US launcher developer Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has completed the system requirements review (SRR) for its Falcon 9 booster and Dragon capsule cargo variant for NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) programme.

The Falcon 9, designed to place 8,700kg (19,100lb) into low Earth orbit (LEO), and Dragon cargo vehicle are SpaceX's proposed delivery system for NASA's COTS programme to service the International Space Station (ISS). SpaceX and COTS competitor Rocketplane-Kistler have by 2010 to demonstrate the ability to deliver pressurised and unpressurised cargo to the ISS and return payloads to the Earth.

"We achieved SRR at this stage because we started work on Falcon 9 two years before COTS," says SpaceX chief executive Elon Musk, declining to comment further on the programme. The first two flights of Falcon 9, scheduled for the first half of 2008, are non-COTS launches because the rocket was marketed before NASA proposed the ISS servicing competition.

Musk says the Falcon 9 first-stage test firing is planned for March, and adds that a preliminary design review for the Falcon 9/Dragon stack in the first quarter will see some changes to the capsule.

Meanwhile, SpaceX is preparing to launch the second Falcon 1 rocket. The 570kg-to-LEO booster has been improved after the failure of its maiden flight on 24 March. The launcher's first stage is at the Pacific island launch site on Kwajalein atoll, and the second stage was expected to arrive last week for a static-fire test in mid-January. Because of the upgrades made to Falcon 1, Musk expects many countdown tests before launch, which could be at the beginning of February.

Source: Flight International