SpaceX prepares supply mission launch
With only a few hours to go before lift-off, NASA said there was 40 per cent chance of unfavourable weather that could force a delay.
SpaceX has said they have a “single instantaneous launch opportunity,” meaning if they miss their scheduled take-off time at 8:35pm, they will wait until the following day.
Technicians are set to roll out the Dragon capsule, loaded with around 455kg of supplies, and the Falcon 9 rocket that will power it into orbit to the launch pad five minutes before lift-off.
The launch is the next step in American efforts to commercialise the space industry, in the hope of reducing costs and spreading them among a wider group than governments alone.
SpaceX, owned by billionaire Paypal co-founder Elon Musk, is one of several private companies working with the US space agency to send flights to and from the ISS. NASA has been relying on Russian spacecraft for the last year, after retiring its fleet of shuttles.
The launch marks SpaceX’s second flight this year. In May, the company proved its mettle with a test flight to the orbiting outpost, conducting a near flawless nine-day trip to deliver cargo to the $US100 billion orbiting outpost — the first time a commercial outfit had sent its own capsule there and back.
Although the equipment and software are largely the same this time around, SpaceX said the launch is hardly routine.
“Every time we fly, we learn something,” SpaceX president Gwynne Shotwell said in a Saturday press conference.
But Musk, the company owner, said earlier he aims to get to a point where space launches are nothing out of the ordinary.
“The ultimate thing is to try to get spaceflight as routine as air flight. I don’t think it can quite get there but it can get closer than it has been in the past,” he said during an online “hangout” hosted by Google+.
Like travelling by plane, Musk said he hopes one of the payoffs will be that everyday people, not just the rich, can one day afford a seat.
“Perhaps it can be brought down to being only 10 times more expensive” than a seat on an aeroplane, he said. “It can happen. If we can make rapidly and fully reusable spacecraft.”
SpaceX says it has 50 launches planned — both NASA missions and commercial flights — representing about $US4 billion in contracts.