NASA has accepted plans by Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) to launch the robotic Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station. This spacecraft is supposed to be the first commercial flight intended to carry cargo, and eventually crew to orbit. This may be an important step for the burgeoning private space industry. If the final safety reviews, testing and verification will pass successfully, the launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is planned on February 7, 2012. The new flight of Dragon spacecraft will become an important milestone in the history of space flights and will start the all new era of the commercial cargo delivery flights to the International Space Station and orbiting laboratories.
It is planned that the Dragon spacecraft will perform a number of tests of docking system used for linking to the International Space Station. For that purpose and checking the sensors and flight system to work properly, the spacecraft will make a flyby the station within about 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) of the outpost. The space station members will then start up spacecraft grabbing procedure. The Dragon spacecraft will attach to the Earth-facing side of the station’s Harmony node. After finishing the mission and transferring all cargo to the International Space Station, the Dragon spacecraft is planned to be detached from the space station and enter back the atmosphere. Finally, it is planned that the spacecraft will land into Pacific Ocean off the coast of California. SpaceX is one of the candidates to fill the space cargo-carrying void after the retirement of the NASA’s space shuttle program. Before, in December 2010, SpaceX has already launched a Falcon 9 rocket which has successfully completed two orbits of Earth and returned back to the Earth.