SpaceX has announced a delay to the upcoming launch of their Dragon spacecraft, initially scheduled for 7 February. The launch, from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, has been pushed back to no earlier than late March.

"We wanted more time so that we could spend additional time doing testing and making improvements that would improve the likelihood of a successful mission," said SpaceX. The Hawthorne, California-based company declined to provide additional details.

According to SpaceX, the hold is to allow for more testing of the Dragon capsule. Dragon is scheduled to be the first commercial spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station (ISS).

The spacecraft is being funded by NASA under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) programme, intended to develop a commercial resupply craft for the ISS. The last American spacecraft capable of resupply, the Space Shuttle, was retired in July 2011.

The flight will be Dragon's second: the first flight, in December 2010, saw the spacecraft successfully orbit the Earth twice and recover without incident.

Launch delays are routine for the space industry; the advance launch dates provided are often seen as rough indicators rather than concrete schedules.

Source: Flight International