SpaceX Cargo Flight To Launch
October 7, 2012

First SpaceX Cargo Flight To Launch Sunday Evening

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports — Your Universe Online

Later today, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) will become the first private company to depart for the International Space Station (ISS) as it looks to complete the inaugural outsourced, third-party cargo resupply flight in American space history.

According to Reuters reporter Irene Klotz, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule is scheduled to lift off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station at 8:35pm EDT. It will be the first mission under the company's $1.6 billion dollar, 12-mission contract with NASA to deliver supplies to the ISS.

The Dragon capsule is expected to dock with the station approximately three days after its departure and will return to Earth three weeks after reaching the orbiting station, VentureBeat's Jolie O'Dell explained. Back in May, a SpaceX shuttle also became the first private spacecraft to ever dock with the ISS. That craft was carrying just enough cargo to demonstrate that the company would be able to successfully complete a run to and from the station.

"I'm still quite nervous about it because it's just our second mission to the station," Elon Musk, SpaceX's 41-year-old billionaire founder and chief executive, told W.J. Hennigan of the Los Angeles Times on Saturday. "We're hoping that this mission goes as smoothly as the last one."

The vehicle will carry about 1,000 pounds of food, water, and supplies, according to Hennigan. That cargo, Wired's Jason Paur said, will be loaded into the Dragon capsule sometime Sunday morning.

The capsule and the Falcon 9 rocket will be turned on seven and a half hours before launch and will be fueled about three and a half hours later, Paur added. Final go-ahead for blast off will come less than three minutes before the vehicle's anticipated time of departure.

Once the Dragon lifts off, it will "begin a multi-day approach to the ISS," the Wired writer explained. "Dragon is scheduled to make a single approach before being captured by the robotic arm and berthed to the ISS."

"On board, the crew will unpack supplies, including clothing, food and batteries. There is also 390 pounds of scientific experiments heading to the station, including 23 student experiments that were chosen from more than 2,000 proposals," Paur continued. "Dragon is expected to spend 18 days docked on the station while it´s unpacked and then repacked with equipment heading back to Earth on Oct. 28."

As of Saturday evening, there was a 60% chance that the launch would occur on time, he added. However, should Sunday night's launch be scrubbed due to inclement weather, reserve launch times were available on both Monday and Tuesday.