May 3, 2012
SpaceX Delays Dragon Capsule Launch…Again
Lee Rannals for RedOrbit.com
SpaceX announced on Wednesday that the launch for its unmanned Dragon spacecraft is delayed yet again.
The private spaceflight company said that the scheduled May 7th launch for its Dragon capsule "appears unlikely."
The mission would see that the Dragon capsule made its very first trip to the International Space Station. It would carry food, supplies and scientific equipment for the astronauts living on the orbiting laboratory.
The flight was originally scheduled April 30, but SpaceX said it needed more time for tests of Dragon's flight software.
"SpaceX is continuing to work through the software assurance process with NASA," SpaceX spokeswoman Kirstin Brost Grantham wrote in a statement following the latest delay. "We will issue a statement as soon as a new launch target is set."
The company conducted a test firing of its Falcon 9 booster engines on April 30, which went successfully on its second try.
With the new delay, SpaceX will have to see if it is able to get the Dragon Capsule launched and to the space station before May 10, otherwise it will have to wait for a Russian mission to end.
A Russian Soyuz spacecraft is expected to lift off from Kazakhstan on May 15, with three new space station crew members, and it will need to dock at the station before the Dragon can attempt to approach.
"We have launched the rocket twice and the spacecraft once so they are pretty new, and the proximity operations will be our first test in space," Elon Musk, the owner of SpaceX and the company's chief designer, said in a statement following the Flight Readiness Review. "I think it´s important to appreciate that this is fairly tricky and it is important to remember that we are hitting a target within a few inches while it moves over 17,000 mph."
SpaceX had two successful Falcon 9 launches to its credit, along with a demonstration of the Dragon capsule in December 2010.
"I think the (first demonstration) mission was more of a question mark in my mind, because no capsule that these guys had built before had gone into space, done the basic maneuvering to show you have attitude control as well as re-entering, so knowing the vehicle came through re-entry relatively unscathed and all the parachute systems worked perfectly, that was a real big deal," Mike Horkachuck, NASA's project executive for SpaceX, said in a statement.