The unmanned Dragon space capsule, built by the California-based Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), was scheduled to launch toward the space station on February 7, but the company has decided to postpone the flight to accommodate more engineering tests. A new launch date for the mission has not yet been announced, but SpaceX officials said the company is working with NASA to determine the best time for the test flight. The launch of the Dragon capsule atop SpaceX’s own Falcon 9 rocket is expected to be a critical step for the private spaceflight industry. The mission is designed to test the vehicle’s ability to carry cargo to the station, and if successful, Dragon will be the first commercial spacecraft to rendezvous and dock to the orbiting outpost.
During the flight, the capsule will rendezvous with the complex, and members of the space station crew will grab the vehicle using the station’s robotic arm and attach it to the Earth-facing side of the outpost’s Harmony node. This process is similar to how visiting robotic Japanese cargo freighters are grappled and attached to the space station.