NEWS: A Giant Leap For Commercial Space
Liftoff of the company's Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida was called off at the last second Saturday due to a faulty engine valve. The rocket was repaired and made a successful launch early Tuesday. The Dragon capsule is scheduled to reach the space station on Friday.
Though the mission will be closely watched, it is a test flight, and an ambitious one at that. SpaceX petitioned NASA to combine two demonstration missions into one and NASA agreed, assuming the company's Dragon capsule can perform as planned once it reaches orbit.
A Dragon capsule first flew in December 2010, but that version pales in comparison to the spacecraft scheduled for launch on Tuesday.
NEWS: SpaceX Giving Dearly Departed Ride to Final Frontier
The latest Dragon is outfitted with solar panels, sophisticated communication and navigation systems and a berthing port so it can be attached to the space station.
"We know this has been touted as a huge mission," said SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell. "We keep trying to say it's a test. Nonetheless, it's a big job. Success is not going to mean success of the commercial space industry, and failure is not going to mean failure of the commercial space industry. Certainly, it will be easier if we're able to berth with the space station."