Wednesday, May 16, 2012

SpaceX: THIS Time?

Dragon, solar panels open
Maybe THIS weekend...
The much-awaited flight of the SpaceX craft Dragon has been rescheduled again, to this Sat.19 May (8.55 GMT).
The Dragon capsule on a Falcon 9 rocket, planned to be the first commercial craft to restock the International Space Station (ISS), has had its test flight rescheduled a few times (originally due last Feb.). SpaceX has already shown it can release and retrieve the Dragon, but getting it alongside and berthing with the fast-moving ISS is not easy. However it'll mean BIG bucks if the cargo ship can actually dock, so SpaceX's been testing and retesting, just in case...
ISS above South Island, NZ
The private space company (owned by Elon Musk, Internet entrepreneur and PayPal founder) has a multimillion-dollar contract with NASA to become the ISS cargo-deliverer. Once proven successful, the Dragon will begin a minimum 12-flight contract to resupply the ISS. And as its reusable, it'll be able to bring cargo back as well. However SpaceX has carefully kept expectations low, saying this is a test flight as well as only the rocket's third blastoff and Dragon's second flight.
This mission was originally only supposed to be a launch/orbit test, so attempting to connect with the ISS is actually ahead of schedule. The launch will be on NASA TV from 7.30 GMT this Saturday, with a docking attempt on Tuesday.
Soon after this launch, SpaceX and Bigelow Aerospace (BA) will start a joint marketing campaign for international customers, offering rides on the Dragon to Bigelow habitats in orbit. Each module can support six crew. BA plans to connect several modules in orbit, so national agencies, companies, and universities can access space.
PS: 20 May 2012 - Houston, we have a problem! Re-scheduled launch now Tues.22 May. Maybe.
PS: 25 May 2012 - A successful docking for Dragon.
PS: 01 June 2012 - Successful splashlanding. Chick-ching!!!

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