SpaceX Aims For May 19 Lift Off of First U. S. Commercial Space Station Resupply Mission

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SpaceX is looking to May 19, with May 22 as a backup, for the launch of the first U. S. commercial re-supply mission to the International Space Station.

With May 19, the lift off of the Falcon 9/Dragon combination from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., would be 4:55 a.m., EDT.

The company announced its intentions late Friday, following the successful launching of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V from Cape Canaveral with a USAF communications satellite.

The much anticipated SpaceX test flight, conducted under NASA's Commercial Orbital Space Transportation Systems initiative, has skipped from April 30 to May 7.

The planned 18-day test flight will boost a reusable Dragon capsule with a small cargo atop a Falcon 9 launcher.

Following a mission day two rendezvous with the station to assess Dragon navigation and station communications and command capabilities, the unpiloted supply craft would approach close enough on day three for station astronauts to grab the capsule with Canadarm2.

Once the 58-foot-long Canadian robot arm has Dragon within its grasp, the astronauts will maneuver the supply ship to a berthing with the station's U. S. segment Harmony module for a 15 day stay.

The latest mission delays have been associated with NASA monitored flight control software testing of the Dragon by SpaceX.

In Friday's statement, SpaceX said the company and NASA were nearing the end of the software assurance process and it was submitting a request to the U. S. Air Force Eastern Range for a May 19 target launch date.

"Thus far, no issues have been uncovered during this process, but with a mission of this complexity we want to be extremely vigilant," SpaceX noted in the statement issued by spokeswoman Kirsten Brost Grantham.

NASA was receptive.

"After additional reviews and discussions between the SpaceX and NASA teams, we are in a position to proceed toward this important launch," said Bill Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations. "There are a few open items, but we are ready to support SpaceX for its new launch date of May 19.

If the departure date holds, it will come within days of the launch and docking of a Russian Soyuz spacecraft with three new U. S. and Russian space station crew members. The Soyuz launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and docking are set for May 15-17.

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