SpaceX has delayed the launch of the Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule, the first privately-owned capsule to the International Space Station (ISS), for an additional week.

The launch, from NASA's Kennedy Space Center (KSC), has been pushed from 30 April to 7 May for additional hardware testing.

"NASA and the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station have approved SpaceX's request to set May 7th as the target launch date for the upcoming COTS (commercial orbital transportation services) mission," says SpaceX.

While the nature of the hardware testing necessary is as yet undisclosed, NASA's approval of a single week's schedule slip suggests that concerns are likely not serious. The launch window opens only once every three days.

SpaceX and Orbital Sciences were awarded contracts for commercial resupply of ISS, a field until recently restricted to governmental spacecraft. Orbital Sciences expects to launch its first COTS demonstration flight in mid- to late-2012, with a second to ISS shortly thereafter.

 SpaceX Dragon capsule


SpaceX is also competing for the third commercial crew development (CCDev) award using a Dragon capsule upgraded for human spaceflight. The company won awards in the previous two rounds, receiving NASA money to develop and build hardware. The first CCDev test flights are planned for 2014, with operational missions beginning 2017.

The COTS launch had previously been pushed from December 2011 for software testing of an undisclosed nature. Neither NASA nor SpaceX immediately responded to inquiries.

Source: Flight International