WASHINGTON — SpaceX will fly its Dragon capsule on an unmanned mission to the International Space Station in February, marking the first-ever bid by a private company to dock at the orbiting lab, NASA said Friday.
The fly-by and berthing mission are scheduled for February 7, 2012, the US space agency said in a statement.
“SpaceX has made incredible progress over the last several months preparing Dragon for its mission to the space station,” said Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate.
“We look forward to a successful mission, which will open up a new era in commercial cargo delivery for this international orbiting laboratory.”
SpaceX — owned by Elon Musk, Internet entrepreneur and founder of PayPal — in December last year became the first commercial outfit to send its Dragon spacecraft into orbit and back.
The effort is part of a running competition between private companies including Boeing and Sierra Nevada to be the first to create a spacecraft capable of replacing the US space shuttle which retired earlier this year.
The first manned mission by a private company is not expected until around 2015, and in the meantime the world’s astronauts must pay Russia for rides to the ISS aboard its Soyuz spacecraft.
Gerstenmaier cautioned that “a significant amount of critical work” remains before launch and warned that the date may be adjusted “as needed to gain sufficient understanding of test and analysis results.”
However, Alan Lindenmoyer, NASA’s program manager of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services, said SpaceX is “on the forefront of demonstrating how a partnership between the government and private industry can lead to new capabilities.”
The main goals of the February flight include a fly-by of the ISS at a distance of two miles, and a berthing operation in which Dragon will approach the ISS and the crew aboard the orbiting outpost will use the ISS robotic arm to help it latch on.
“The spacecraft also will demonstrate the capability to abort the rendezvous, if required,” the NASA statement said.
After the test mission, the ISS crew will “reverse the process, detaching Dragon from the station for its return to Earth and splashdown in the Pacific off the coast of California.”
If the operation to rendezvous and berth at the station are not a success, SpaceX will attempt it again in a new test flight “in order to achieve these objectives as originally planned.”
Copyright © 2011 AFP. All rights reserved.
Anti-LGBT white supremacist to co-host new public affairs TV talk show that will Air on PBS
Pat Buchanan, a longtime anti-LGBTQ white supremacist Christian nationalist pundit will co-host a re-boot of "The McLaughlin Group," a Sunday morning public affairs, news, and commentary TV talk show know for the fast and hot takes of its conservative creator, John McLaughlin. The show will be syndicated by Maryland Public Television and air on PBS stations, Media Matters reports.
Hong Kong protesters kick off new weekend of rallies
Hong Kong democracy activists kicked off a weekend of fresh protests on Saturday in a major test for the movement following criticism over an airport protest earlier this week -- and as concerns mount over Beijing's next move.
Ten weeks of demonstrations have plunged the international finance hub into crisis, with the communist-ruled mainland taking an increasingly hardline tone, including labelling the more violent protester actions "terrorist-like".
Activists are billing two planned rallies on Saturday and Sunday as a way to show Beijing and the city's unelected leaders that their movement still enjoys broad public support, despite increasingly violent tactics deployed by a minority of hardcore protesters that have cast a shadow.
Water bacteria cancels Tokyo 2020 paratriathlon test swim
The swimming section of a paratriathlon test event for Tokyo 2020 was cancelled Saturday due to high levels of bacteria in the water, the latest in a series of difficulties over water quality and temperature.
Olympic organizers have won widespread praise for their preparations but extreme summer heat and poor water quality have brought headaches at practice events, with less than a year to go until the opening ceremony.
The International Triathlon Union (ITU) shelved the swimming leg after tests showed levels of e-coli more than double the acceptable standard.