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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Par for the course
1/17/2012 2:33:53 PM
Anyone following spaceflight can't honestly be surprised by yet another SpaceX delay, however long it turns out to be eventually.
I'd argue this decision should be a lesson to those criticising other entities. It's spaceflight that is hard, regardless of the organisational structure supporting the endeavour.
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