NASA has announced an October 7 target launch date for the first contracted cargo resupply flight to the International Space Station (ISS). If all goes well, this will be the first commercial resupply flight to the space station under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract.
Launch is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. EDT from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, with a berthing expected around Wednesday, October 10. If the instantaneous launch time isn't hit, a backup launch time available on October 8.
ISS managers have confirmed the status and readiness of the Falcon 9 rocket and its Dragon spacecraft for SpaceX (News - Alert) CRS-1 mission, as well as the space station's readiness to receive Dragon for rendezvous and berthing operations.
The launch of Dragon will be the first of 12 contracted flights by SpaceX to resupply the space station and return cargo back to earth. It will be the second trip by a Dragon to the station, following the successful demonstration flight in May under NASA's COTS program to foster commercial services to ISS when the space shuttle was retired.
Dragon will carry about 1,000 pounds of supplies, including materials supporting 63 new science experiments planned for the current space station crew. The spacecraft will return around 734 pounds of experiment results, including human research, biotechnology, materials and educational experiments, as well as about 504 pounds of space station hardware.
A couple of the experiments arriving with Dragon are designed to be quick turn-arounds, started shortly after the spacecraft is unloaded and returned it departs. Micro 6 will measure the effects of zero gravity on the yeast present on all humans. Resist Tubile will look at how microgravity affects the growth of cell walls in microgravity, a study that could have an impact on food supply and future genetically modified plants.
Splashdown for Dragon is scheduled in late October, with a landing in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of southern California.
Completion of the first commercial supply flight to the space station in October would mark a couple of milestones for SpaceX. It would mark the first time the company has hit a first-announced launch date for the Falcon 9/Dragon and the first time the company has had two Falcon 9/Dragon launches within 12 months.
Earlier in the year, SpaceX said it planned to have 5 total flights for 2012, including the COTS demonstration mission plus two CRS cargo runs to the space station. Being able to get all three NASA flights accomplished would be a significant feat.
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Edited by Braden Becker