Hawthorne, Calif.-based Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) and NASA have set an October 7 launch date for the first of 12 contracted cargo missions to space. The upcoming launch follows the successful attachment of SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station in May.
According to NASA, ISS program managers confirmed the readiness of Dragon and Falcon 9, the rocket carrying Dragon, for the SpaceX CRS-1 mission, as well as the ISS’s availability to receive Dragon. The spacecraft will filled with nearly 1,000 pounds of cargo.
Supplies transported via Dragon will include materials to support the 166 scientific investigations planned for the ISS’ Expedition 33 crew, 63 of which are new. NASA said the spacecraft will then return about 734 pounds of scientific materials, including results from biotechnology, human research, materials and educational experiments, as well as about 504 pounds of ISS equipment. Dragon is slated to return to Earth in late October.
In a press release, NASA said that SpaceX’s mission ushers in a new era of freight transportation. “SpaceX services under [NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services] contract will restore an American capability to deliver and return significant amounts of cargo, including science experiments, to the orbiting laboratory — a feat not achievable since the retirement of the space shuttle,” NASA said.
The U.S. agency awarded contracts worth a combined $3.6 billion back in 2008 to SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp., of Dulles, Va., under its CRS program. The firms were contracted to haul 20 tonnes of cargo to the Space Station through 2016. SpaceX will make 12 flights, while Orbital’s Antares and Cygnus spacecraft will undertake eight flights.
A number of other private concerns are in the long-term mix to fly people and cargo into space. XCOR Aerospace and Virgin Galactic were among seven companies chosen by NASA in August 2011 to receive two years of financial support for further research into delivering cargo, initially to the edge of space, on reusable vehicles. NASA’s aim is to be able to draw from a wider pool of companies for payload integration and flight services. The seven firms are sharing $10 million of seed funding via the Commercial Reusable Suborbital Research Flight Opportunities program.
Source: Air Cargo World News
Gravity always wins!