SpaceX Dragon to be first private spacecraft to dock at ISS
By Ben Coxworth
August 18, 2011
Although we will never see another space shuttle docking at the International Space Station, that doesn't mean that there are no plans for other American spacecraft to be visiting the facility. In fact, one should be up there on or around December 9th. That's when SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft is scheduled to arrive, following a November 30th launch. It's part of NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, and will be the first time that a privately-developed spacecraft has docked at the ISS.
California-based SpaceX Space Exploration Technologies had originally proposed two separate missions, COTS Demo 2 and Demo 3, to demonstrate to NASA that its craft could successfully transport cargo to and from the ISS. NASA has reportedly agreed in principle to combining the two into one mission, offering up the November 30th launch date.
Besides carrying a cargo capsule to the ISS in the Dragon itself, SpaceX will also be taking the opportunity to deploy equipment from the second stage of the Falcon 9 rocket, which will be carrying the Dragon into orbit. Although the Dragon is capable of carrying a human crew, it will be unmanned on this mission.