SpaceX looking to launch next Dragon spacecraft - to the ISS

December 14, 2010 By Jason Rhian
SpaceX has gathered a long string of successes since its founding in 2002. Photo Credit: Alan Walters/

With the success of the first and second launches of the Falcon 9 rocket as well as the successful recovery of the Dragon spacecraft, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has stated its intent to accelerate the pace of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program that the private space firm has with NASA. The company has been inspecting various elements of the Dragon spacecraft that launched to orbit on Dec. 8, to make potential changes to the next Dragon – in preparation for its flight.

The company became the first private organization in history to launch a vehicle into orbit and then have it successfully return safely to Earth. The company has, for some time, been working to step up the pace of the COTS program. Under this program the first three flights of the Dragon would be demonstration flights with the third, and final demonstration flight docking with the International Space Station (ISS).

SpaceX is, if anything, a young and restless company, a company on the move and as such they want to combine the mission requirements of the second and third flights – into one. In short, SpaceX is hoping to send their next Dragon – to the space station itself, cutting out one demonstration flight in the process. However, while officials at SpaceX and the company’s CEO and CTO Elon Musk are attempting to relive the golden age of manned spaceflight (this effort is somewhat similar to the accelerated launch of the Apollo 8 mission) – appears uncertain about speeding up the process. NASA has stated that if all went well with the first flight of the Dragon that it would consider speeding up the program.

The next flight of the Dragon could take place as soon as the middle of next year. According to Musk, there are few differences between the maneuvers that Dragon conducted on Orbit this past Wednesday – and those that would be required if the craft were to rendezvous with the ISS. For a mission to the orbiting outpost, the Dragon would need to be equipped with solar arrays and certain equipment on board the craft would need to be upgraded.

To date, NASA has only stated that it is assessing the possibility of accelerating the program and that it recognizes the successes that has enjoyed. Those within the space community note that NASA has a risk-averse philosophy and that the agency will likely want to see the company complete the requirements of the initial contract and fully demonstrate the Dragon’s capabilities.

Explore further: SpaceX Plans Reusable Seven Person Capsule

Related Stories

SpaceX Plans Reusable Seven Person Capsule

March 15, 2006

SpaceX said it plans to develop a reusable capsule that could carry a crew of up to seven into low Earth orbit, making it a competitor to assume some of the tasks of NASA's space shuttle fleet after it is retired.

US private rocket readies key demonstration launch

December 1, 2010

American firm SpaceX readied Tuesday the first demonstration launch of its Falcon 9 rocket to low Earth orbit for NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program next week.

US company could try spacecraft launch Wednesday

December 6, 2010

An American company may attempt to launch its first space capsule into orbit as early as Wednesday, in a key test for the future of commercial space flight as NASA winds down its shuttle program.

US space capsule launch set for Wednesday

December 7, 2010

A US company has received the go-ahead to launch its first space capsule into orbit Wednesday, in a key test for the future of commercial space flight as NASA looks to end its shuttle program.

SpaceX's 'secret' payload? A wheel of cheese

December 12, 2010

In the historic launch of its Dragon space capsule Wednesday, Hawthorne, Calif.,-based rocket venture SpaceX didn't carry astronauts or cargo into outer space.

Recommended for you

How to prepare for Mars? NASA consults Navy sub force

October 5, 2015

As NASA contemplates a manned voyage to Mars and the effects missions deeper into space could have on astronauts, it's tapping research from another outfit with experience sending people to the deep: the U.S. Navy submarine ...

Researchers find a new way to weigh a star

October 5, 2015

Researchers from the University of Southampton have developed a new method for measuring the mass of pulsars – highly magnetised rotating neutron stars formed from the remains of massive stars after they explode into supernovae.

Moon Express, Rocket Lab set for 2017 mission plan

October 5, 2015

In 2017 a private moon landing could make news. If the mission is successful, said GeekWire, Moon Express could become the first privately backed venture to achieve a soft lunar landing.


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.