SpaceX Begins Final Preparations for Historic Cargo Mission

by | Mar 30, 2012 12:27pm
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NASA astronaut Megan McArthur conducted a 5 hour “interface test” with a SpaceX Dragon cargo capsule scheduled to launch to the International Space Station April 30.

The unmanned capsule will be loaded with supplies and equipment over the next several weeks. If successful it will be the first privately owned spacecraft to reach the station, restoring some of the cargo transfer capabilities NASA lost with the retirement of the Space Shuttles. Dragon has the unique capability to return cargo to Earth after undocking from the orbiting complex, splashing down in the pacific ocean similar to pre-shuttle spacecraft. Unmanned cargo craft from other nations that are currently used to supply the station are burned up in the atmosphere and destroyed.

—Read about SpaceX’s recent launch pad test

NASA awarded SpaceX with a $1.6 billion cargo hauling contract that will cover 12 unmanned flights to and from the station. Although the cargo capsules have the capability to be reused, SpaceX officials told CTTechJunkie last year that NASA is requesting that new ones are sent up with each flight.

Roger Gilbertson / SpaceX

SpaceX’s crew capable Dragon prototype. From top left: NASA Crew Survival Engineering Team Lead Dustin Gohmert, NASA Astronaut Tony Antonelli, NASA Astronaut Lee Archambault, SpaceX Mission Operations Engineer Laura Crabtree, SpaceX Thermal Engineer Brenda Hernandez, NASA Astronaut Rex Walheim, and NASA Astronaut Tim Kopra.

SpaceX is currently making a version of Dragon that is certified to transport humans. The capsule will seat a maximum of seven astronauts and will add an emergency escape system. It will launch on the same rocket system SpaceX will be utilizing for the April 30 launch.

CTTechJunkie will have complete coverage of the launch from Florida starting April 29.

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