'Good chance' for SpaceX launch to ISS

2012-04-17 15:00
Washington - Nasa said on Monday said there is a good chance that SpaceX will become the first private company to attempt to launch its spacecraft to the International Space Station on an unmanned cargo mission.

"Everything looks good as we head toward the April 30 launch date," said Bill Gerstenmaier, Nasa associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, but cautioned more work remains before the launch can be finalised.

"There is a good chance to make the 30th," said Gerstenmaier, adding that a final decision is expected by April 23.

The main goals of SpaceX's flight include a fly-by of the ISS and a berthing operation in which the company's reusable space craft, the Dragon, will approach the ISS and the crew aboard the orbiting outpost will use the ISS robotic arm to help it latch on.

The gumdrop-shaped Dragon capsule will carry some 521kg of cargo for the space lab and will also return a load to Earth, said Michael Suffredini, International Space Station programme manager.

Suffredini added that the remaining work includes some verification procedures and co-ordination of hardware and software, in what he described as "the last little bit of testing."

"We will review those and assuming everything is fine... we will go ahead for the launch," he said.

After the test mission, the Dragon aims to detach from the station for its return to Earth and eventually splash down in the Pacific off the coast of California.

SpaceX - owned by internet entrepreneur and PayPal co-founder Elon Musk - made history with its Dragon launch in December 2010, becoming the first commercial outfit to send a spacecraft into orbit and back.

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