SpaceX set for first Nasa supply mission

2012-10-06 18:20
SpaceX prepares to launch its Falcon 9 rocket. (AP)

SpaceX prepares to launch its Falcon 9 rocket. (AP)

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Washington - US firm SpaceX aims for its next big launch into orbit on Sunday - the first of 12 flights in its $1.6bn contract with Nasa to bring supplies to and from the international space station.

The launch is the next step in American efforts to commercialise the space industry, in the hope of keeping down costs and spreading them among a wider group than governments alone.

SpaceX, owned by billionaire Paypal co-founder Elon Musk, is one of several private companies working with the US space agency to send flights to and from the space station. Nasa has been relying on Russian spacecraft for the last year, after retiring its fleet of shuttles.

On Sunday, SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to fire at 20:35 (00:35 GMT) to launch the company's Dragon capsule from Florida's Cape Canaveral into orbit, loaded with around 455kg of supplies.

However, the latest reports indicate that a 40% chance of unfavourable weather could push the launch back one or two days.

This is to be SpaceX's second flight this year: in May, the company proved its mettle with a test flight to the ISS, conducting a near flawless nine-day trip to deliver cargo to the $100bn orbiting outpost - the first time a commercial outfit had sent its own capsule there and back.

Musk said he aims to massively expand the programme.

"Next year, we're aiming to do probably four to six launches and then double it again the year after," he said during an online "hangout" on Google+.

"The ultimate thing is to try to get spaceflight as routine as air flight. I don't think it can quite get there but it can get closer than it has been in the past," he said.

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Read more on:    spacex  |  elon musk  |  us  |  space  |  iss

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