August 16, 2011

SpaceX To Attempt ISS Test Flight In November

Space Exploration Technologies Co. (SpaceX) has announced that it plans to make a test flight to the International Space Station (ISS) in November, with future goals to pick up where NASA's shuttle program left off.

Over the past several months, SpaceX has been working to prepare for the test flight -- a mission the company says is designed to demonstrate that a privately-developed space transportation system can deliver cargo and perhaps astronauts to and from the ISS.

NASA gave SpaceX a November 30 launch date, which should be followed nine days later by Dragon docking with the ISS. It will be SpaceX's second mission, and one of a handful of firms competing to replace the retired shuttle program.

SpaceX said in a statement that the arrival of the vessel at the ISS would herald "the beginning of a new era in space travel."

"Together, government and the private sector can simultaneously increase the reliability, safety and frequency of space travel, while greatly reducing the costs," SpaceX said in the statement to AFP.

SpaceX was granted $75 million in seed money earlier this year, after it successfully sent its Dragon space capsule into orbit and back in December 2010.

The ISS mission represents a huge milestone not only for SpaceX, but also for NASA and the US space program as a whole. When the astronauts stationed on the ISS open the hatch and enter the Dragon spacecraft for the first time, it will mark the beginning of a new era in space travel.

NASA is looking toward private and commercial companies to transform the way we access space, and through continued partnerships, NASA, the government, and the private sector can increase reliability, safety and frequency in space travel, while greatly reducing the costs.


Image 2: In a SpaceX clean room in Hawthorne (Los Angeles) California, technicians prepare the Dragon spacecraft for thermal vacuum chamber testing. The open bays will hold the parachutes. NASA has given us a launch date of Nov 30, 2011 for Falcon 9 Flight 3, which will send a Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program. Credit: Roger Gilbertson/SpaceX


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