SpaceX faces tricky tests in launch to ISS

May 18, 2012 at 5:39 PM
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CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., May 18 (UPI) -- A private spacecraft set for launch faces a series of tests and maneuvers before it will be allowed to dock with the International Space Station, officials say.

Scheduled to launch from Florida's Cape Canaveral Saturday, SpaceX's unmanned Dragon spacecraft will have to prove it's no threat to the station or the station's crew of six before it will be given the go-ahead to dock with the ISS, Florida Today reported Friday.

Until then the capsule will remain beyond the "Keep Out Sphere," a 220-yard safety zone that surrounds the orbiting space laboratory.

If systems tests and maneuvers are successful, SpaceX will be allowed to rendezvous with the station.

"This is pretty tricky. And also, for the public out there, they may not realize that the space station is zooming around Earth every 90 minutes, and it's going 17,000 mph," SpaceX Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk said. "This is something that is going 12 times faster than a bullet from an assault rifle. So it's hard."

The test will also determine if the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket can put the cargo-carrying Dragon on course for the ISS and reserve enough fuel for the required maneuvers on the crucial test flight.

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