SpaceX Dragon Set to Make ISS Run Feb. 7
[Satellite TODAY 12-16-11] SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will attempt the first commercial cargo run to the International Space Station (ISS) on Feb. 7, NASA announced earlier this week. In addition, NASA confirmed that SpaceX would be allowed to complete the objectives of its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) 2 and COTS 3 programs in a single mission.
“This means Dragon will perform all of the COTS 2 mission objectives, which include numerous operations in the vicinity of the ISS, and will then perform the COTS 3 objectives. These include approach, berthing with the ISS, astronauts opening Dragon and unloading cargo, and finally, astronauts closing the spacecraft and sending it back to Earth for recovery from the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California,” SpaceX said in a company statement.
Each of SpaceX’s launch dates will have one narrow liftoff window lasting no more than a few minutes in order to synchronize Dragon’s flight with the orbit of the ISS. “Catching up to the ISS will take from one to three days. Once there, Dragon will begin the COTS 2 demonstrations to show proper performance and control in the vicinity of the ISS, while remaining outside the station’s safe zone,” SpaceX said.
The announcement comes one year after Dragon’s first COTS demonstration flight, when SpaceX became the only commercial company to successfully return a spacecraft from orbit. Only the European Space Agency and five national space agencies had previously accomplished the feat.