Posted: Sunday, August 20, 2006
SpaceX announced that it was selected by NASA to demonstrate delivery and return of cargo to the International Space Station. At the option of NASA, the Agreement can be extended to include demonstrating transport of crew to and from the International Space Station (ISS). If successful, NASA will have the ability to use the demonstrated capability to resupply the ISS after the 2010 retirement of the Space Shuttle. The SpaceX team mates for COTS include ARES Corporation, MDA Federal Inc., Odyssey Space Research L.L.C., Paragon Space Development Corporation, and SPACEHAB, Inc.
As part of this Agreement, SpaceX will execute three flights of its Falcon 9 rocket carrying the Dragon spaceship. These will be the first flights of the Dragon spaceship and the fourth, fifth and sixth flights of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle.
The missions are scheduled to occur in the late 2008 to 2009 time period and will culminate in demonstrating delivery of cargo to the ISS and safe return of cargo to Earth. The Dragon spaceship is designed from the beginning to have an identical structure for both cargo and crew transport, allowing for a rapid transition from unmanned to manned flight as soon as reliability is proven.
"By stimulating the development of commercial orbital spaceflight, the NASA COTS program will have the same positive effect on space travel as the Air Mail Act of 1925 had on the development of safe and affordable air transportation," said Elon Musk, SpaceX CEO. "Moreover, the requirement for significant private investment and the fact that NASA only pays for objective, demonstrated milestones ensures that the American taxpayer will receive exceptional value for money."
SpaceX is developing a family of launch vehicles intended to reduce the cost and increase the reliability of both manned and unmanned space transportation ultimately by a factor of ten. With its Falcon line of launch vehicles, SpaceX is able to offer light, medium and heavy lift capabilities, as well as deliver spacecraft into any inclination and altitude, from low Earth orbit to geosynchronous orbit to planetary missions.
The Dragon spaceship is designed to transport up to seven astronauts, as well as both pressurized and unpressurized cargo, to Earth orbit and back. Dragon's universal docking adapter allows it to interface with all current ISS docking/berthing systems, as well as future systems under development.
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