NASA Schedules First SpaceX Flight for February 2012
NASA has scheduled the second SpaceX Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) demonstration flight for February 7, 2012.
The organization said it has allowed SpaceX launch its Dragon spacecraft for a "rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS) in a single flight." If successful, SpaceX will become the first commercial company whose vehicle will connect with the ISS.
SpaceX, which has received $376 million in funding from NASA so far, plans to conduct a series of system checks, an ISS fly-by, as well as a rendezvous abort-procedure. Dragon is also expected to connect with the ISS via the station's robotic arm and then return to Earth for a splashdown off the coast of California. If everything goes according to plan, SpaceX will run a third demonstration flight for NASA.
NASA said that SpaceX is entitled to $20 million of additional funding, should the company deliver the remaining four of a total of 40 milestones set under the COTS program. Orbital Sciences Corporation, NASA's other COTS partner, has received $261.5 million in funding for 23 of 29 delivered milestones. Orbital will get another $26.5 million for the remaining milestones.
Under the contract with NASA, SpaceX is designing and building the Falcon 9 launch vehicle and Dragon spaceship. Orbital is developing the Taurus II launch vehicle and the Cygnus visiting vehicle.