Dragon Launch Delayed

Anticipation...anticipa-a-tion.  It's making me wait.

SpaceX announced this week that it wants to delay the planned Feb 7 launch of its Dragon capsule in order to conduct more tests.  It will work with NASA to determine the next best launch date.

This will be a big launch for the Dragon.  Consider:

*  It will make history as the first commercial capsule in space.
*  It will determine if SpaceX continues to get NASA funding to further its development.
*  It's the next step to making the Dragon ready for manned flights.
*  If the Dragon succeeds, we will once again have US ability to resupply the space station.

In addition, they are combining two test flight missions into one, which increases the difficulty--and the pressure. The Dragon must pass several objectives before it's allowed to approach the International Space Station.  Before docking with the station, it will do a fly-by to test sensors and control.  Then, if it passes all that, it will dock.

A written statement, quoted in several news sources, says that SpaceX believes the capsule will benefit from the further work, which will increase safety.  That should go without saying.  SpaceX has had good record of success, overall, but they have had some problems even in successful test launches before.  (From Forbes, May 2011:  "Both launches of the much bigger Falcon 9 vehicle last year were successful, they point out — which is crucially important, since that is the rocket that SpaceX plans to use for supplying the space station. However, two launches isn’t much of a track record, and those launches were far from flawless. For instance, the trade press reported after the initial Falcon 9 launch in June of last year that “roll torque” from the first stage engines had produced a “twisting motion” on lift-off, that an overheated actuator had caused “dramatic spin” in the second stage, and that restart of the second-stage engines did not occur as planned.")

It's not known (at least to any sources I could find) whether the delays are for testing of the Falcon 9 launch vehicle or the Dragon itself.   However, it's not unusual to slip a launch to be sure the equipment is ready.

I'm disappointed--I was looking forward to the flight, and now we have to wait some more!  However, if it's the difference between success and catastrophe, We'll wait a little longer.

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