
First, the uncomfortable questions. Given the fact that the SpaceX Falcon rockets are not based on any radical technological breakthrough that lowered their costs, one has to ask just how bad a deal has the taxpayer been getting from the Atlas V and Delta IV, products of the legacy aerospace establishment? Soon to be deprived of the hyper-expensive Space Shuttle as their own point of comparison, the answer would appear to be much worse than we ever imagined."
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