The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket due to launch the first commercial flight to the International Space Station (ISS) has passed a crucial launch simulation.

Called a 'wet dress rehearsal,' the simulation saw the rocket and its Dragon capsule rolled onto the launch pad and fuelled at Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Launch operators then simulated a full countdown until the point at which the main engines would ignite.

"The test went well," said SpaceX. "Over the coming days we will continue to review the data as we prepare for our upcoming mission."

The rocket will be rolled off the launch pad on 2 March, and the Dragon will be taken off for additional testing. The launch, initially scheduled for early 6 February, is delayed until at least 20 April for testing.

 SpaceX Dragon capsule


If successful, the Dragon capsule will be the first commercial spacecraft to dock at the ISS under NASA's commercial orbital transportation services (COTS) programme. The other delivery system sponsored by COTS, Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket and Cygnus capsule, is due to launch in the summer from its launch pad at Wallops Island, Virginia.

SpaceX's Falcon 9/Dragon combo are also funded under the commercial crew development (CCDev) programme, and is in the running for CCDev successor commercial crew integrated capability (CCiCap).

Source: Flight International