SpaceX Targets November for Dragon Demo Flight
WASHINGTON — Hawthorne, Calif.-based Space Exploration Technologies () has shifted a planned Oct. 23 launch of its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo vessel to November.
“Our targeted launch date is moving — we’ve submitted a request for November 8th or 9th and are waiting for the range to complete their standard deconfliction work and provide a formal approval,” SpaceX spokeswoman Kirstin Brost said in a Sept. 21 e-mail.
The flight, a demonstration test of the medium-class rocket and space capsule being developed under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, was originally slated to occur in September 2008, according to the company’s 2006 NASA Space Act Agreement. The document was later modified to reflect a June 2009 initial demonstration flight. Routine resupply runs to the international space station were expected to follow as early as December of this year, but hardware development has taken longer than planned.
Minor tweaks to Falcon 9 hardware have been under way since the company completed an internal analysis of the vehicle’s maiden launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla. That mission was funded by a U.S. government agency that SpaceX has declined to name and carried a qualification unit of the company’s Dragon space station cargo capsule into orbit.
The first COTS demo entails a four-hour flight meant to show Dragon can complete as many as four orbits, transmit telemetry, receive commands, maneuver, re-enter the atmosphere and make a safe water landing and recovery.
NASA spokesman Joshua Byerly said delays with new rockets and spacecraft are to be expected.
“The upcoming test flight is much more complicated since it involves not only the Falcon 9 rocket, but also the Dragon spacecraft,” he said last month. “So you are talking about two brand-new spacecraft.”