Spacex to launch the first commercial cargo space shuttle tonightPublished On: Sun, Oct 7th, 2012 | Astronomy and Space | By BioNews
On the heels of a successful debut flight to the International Space Station in May, SpaceX is set to launch its next Dragon resupply mission to the orbital outpost. Launch of this first commercial resupply mission (SpaceX CRS-1) to the complex is set for 8:35PM EDT Sunday, October 7 from Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida.
If all goes as planned, Dragon will arrive at the station on Wednesday, October 10, when it will be grappled and berthed to the complex for an expected two- week visit. Dragon is scheduled to return to Earth on October 28 for a parachute-assisted splashdown off the coast of southern California. Dragon is the only space station cargo craft capable of returning a significant amount of supplies back to Earth, including experiments.
Dragon will be filled with about 1,000 pounds of supplies, including critical materials to support the 166 investigations planned for the station’s Expedition 33 crew, of which 63 will be new. Dragon will return with about 734 pounds of scientific materials, including results from human research, biotechnology, materials and education experiments, as well as about 504 pounds of space station hardware.
SpaceX CRS-1 is the first of at least 12 missions to the International Space Station that SpaceX will fly for NASA under the Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract. In December 2008, NASA announced that SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spacecraft had been selected to resupply the space station after the end of the space shuttle program in 2011. Under the CRS contract, SpaceX will restore an American capability to deliver and return significant amounts of cargo, including science experiments, to the orbiting laboratory – a capability not available since the retirement of the space shuttle.
Prior to this flight, SpaceX successfully completed two demonstration flights using Falcon 9 and Dragon under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. The second of those missions, from May 22–31, 2012, marked the first time that a private company had launched a spacecraft into orbit, successfully attached to the station, delivered a payload, and returned safely to Earth—a highly challenging technical feat previously accomplished only by governments.