Wed, Apr 18, 2012
COTS 2 And 3 Missions Combined Into A Single Event
Following the completion of NASA's flight readiness review, the second SpaceX demonstration launch for NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program is scheduled for Monday, April 30. A Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon capsule will lift off from Space Launch Complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. There is a single instantaneous launch opportunity at 1222 EDT.
During the flight, SpaceX's Dragon capsule will conduct a series of check-out procedures to test and prove its systems, including rendezvous and berthing with the International Space Station (ISS).
The primary objectives for the flight include a flyby of the ISS at a distance of approximately 1.5 miles to validate the operation of sensors and flight systems necessary for a safe rendezvous and approach. The spacecraft also will demonstrate the ability to abort the rendezvous. After these capabilities are successfully proven, the Dragon will be cleared to berth with the ISS.
Wired magazine online reports that SpaceX Founder Elon Musk was cautiously optimistic during a news conference following the review. “I think we’ve got a pretty good shot, but it is worth emphasizing that there’s a lot that can go wrong in a mission like this,” he said. But he also said the launch was just one step in the overall process of getting the Dragon module to the ISS. "I think it would be a mistake to put too much weight on this flight because there are hopefully going to be two more flights later this year to the space station, which will be almost identical configuration. So if this one doesn’t succeed in getting to the space station, I’m confident that one of the other two will. There should be no doubt about our resolve. We will get to the space station.”
If all goes well, Dragon will be grappled by the station's robotic arm and docked with ISS on its forth day in orbit.
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