SpaceX CEO Elon Musk
There was a slight delay from the April 30 estimated launch date for more testing

SpaceX has finally set a date for its first launch to the International Space Station (ISS): May 7, 2012.

SpaceX, which will be the first private company to send a spacecraft to the ISS, has been working on its Dragon cargo capsule for the big flight. However, a few delays have put the Dragon a bit behind the original schedule.

The Dragon was originally set to launch on February 7, but SpaceX said that it wanted to conduct more tests before the cargo capsule made its way into space.

Earlier this month, NASA set a second estimated launch date for April 30, but the date was never set in stone. In fact, NASA associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations Bill Gerstenmaier said there was only a "good chance" of the Dragon making the April 30 deadline.

Now, after a bit more testing, SpaceX has confirmed the final launch date as May 7 instead. The Dragon will lift off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida atop a Falcon 9 rocket. The launch is set for exactly 9:38 a.m. (1338 GMT).

"We appreciate that SpaceX is taking the necessary time to help ensure the success of this historic flight," said Gerstenmaier. "We will continue to work with SpaceX in preparing for the May 7 launch to the International Space Station."

The Dragon capsule will carry 1,149 pounds of cargo to the ISS and return a 1,455 pound shipment back to Earth.

The delays and extra testing will be well worth it come May 7, when SpaceX will make history and represent the United States' re-entry into 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.

It was clear that the U.S. needed a new way into space, and SpaceX gladly jumped to the opportunity with its Dragon cargo capsule, which is intended for both manned and unmanned missions.

Other companies,
such as BlueOrigin LLC, Sierra Nevada Corporation and Boeing, have jumped into the private space travel ring as well, but SpaceX raced to the top in a hurry. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk pushed past issues like delays and public criticism from 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) to be the first private company to launch a spacecraft to the ISS. 

"I was very sad to see that because those guys are, you know, those guys are heroes of mine, so it's really tough," said Musk. "You know, I wish they would come and visit, and see the hard work that we're doing here. And I think that would change their mind.

"What I'm trying to do is to make a significant difference in space flight, and help make space flight accessible to almost anyone. And I would hope for as much support in that direction as we, as we can receive."

NASA has provided about $270 million to private companies in order to encourage a new era of commercial space travel and tourism.

Source: Yahoo

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