NASA announced today that SpaceX will conduct a COTS demonstration flight to dockthe Dragon capsule with ISS. The target launch date is February 7 2012. They alsoannounced SpaceX will be allowed to conduct both COTS 2 and 3 demonstrations in thesame flight. The demonstrations will include first maneuvering safely near the spacestation, and finally maneuvering to within a few meters, where the capsule will beengaged by the ISS robotic arm and docked to the station, at which point the capsulewill be opened and astronauts will enter the capsule and unload cargo.
The dragon capsule will of course be launched on a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. This COTSdemonstration flight will be the first privately funded spacecraft in history to dockwith ISS. This will also be the first commercial ISS cargo mission, and will pavethe way for future manned Dragon flights. The stated goal of Dragon and Falcon 9 hasalways been to launch astronauts into space, including carrying astronauts to theISS.
Since the cancelation of the shuttle program, government funded aerospace companiesand their supporters in congress have warned the United States would become dependenton foreign space programs for access to the space station. While it’s true the Dragonis not yet certified to carry astronauts, this demonstration flight will show thatwe are not dependent on foreign powers for access to space. All NASA needs to do isget out of the way and allow American entrepreneurs to do what they are best at –to innovate and build the future!
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