February 7, 2012: America returns to Space

Quick summary, US company SpaceX will launch a space craft, dock with the ISS (International Space Station), and be returned to Earth.

Can’t wait till they launch their first manned mission.

Keep on top of things here; http://www.spacex.com/updates.php

COTS DEMO 2/3

Updates

December 15, 2011

December 8, 2011, marked the one-year anniversary of Dragon’s first Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) demonstration flight. The flight made history, as SpaceX became the only commercial company to successfully return a spacecraft from orbit. This feat had previously been accomplished only by five nations and the European Space Agency.

We are now preparing the Dragon spacecraft for yet another historic flight — becoming the first commercial vehicle in history to visit the International Space Station (ISS)!

NASA recently announced February 7, 2012, as our new target launch date for the upcoming mission. In addition, NASA officially confirmed that SpaceX will be allowed to complete the objectives of COTS 2 and COTS 3 in a single mission.

This means Dragon will perform all of the COTS 2 mission objectives, which include numerous operations in the vicinity of the ISS, and will then perform the COTS 3 objectives. These include approach, berthing with the ISS, astronauts opening Dragon and unloading cargo, and finally astronauts closing the spacecraft and sending it back to Earth for recovery from the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California.

This mission marks a major milestone in American spaceflight. While our first missions to the ISS will be to transport cargo, both Falcon 9 and Dragon were designed to ultimately transport astronauts. Every trip we make to the ISS from this point forward gets us closer to that goal. SpaceX is incredibly excited for what the future holds and, as always, we greatly appreciate NASA’s continued support and partnership in
this process.

THE COTS 2/3 DEMONSTRATION MISSION

Just as Dragon’s first mission to orbit and back involved a level of effort equal to launching the first Falcon 9, preparing Dragon for two weeks of operation in space and for approach and berthing with the ISS poses new challenges. Meeting them requires a large amount of detailed planning and careful execution.

Each launch day will have just one narrow liftoff window — no more than a few minutes — in order to synchronize Dragon’s flight with the orbit of the ISS. Catching up to the ISS will take from one to three days. Once there, Dragon will begin the COTS 2 demonstrations to show proper performance and control in the vicinity of the ISS, while remaining outside the Station’s safe zone.

20111209-15.jpg
COTS 2 objectives include Dragon demonstrating safe operations in the vicinity of the ISS.
Actual zone of operations is greater than shown in the illustration above. Illustration: NASA / SpaceX.

During the entire time Dragon is in the vicinity of the ISS, Station astronauts will be in direct communication with Dragon and will be able to monitor the spacecraft as well as issue spacecraft commands.

After successfully completing the COTS 2 requirements, Dragon will receive approval to begin the COTS 3 activities, gradually approaching the ISS from the radial direction (toward the Earth), while under constant observation.

20111209-14.jpg
As part of the COTS 3 objectives Dragon approaches the ISS, so astronauts can reach it with the robotic arm.
Illustration: NASA / SpaceX.

Dragon will approach to within a few meters of the ISS, allowing astronauts to reach out and grapple Dragon with the Station’s robotic arm and then maneuver it carefully into place. The entire process will take a few hours.

20111209-13.jpg
The astronaut operating the robot arm aboard the ISS will move Dragon into position at the berthing port where it will be
locked in place. Illustration: NASA / SpaceX.

Once in place, Station astronauts will equalize the pressure between the ISS and Dragon, open the hatches, enter the vehicle and begin unloading Dragon’s cargo.

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About Erick Brockway

Living in Camarillo, CA, about 45 miles North of LA. I have a son, and two daughters. Working two jobs (welcome to California life), plus a (now retired) reservist in the US Navy Seabees so life is busy!
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