Mar 24, 2014 04:55 PM EDT
SpaceX Set To Launch Dragon Spacecraft for ISS Resupply Mission March 30
SpaceX has announced it will launch its Dragon spacecraft, the one with its own landing legs, on March 30.
According to Spaceflight Now, SpaceX determined contaminants found in the craft's unpressurized trunk were not harmful to its optical communications. The Dragon spacecraft is set to restock the International Space Station (ISS) in mission beginning Sunday, March 30 at Caper Canaveral, Fla.
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"After careful review and analysis, engineering teams representing both the ISS and SpaceX have determined Dragon is ready to fly 'as-is.' All parties agree that the particular constituents observed in Dragon's trunk are in line with the previously defined environments levels and do not impose additional risk to the payloads," SpaceX said in a statement obtained by Spaceflight Now.
The Dragon spacecraft, equipped with a Falcon 9 rocket, was originally supposed to take off March 16 when mission managers noticed troubling petroleum stains. SpaceX was concerned the stains would contaminate the craft's ultra-sensitive high-definition camera, part of an optical communications experiment.
SpaceX has stated on its website that the Dragon spacecraft will take a crew into space in two to three years. They have an agreement with NASA for this manned mission and for unmanned cargo resupply missions as well.
In demonstrations, the Falcon 9 rocket has launched to a certain distance in the air then landed back down on Earth with a set of four legs. While the March 30 launch is not expected to do so, the design massively cut costs of building new spacecraft for ISS resupply missions.
NASA's Optical Payload for Lasercomm Science (OPALS) is an experiment that will establish a laser communications link between the ISS and ground control. Optical communication will provide higher data transfer rates than ever before achieved with a traditional radio system.
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"OPALS represents a tangible stepping stone for laser communications, and the International Space Station is a great platform for an experiment like this," Michael Kokorowski, OPALS project manager at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in a statement. "Future operational laser communication systems will have the ability to transmit more data from spacecraft down to the ground than they currently do, mitigating a significant bottleneck for scientific investigations and commercial ventures."