by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 2, 2012
The first test flight of a commercial spacecraft to the International Space Station could happen in late March, NASA said on Thursday.
The Dragon spacecraft, owned by US company SpaceX, could launch no earlier than March 20 but a more fixed date would follow in the next couple of weeks, NASA spokesman Mike Suffredini told reporters.
The launch, the first-ever bid by a private company to dock at the orbiting lab, had been set for February but was postponed for technical reasons.
SpaceX -- owned by Elon Musk, an Internet entrepreneur and founder of PayPal -- made history with its Dragon launch in December 2010, becoming the first commercial outfit to send a spacecraft into orbit and back.
SpaceX and several other companies are competing to build and operate a private capsule that could tote astronauts and cargo to the ISS, after US space agency NASA retired its space shuttle program last year.
The main goals of SpaceX's next flight include a fly-by of the ISS at a distance of two miles (three kilometers) and a berthing operation in which the Dragon will approach the ISS and the crew aboard the orbiting outpost will use the ISS robotic arm to help it latch on.
After the test docking, the Dragon aims to detach from the station for its return to Earth and eventually splash down in the Pacific off the coast of California.
SpaceX tests capsule engines
The private spacecraft company has been conducting further tests since it and NASA announced a delay in the Dragon's intended historic docking with the International Space Station, Forbes reported Thursday.
The SuperDraco rocket engine is intended to allow for powerful but pinpoint control for precision flight maneuvers and also provide the ability for astronauts to jettison anytime from a launch rocket in the event of an emergency, the company said.
"SuperDraco engines represent the best of cutting edge technology," Elon Musk, SpaceX chief executive and technology officer, said in a statement.
"These engines will power a revolutionary launch escape system that will make Dragon the safest spacecraft in history and enable it to land propulsively on Earth or another planet with pinpoint accuracy."
The engines are also reusable, moving the Dragon a step closer to a completely reusable spacecraft, he said.
Launch Pad at Space-Travel.com
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SpaceX delays February flight to space stationl
Washington (AFP) Jan 17, 2012
SpaceX said Tuesday it has postponed its February test flight of the Dragon capsule to the International Space Station, the first-ever bid by a private company to dock at the orbiting lab. The delay is due to technical reasons and a new launch date for the unmanned mission has not been set. "In preparation for the upcoming launch, SpaceX continues to conduct extensive testing and analysi ... read more
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