SpaceX announced late Friday that they will try to launch the first unmanned commercial mission to the International Space Station on May 19.
“SpaceX and NASA are nearing completion of the software assurance process, and SpaceX is submitting a request to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for a May 19th launch target with a backup on May 22nd,” said SpaceX spokeswoman Kristin Brost Grantham, “Thus far, no issues have been uncovered during this process, but with a mission of this complexity we want to be extremely diligent.”
The software issues have delayed the mission over the last several weeks. NASA issued a statement shortly after SpaceX acknowledging progress was being made on the mission preparation.
“After additional reviews and discussions between the SpaceX and NASA teams, we are in a position to proceed toward this important launch. The teamwork provided by these teams is phenomenal. There are a few remaining open items but we are ready to support SpaceX for its new launch date of May 19,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for Human Exploration and
Operations at NASA.
On April 30 SpaceX conducted a “static fire test” where the rocket’s nine engines were ignited while the spacecraft was bolted down to the launchpad. A computer error delayed that test for several hours before it was successfully completed. SpaceX has not issued an official statement on the outcome of the test, although Granholm said May 1 that “things look good.”
Watch the static fire test
The upcoming flight is combining two separate missions. The initial plan was to launch the SpaceX Dragon capsule and have it maneuver close to the station without docking. The second mission was to result in the Dragon docking with the station and exchanging cargo before returning home. NASA approved a plan to combine the two test flights into one.
Aboard the Dragon is an experiment from students at the Annie Fisher STEM Magnet School and the University High School of Science and Engineering. University of Hartford Assistant Professor Aime Levesque and her student Robert Lipski are mentoring the high school students on the project, utilizing the University of Hartford’s tissue culture room. CTTechJunkie will have a profile of the student experiment later this month.