Space Commercialization Success: SpaceX Dragon to Rendezvous with ISS
Thursday, April 12th, 2012
April will mark “… a key milestone on the path to operational, commercial missions,” writes Steven Siceloff, NASA’s resident writer.
We have to agree; 2012 has already been a compelling year for space commercialization, and April will prove to be no different. Just when we got used to the idea of Ashton Kutcher floating around in the ether, we’re now learning that the first privately-owned commercial supply ship — SpaceX’s Dragon capsule — will rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS) later this month.
The unmanned mission will transport 1,200 pounds of cargo aboard SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket, toward Space Station astronauts orbiting Earth. Technically, this launch will be a test flight, so all cargo goods are nonessential items that, should the mission fail, the Space Station crew would not be left high and dry.
The project really began when, five years ago, SpaceX and NASA agreed to work together on the Space Act Agreement. Most recently in March, NASA and SpaceX conducted a successful test flight, so all signs point to a ‘go’ for April’s inaugural launch to the Space Station. (If all other pre-flight tests remain successful).
“It’s been a very good experience,” says Mike Horkachuck, NASA’s project executive for SpaceX. “The Space Act Agreement lets us interact with the contractor in a much more cooperative way than the typical government contract does. We can suggest how we’ve done it in the past and maybe they’ll use that, or they’ll come up with a slightly altered version to work through a challenge.”
A willingness to work through challenges? This is definitely a sign of things to come for space commercialization.
by Theras Wood