Dragon capsule docked with ISS (NASA illustration from SpaceX press kit)
Last night, the new crew for the International Space Station (ISS) lifted off from Baikonur, Kazakhstan. The crew will arrive at the station tomorrow. Their presence there is essential to the success of NASA's next undertaking.
After completing all pre-flight checks successfully, the SpaceX cargo mission to the ISS is on target for liftoff from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral this coming Saturday at 4:55am EDT.
SpaceX has been working with NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) to develop a commercially viable and fiscally efficient replacement for the costly Space Shuttle fleet, first for the purpose of cargo delivery, and, ultimately, also for delivery and recovery of crew. The unmanned COTS 1 launch on December 8, 2010, was a resounding success. Initially, SpaceX planned for two additional test missions, referred to simply as COTS 2 and COTS 3. However, the two missions have now been combined into a single set of objectives.
The combined objectives of COTS 2 include:
- Perform complicated maneuvers within 2.5km of the ISS
- Perform holds at 250m, 30m, and 10m
- Pending positive assessment of maneuvers and GO indication from NASA, dock with the ISS
- Unload cargo
- Return to earth for splashdown and recovery off coast of California*
* SpaceX has already demonstrated success at these objectives on a previous mission
Watch the video below to hear and see how this mission will look.