PRESS RELEASE SPACEX:
“Since the successful inaugural launch of Falcon 9 in June, we have been busy preparing for our next launch, which includes the first flight of an operational Dragon spacecraft.
This is also the first launch under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. Under COTS, NASA is partnering with commercial companies like SpaceX to develop and demonstrate space transportation capabilities.
The upcoming demonstration mission will launch from Cape Canaveral and should follow a flight plan nearly identical to the first Falcon 9 launch, but this time the Dragon spacecraft will separate from the second stage and will demonstrate operational communications, navigation, maneuvering and reentry. Although it does not have wings like Shuttle, the Dragon spacecraft is controlled throughout reentry by the onboard Draco thrusters which enable the spacecraft to touchdown at a very precise location – ultimately within a few hundred yards of its target.
While Dragon will initially make water landings, over the long term, Dragon will be landing on land. For this first demo flight, Dragon will make multiple orbits of the Earth as we test all of its systems, and will then fire its thrusters to begin reentry, returning to Earth for a Pacific Ocean splashdown off the coast of Southern California. The entire mission should last around four hours.
While we had an incredibly successful first launch of the Falcon 9, this second launch is still very much a demonstration mission and will be our first attempt to bring a spacecraft from orbit back to Earth – another incredibly difficult challenge. Designed to return as much as 3,000 kilograms (6,600 pounds), Dragon will provide an important capability for the US and world space markets. Other than the Space Shuttle, no other spacecraft provides significant cargo return capacity to Earth.
As you may have heard, Congress just recently passed the NASA Authorization Act of 2010, setting a new direction for human space exploration. The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to authorize funding for a robust and viable U.S. space program. This is a critical step forward, which will allow America to continue to lead the way in space exploration.
The bill sets NASA on an exciting course to focus on exploration beyond low-Earth orbit, while recognizing the valuable role American companies are ready to undertake in ending our reliance on Russia to carry our astronauts to the International Space Station.
Investing in commercial crew transport will build on NASA’s proud record of innovation and will create competition that will force companies to improve reliability, increase safety, and reduce costs. As we move forward with our first demo flight under the COTS program, we look forward to helping jumpstart America’s space program and secure our leadership position in space .“–Elon Musk