Monday, November 8, 2010

SpaceX targets December 7th for Falcon 9/Dragon Spacecraft COTS-1 Flight

Credit: SpaceX

The Flame Trench at FloridaToday and SpaceflightNow both report a new target date for the launch of the second flight of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket. This first COTS-1 demonstration flight will carry the first operational Dragon Spacecraft. The launch is now targeted for December 7th, 2010 (with 8th and 9th as back-up days) with a launch window between 8:55am and 12:05pm EST from Cape Canveral Air Force Station's Launch Complex 40. The mission profile calls for the dragon Spacecraft to complete three to four orbits, transmit telemetry, receive commands, maneuver, re-enter and splash down off the coast of Southern California.

Space News reports that while SpaceX has been granted approval for the launch portion of the mission, it is still awaiting approval for the re-entry license for the Dragon Spacecraft from the FAA. This will be the very first re-entry license granted by the FAA since Congress granted the FAA authority to license commercial re-entry vehicles in 2004.

Under its $278M Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract with NASA, SpaceX is planning three demonstration flights of it's Dragon Spacecraft. The first flight is expected to test the Dragon's avionics, flight computers, guidance, navigation and control systems, heat shield, re-entry and recovery systems. A second Dragon spaceflight is currently targeted for February 2011 and is expected to maneuver within six miles of the ISS to test out the DragonEye navigation sensor system, while a third Dragon test flight will actually berth with the station. Then SpaceX will begin to fly fully operational Falcon 9/Dragon Cargo Flights as part of a $1.6B contract for 12 resupply flights to the ISS.

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