NASA, SpaceX agree on space station flight

July 26, 2011 at 7:13 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 26 (UPI) -- NASA and SpaceX, based in California, have agreed on the private spacecraft company's first date with the International Space Station, the space agency says.

The SpaceX Dragon capsule will launch aboard a Falcon 9 rocket Nov. 30, and will rendezvous and dock with the space station Dec. 7, reported Tuesday.

The original plan had been for two missions, one for a rendezvous and a second for the actual docking, but after a successful test flight SpaceX requested that NASA combine the two missions.

"We technically have agreed with SpaceX that we want to combine those flights," William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for space operations, said. "We are doing all the planning to go ahead and have those missions combined, but we haven't given them formal approval yet."

The U.S. shuttle program has ended but the space station still requires regular resupply, with many seeing commercial, private space flight as the answer.

However, even if the Dragon mission is successful, U.S. astronauts will still depend on launches aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft until the private vehicle is human-rated by NASA.

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