NASA: SpaceX Dragon Expected to Leave for ISS on April 30
April 17, 2012 10:22 AM
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SpaceX Dragon capsule
According to NASA, there is a bit of testing where hardware, software and certain procedures are concerned
NASA announced that all is well with SpaceX's Dragon capsule, and that an April 30 flight to the International Space Station (ISS) is possible.
SpaceX, which is expected to be the first private company to send a spacecraft to the ISS, has been preparing its Dragon capsule for the flight. However,
it delayed the Dragon's first launch to the ISS
, which was set for February 7. The company wanted to conduct more tests before the cargo capsule took off for space.
"Everything looks good as we head toward the April 30 launch date," said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations. "There is a good chance to make the 30th."
The Dragon capsule will be expected to carry 1,148 pounds of cargo to the ISS, which will consist of supplies needed for the space lab, and will return 1,455 pounds of cargo back to Earth.
The private company's Dragon has become an important part of the future of American space travel. Last year,
NASA retired its space shuttle fleet
, which U.S. astronauts depended on for delivering supplies to the ISS. Since that retirement, American astronauts have been forced to depend on Russian Soyuz rockets to make their way to the ISS -- and the cost of one seat on the Russian spacecraft is expected to increase to $63 million by 2015.
The U.S. knew it had to find another way to travel to space without depending on Russia. Funding was a major complication, where
NASA urged Congress to provide $850 million for commercial crew vehicle development
SpaceX arrived on the scene with its Dragon capsule, which is intended for both manned and unmanned missions. While Musk has been working hard on his Dragon, the spacecraft hasn't had an easy road up to this point. The February delay caused a bit of disappointment, and then American space heroes Neil Armstrong (the first astronaut to step foot upon the Moon on Apollo 11) and Gene Cernan (the last man to step foot upon the moon on Apollo 17) both
publicly criticized Musk's inexperience with space-related vehicles
. They even said that leaving the future of American space travel to SpaceX could lead to safety issues and cost the taxpayers at some point.
However, the Dragon has prevailed and even passed the first NASA Crew Trial last month. Musk defended his company and his Dragon, saying that the work accomplished until now and the road to the ISS ahead have not been easy.
"I think it is important to appreciate that this is pretty tricky," said Musk. "The public out there, they may not realize that the space station is zooming around the Earth every 90 minutes, and it is going 17,000 miles an hour. So you have got to launch up there and you've got to rendezvous and be backing into the space station within inches really, and this is something that is going 12 times faster than the bullet from an assault fire. So it's hard.
"I think we have got a pretty good shot but it is worth emphasizing that there is a lot that can go wrong on a mission like this."
But Musk said even if the Dragon doesn't succeed the first time, he will try again.
The final announcement regarding whether April 30 is the exact date of launch is expected April 23.
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RE: Sad Irony
4/17/2012 2:19:50 PM
This. Neil Armstrong and Gene Cernan deserve immense respect for their contributions BUT that does not justify or excuse their unwarranted criticism on this venture or in a broader sense the commercial space industry as a whole. If the US is to advance to the next phase of space exploration, there is no place for such elitist views.
I see Elon Musk and all the others involved in serious work advancing commercial space flight as modern day Wright brothers, or Sikorsky, or (insert your choice of famous pioneer of revolutionary new technologies such as Marconi, Ford, Morse, Röntgen, Tesla, etc.) They risk their money and their reputation endeavoring to make thing happen that range from the extremely difficult to the seemingly impossible. The least we can do is recognize them for their efforts. Not all of them will succeed and almost certainly none of them will succeed right away. So, is that a reason to do nothing at all? If all of mankind embraced such backwards thinking, we'd still live in caves dressed in scraps of leather.
NASA rightfully wants to hand over the more "mundane" aspects of ferrying cargo and personnel to LEO to private industry. NASA needs to be in the business of cutting edge space exploration, pushing the envelope and expanding our horizon. NASA needs to focus on developing enabling technologies and architectures that will take us out into the solar system. Let the commercial sector take care of trucking supplies. I am convinced that in the coming decades their contributions, while different in nature, will advance future space flight as much those of the heroes of the Apollo era.
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