SpaceX To Dock With ISS On Next Flight?


Last July, SpaceX stated that its next Falcon 9 mission, scheduled at the time for Fall 2011, would see the Dragon spacecraft dock with ISS. In a blog post yesterday, SpaceX reaffirmed that on November 30 it would launch a Dragon spacecraft to dock with ISS. Interestingly, there is no NASA press release mirroring SpaceX’s claim. That is possibly because the Russians have so far stated that they would not support the docking to ISS of a spacecraft with an untested rendezvous GNC.

An ISS docking by SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft would allow SpaceX to accomplish COTS Demo 2 Mission and Demo 3 Mission at the same time. Demo 2 Mission was originally scheduled for Nov. 2009 and Demo 3 Mission for March 2010 [GAO-09-618, p. 19-20]. Bundling Demo flights 2 and 3 together would bring SpaceX to within 18 months of its COTS schedule and just under a year since SpaceX’s last flight on Dec. 8, 2010.

In 2010, NASA modified the COTS agreement with SpaceX and Orbital adding more milestones to keep track of their progress and nearly $236 million to the original $448 million in the original COTS agreement, for a total of $514 million, that could be paid out to both SpaceX and Orbital Sciences [GAO-09-618 p. 19-20, p. 25-26] [GAO-11-692T, p. 7-9, p. 16-18]. If SpaceX is successful in bundling Demo missions 2 and 3, it could mean an infusion of around $35 million.

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