CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla – Space Exploration Technologies or SpaceX as they are more commonly known has announced that the launch of the next Falcon 9 rocket with its Dragon Spacecraft payload will occur no-earlier-than Dec. 19. This means over a year has elapsed since the NewSpace company has launched one of its rockets. “NASA is working with SpaceX on our technical and safety data for this mission while coordinating with its international partners to sort out a launch schedule once a definitive decision is reached on the next Soyuz flight to the International Space Station. As a result, we’ve submitted December 19th to NASA and the Air Force as the first in a range of dates that we would be ready to launch,” said Kirstin Brost Grantham SpaceX’s Communications Director. “We recognize that a target launch date cannot be set until NASA gives us the green light as well as the partners involved in the International Space Station program make a decision on when to continue Soyuz flights. Our flight is one of many that have to be carefully coordinated, so the ultimate schedule of launches to the ISS is still under consideration.”
The last Falcon 9 that SpaceX launched took place on Dec. 8 of last year. This was the first launch of one of the company’s Dragon Spacecraft, which completed two orbits before splashing safely down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California. This event marked the first time that a private entity had accomplished this feat. Up until that time only nations had sent and retrieved spacecraft from orbit.
On Sept. 29, SpaceX announced that it is developing the world’s first, fully-reusable rocket. The firm went on to state that the development of this as-yet-unnamed rocket, if successful, would greatly reduce the cost of launching to orbit and open the doors to manned flights to Mars. But SpaceX CEO cautioned that success was not guaranteed.
With the space shuttle fleet retired and being prepared for display in museums and tourist attractions, NASA is relying on many proposed commercial space taxis that, unlike the Dragon which has flown, have yet to be tested. Boeing, Sierra Nevada Corporation and Orbital Sciences Corporation all have proposed designs to ferry astronauts to and from low-Earth-orbit and the International Space Station.
AmericaSpace Note: One has to wonder whether, even with the added efficiency that staging allows, the mass-fraction can be better than that of the existing, though still not stellar, regular ol’ Falcon 9. Perhaps SpaceX has found a way to invigorate the Isp of its Merlin engine? Unfortunately, SpaceX CEO Musk did not have a Q&A session when presenting this video, so answers will have to wait.Missions » ISS » Missions » ISS » COTS »