On August 15, SpaceX announced that the company had successfully completed a wet dress rehearsal (WDR) this week for the Falcon 9 launch vehicle at Cape Canaveral, Florida. During this test, propellant was loaded into the vehicle and all of the launch operations were performed down to the point of launch at T-1 seconds. According to their website, SpaceX has made several upgrades to the launch pad since the last flight of Falcon 9 and Dragon. These upgrades include new liquid oxygen pumps that reduce the time to load the liquid propellant into the launch vehicle from 90 minutes to 30 minutes. SpaceX has also set the long-term goal of being able to have Falcon 9 move from the hangar to liftoff within an hour.
The November 30, 2011, launch date and proposed docking of the Dragon spacecraft to the ISS is part of NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. The next SpaceX mission will demonstrate that the company’s space transportation system is capable of transporting cargo to and from the International Space Station (ISS). Originally planned to be two separate flight tests, NASA has allowed SpaceX to combine the tests and demonstration activities into one flight provided that SpaceX resolves all potential risks associated with any secondary payloads they may include on the mission. Should the Russians drop their stated opposition to Dragon docking with ISS, SpaceX’s spacecraft will dock with ISS a week after the November 30th launch.
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