≡ Menu

SpaceX Dragon Launch Slides to May 19

April 30, 2012 static fire test of Falcon 9 rocket at Pad 40 in Cape Canaveral. Credit: SpaceX

SpaceX has announced that the upcoming launch of the firms Falcon 9 and Dragon spacecraft on the commercial COTS 2 mission has been postponed to a new target date of no earlier than May 19 with a backup launch date of May 22.

On May 19, the Falcon 9 rocket would lift off on its first night time launch at 4:55 a.m. EDT (0855 GMT) from Space Launch Complex-40 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Two launch opportunities had been available this week on May 7 and May 10, following the most recent slip from April 30.

SpaceX managers made the decision – in consultation with NASA – to delay the COTS 2 launch in order to complete further highly critical testing and verifications of all the flight software requirements for the Dragon spacecraft to safely and successfully carry its mission of rendezvousing and docking with the International Space Station (ISS).

“SpaceX and NASA are nearing completion of the software assurance process, and SpaceX is submitting a request to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for a May 19th launch target with a backup on May 22nd,” said SpaceX spokesperson Kirstin Grantham.

“Thus far, no issues have been uncovered during this process, but with a mission of this complexity we want to be extremely diligent.”

May 10 was the last window of opportunity this week because of the pending May 14 blast off of a new Russian Soyuz TMA-04M capsule from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan with three fresh crew members bound for the ISS which will restore the outpost to a full crew complement of 6 human residents.

The Falcon 9 and Dragon can only be launched about every three days.

The purpose of Dragon is to carry supplies up to and back from the ISS. Dragon is a commercial spacecraft developed by SpaceX and designed to replace some of the cargo resupply functions previously conducted by NASA’s fleet of prematurely retired Space Shuttle orbiters. At this moment the US has zero capability to launch cargo or crews to the ISS.

SpaceX Dragon approaches the ISS on 1st test flight and Station Docking in 2012. Astronauts will grapple it with the robotic arm and berth it at the Earth facing port of the Harmony node. Illustration: NASA /SpaceX

In response to the SpaceX announcement, NASA issued the following statement from from William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and Operations at the agency’s Headquarters in Washington:

“After additional reviews and discussions between the SpaceX and NASA teams, we are in a position to proceed toward this important launch. The teamwork provided by these teams is phenomenal. There are a few remaining open items, but we are ready to support SpaceX for its new launch date of May 19.”

SpaceX is under contract with NASA to conduct twelve resupply missions to the ISS to carry cargo back and forth for a cost of some $1.6 Billion.

Dragon is loaded with nearly 1200 pounds of non-critical cargo such as food and clothing on this flight.

The COTS 2 mission has been repeatedly delayed since the originally planned target of mid-2011 when SpaceX requested that the COTS 2 and 3 flights be combined into one mission to save time. The first Dragon docking to the ISS was initially planned for the COTS 3 mission.

This SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket inside the processing hanger at Pad 40 is due for liftoff on May 19, 2012 to the ISS. Credit: Ken Kremer/www.kenkremer.com

Ken Kremer

About 

Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, scientist, freelance science journalist (Princeton, NJ) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calanders including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral and NASA Wallops on over 40 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight - www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jon Souter May 8, 2012, 12:42 PM

    Good luck with this SpaceX – hopefully the delays will soon be a distant memory as Dragon hopefully makes a flawless trip to the ISS.

  • Tom Nicolaides May 8, 2012, 2:39 PM

    There are plenty within NASA pulling for these guys.

  • gopher652003 May 8, 2012, 3:41 PM

    Ken: If you think the Columbia class shuttles were retired prematurely, then you don’t understand all of the issues involved in keeping them running.

    Here is just one (albeit the most important one): certain critical parts of the shuttles were manufactured by companies that no longer exist. The plans for those parts exist, but the expertise to manufacture them has been lost for a long time. Many of these parts were significantly past their designed lifetimes, and were operating on borrowed time. In a few cases the failure of a single one of these parts would have led to the instantaneous loss of an orbiter (usually during the first few seconds of launch).

    Could we have re-acquired the expertise necessary to manufacture more of those various components? Absolutely! But the time and expense required to do so would have been approximately the same as designing, qualifying, and building a whole fleet of new, non-Columbia class shuttles, designed and built with more modern techniques.

    One of many examples: according to flight engineers, for the last decade or so of the shuttle program every time the shuttle’s built in hydrogen tanks were filled everyone held their breath. They were ready to fail at any time, and it is a minor miracle that no orbiter was lost to such a failure. As I tell my boss at work: eventually it is cheaper to replace old equipment than it is to spend umpteen dollars to keep it limping along.

    (As a side note, my boss didn’t listen until recently, when he began replacing stuff right left and centre. Despite the upfront costs he’s already saved money overall due to the fact that he isn’t spending 3000 dollars a month on repair bills:P.)

    • Ken Kremer May 8, 2012, 11:52 PM

      wrong on all counts. the shuttle should not have been retired – Period !

      • gopher652003 May 9, 2012, 12:03 AM

        No, I’m not wrong. Your arguments are filled with nostalgia for an inherently unsafe and expensive machine, not on sound reasoning.

        It’s always sad to run into someone who claims to be a scientist but is incapable of seeing their own overwhelming bias:(.

      • gopher652003 May 9, 2012, 12:03 AM

        No, I’m not wrong. Your arguments are filled with nostalgia for an inherently unsafe and expensive machine, not on sound reasoning.

        It’s always sad to run into someone who claims to be a scientist but is incapable of seeing their own overwhelming bias:(.

    • Ken Kremer May 8, 2012, 11:52 PM

      wrong on all counts. the shuttle should not have been retired – Period !

  • gopher652003 May 8, 2012, 3:44 PM

    It occurs to me that by “prematurely” you may have meant “before a replacement was up and running”. If so, then I’d point out that still doesn’t mean that the shuttles were retired prematurely (they were retired *late*, not early), it means that NASA’s budget to create a replacement for the shuttles was unfortunately cut on several occasions. In some cases one of the houses of congress directly cancelled the replacement programs by zeroing their funding.

    That isn’t NASA’s fault, that’s congresses’.

  • Torbjörn Larsson May 8, 2012, 9:26 PM

    - If the commercialization had started with the manned capsules they would have been up already, with some nominal cargo capacity up and down.

    – If the cargo crafts had been allowed to dock the smaller ports instead of berthing to get to the cargo ports they would have been up already, with some lesser handling capacity up.

    It is all the automation of the cargo crafts, and especially the berthing maneuver, that is most complicated. And of course they had to start with that, probably for political reasons, of spillover of the shuttle retirement and positioning of NASA’s crafts as alternative manned backup at the time the commercial crew finishes. Sigh!

    The Falcon 9 and Dragon can only be launched about every three days.

    Just to be clear, it is this Dragon COTS 2+ that has the minimal window, in order to maximize fuel capacity for the testing.

    The released cargo versions can lower the fuel buffer.

    And I read the unofficial claim that there are only two more Falcon 9 in the pipeline before the extended launch version with the more powerful Merlin 1D engine takes over.

    Hopefully the commercial cargo versions can be launched every day.

  • bgrggfe May 10, 2012, 3:01 AM

    Worldwide more than $100 billion worth of counterfeit products, from Louis Vuitton Replica Handbags to Rolex watches, are sold every year. I have developed a great idea, which will allow shoppers to check the authenticity of the product by using their smartphone before they buy the Louis Vuitton Replica. It will add only a fraction of the cost of the product for the manufacturer, who will be more than happy to pay this little extra cost to protect their brand and increase their sales. However, I do not yet have a working prototype, which requires significant investment. I do not know how and who to approach for venture capital funding. I am so confident about the success of this idea that I feel like selling my house and investing in this technology. Your advice will be very much appreciated.

  • bgrggfe May 10, 2012, 3:15 AM

    Louis vuitton sent their fall/winter 2012/2013 collection down the Milan Fashion Week runway today and it featured a much darker, more gothic and vampire-like color palette than what was shown by the iconic design house for fall 2011. One year
    ago louis vuitton Handbags showed bright colors and blocked them together, helping to explode the current color blocking trend. For fall 2012, Gucci moved away from the trend they started and let black rule the runway.

  • bgrggfe May 10, 2012, 3:17 AM

    According to the survey, France has about 2.6 million millionaires,that is most in European countries .After the Outlander win the presidential election , Maybe the rich will fear the outbreak of the exodus. In fact, many multinational corporations before the election, one after another continued to headquarters out of Paris, the transfer tax rate is relatively low, Luxembourg, Hong Kong, even the United Kingdom. ”
    Well-known French brand Louis Vuitton Handbags On Sale boutique group LVMH , also reported to consider To the headquarters moved to London from Paris, it is necessary to avoid heavy taxes, and increased high tax rates make LV headquarters in Paris, it is difficult to find the Senior Management .

hide