HOUSTON — With the STS-135 space shuttle supply mission to the International Space Station drawing to a close, agency officials are honing plans for a late November launch of the SpaceX Falcon 9/Dragon on the first U.S. commercial cargo delivery mission to the orbiting science laboratory, NASA ISS program manager Mike Suffredini says.

Agency and company officials reached agreement on planning dates of Nov. 30 for the launch and  Dec. 7 for the rendezvous and berthing of the Dragon cargo spacecraft with the station during a July 15 meeting.

The plan depends on how SpaceX intends to manage the deployment of two small satellites during the flight that could pose an impact hazard to the station. “I think we will find a way to sort that out,” Suffredini says.

The strategy combines the second and third Dragon demonstration missions outlined in NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Systems program agreement. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk proposed as much following the company’s Dec. 8 initial demonstration flight.

Meanwhile, the four Atlantis astronauts entered the home stretch of STS-135 early July 19 as they departed the ISS with a sweeping arc over the top of the station to photograph portions of the solar power truss and the U.S., European and Japanese lab modules not accessible to camera-wielding astronauts on previous shuttle departures.

Over a nine-day visit, Atlantis commander Chris Ferguson, pilot Doug Hurley, Sandra Magnus and Rex Walheim fortified the station with enough food, spare parts and other supplies to support six-person operations through 2012, long enough for NASA’s emerging commercial re-suppliers, SpaceX and Orbital Sciences Corp., to ramp up delivery operations.

“The first hurdle is getting the first flight,” Suffredini says. “The next hurdle is to establish a number of flights in a row, and that will be a challenge.”

During the post-shuttle era, NASA is counting on three missions annually from SpaceX and two from Orbital Sciences, in addition to cargo deliveries by Europe’s Automated Transfer Vehicle, Japan’s H-II Transfer Vehicle and Russian Progress capsules, to sustain station operations.

Following their July 19 departure, the Atlantis crew surveyed the heat shielding on the wings and nose cap of their spacecraft for debris impact damage with the shuttle’s Orbiter Boom Sensor System.

“I anticipate no issues in that regard,” NASA Mission Management Team Chairman LeRoy Cain told a news briefing.

The astronauts will join with flight controllers for a pre-landing checkout of orbiter flight control and communications systems on the eve of their descent to Earth.

Atlantis is scheduled to touch down at Kennedy Space Center, Fla., on July 21 at 5:56 a.m. EDT. The orbiter’s return will conclude a 13-day mission and mark the end of NASA’s 30-year shuttle program. The weather outlook is favorable. There is a backup landing opportunity at Kennedy at 7:32 a.m. EDT.