Friday, December 09, 2011

SpaceX targeting February launch of demo flight

NASA and SpaceX are targeting a Feb. 7 launch of the company's next demonstration flight from Cape Canaveral, which plans to berth an unmanned Dragon capsule at the International Space Station.

NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver announced the official new target date in a keynote speech opening a NASA Future Forum event today at The Museum of Flight in Seattle, Wash.

In separate press release, NASA said it had agreed, pending final safety reviews, to combine the goals of SpaceX's next two planned demonstrations into a single flight.

That clears the way for Dragon to become the first commercially operated vehicle to berth at the station, and if it does so successfully, to begin operational resupply missions on the subsequent flight.

"This mission will mark a historic milestone in the future of spaceflight," SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said in a statement. "We appreciate NASA's continued support and their partnership in this process."

A panel of commercial space company representatives including Shotwell is scheduled to speak at the Future Forum today at 2 p.m. EST. Watch it here.

If the berthing is unsuccessful, SpaceX will complete a third demonstration before beginning its $1.6 billion resupply contract.

IMAGE:An artist's conception of the Dragon capsule under development by Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) of Hawthorne, Calif., for NASA's Commercial Crew Program.

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