SpaceX gets permission to send Dragon to ISS
The Dragon capsule from SpaceX's first demonstration flight was recovered from the Pacific Ocean.
December 9th, 2011
02:07 PM ET

SpaceX gets permission to send Dragon to ISS

One day after the anniversary of the first successful flight of the Falcon 9 rocket carrying a Dragon capsule, NASA announces that SpaceX has been granted permission to rendezvous its Dragon capsule with the International Space Station. A successful rendezvous will make SpaceX the first commercial company in history to berth with the ISS.

The flight is scheduled for February 7 and is contingent upon final safety reviews, testing and verification of the craft. William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate said in a statement, "There is still a significant amount of critical work to be completed before launch, but the teams have a sound plan to complete it and are prepared for unexpected challenges. As with all launches, we will adjust the launch date as needed to gain sufficient understanding of test and analysis results to ensure safety and mission success."

While in flight, Dragon will have to prove itself before being cleared to berth. Objectives include a fly-by of the ISS at a distance of about two miles, which will validate sensors and flight systems necessary to approach safely, and a demonstration of Dragon's ability to abort rendezvous.

On final approach, the station crew will grapple Dragon with the station's robotic arm. Dragon will ultimately berth to the Earth-facing side of the Harmony node. The mission will end with the crew reversing the process to detach Dragon from the Harmony node, after which the capsule will return to Earth for splashdown in the Pacific Ocean.

If Dragon isn't able to rendezvous and berth on this second demonstration flight, a third mission will attempt to complete the same objectives.

The space shuttle program ended when Atlantis landed at Kennedy Space Center on July 21, leaving NASA without a ride to the space station.

NASA has been paying the Russians to ferry up crew and supplies, but it plans to use commercial vehicles like the Dragon when they’re proven reliable.

The SpaceX flights are part of the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, which invests resources into the private sector to encourage development of new spacecraft and launch vehicles. SpaceX has received $376 million of the $396 million allocated under the Space Act Agreement, for completing 36 out of 40 milestones.

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Filed under: In Space • News
soundoff (86 Responses)
  1. Hey, I think your page was awesome.

    I savour, result in I discovered just what I was having a look for. You have ended my 4 day lengthy hunt! God Bless you man. Have a nice day. Bye

    June 8, 2012 at 4:38 am |
  2. Raul

    will the dragon lay an egg?

    January 2, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  3. Russ

    When are they going to put a man or men into the Dragon? Any time frame?

    December 20, 2011 at 2:50 pm |
    • Generik

      I think I had read if the unmanned flights go as plan, they could move towards a manned test around 2013-14.

      December 20, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
  4. helenecha

    The COTS program is to take action too hastily. Ending NASA's shuttle program was dead-wrong.

    December 10, 2011 at 10:24 am |
  5. firewall

    After years of failure and letdowns NASA has finally got it right. If they would have incested in privatization instead of the shuttle in the 80s we would have colonies on the moon already. As it was the shuttle was the biggest waste of taxpayer money beside from the recent bailouts. I'm extremely proud to be an American today and to quote someone famous, this is a huge leap for mankind.

    December 9, 2011 at 10:41 pm |
  6. Meki60

    Happy about this. Just keep President Garbage out of the picture.

    December 9, 2011 at 10:13 pm |
    • Fred

      Then why did you bring him up? This has nothing to do with the President, absolutely nothing. Comment boards need a questionnaire to weed out the ignorant.

      January 2, 2012 at 1:57 pm |
  7. theAntiELVIS

    Pay no heed to the alarmists. The grant program is seed money to get a viable commercial spaceflight effort underway. Ultimately these flights will pay for themselves in savings over NASA maintaining its own fleet. This is perhaps the biggest event in the history of spaceflight since the Moon landings: viable private enterprise in space is the future of orbital spaceflight.

    December 9, 2011 at 9:29 pm |
    • mickey1313

      you mean the landings that S. Kubrick wrote, directed and fillmed?

      December 9, 2011 at 10:39 pm |
  8. planetjavaleo

    Space program is great, but let's be realistic they pushed for privatization so they can sell all the technology and bill us for the development while they shuttle our astronauts. This is got to be the biggest personal property scam since the Wall Street efforts of the last 20 years. The US has turned into Rome burning itself down with greed & obscenity.

    December 9, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
    • Top Astro

      You don't understand what is going on. Unlike the past, NASA is not footing the whole bill for vehicle development, but pay only half at most of these costs with the companies supplying the rest. Also, unlike before vehicle development companies no longer get paid if they fail. For instance, SpaceX has not been paid yet for the next flight. If that flight fails they will not be paid for it. They will only be paid if the mission is sucessful. Again, as I stated earlier, development of SpaceX's Falcon 9 cost a small fraction of the cost of NASA's Ares I launcher that was cancelled because it ran many billions over budget. Heck, the F9 cost a fraction of the Ares I's budget ***overruns*** not even counting overall costs.

      December 9, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
      • D

        Agreed. I love NASA and the space program, but after reading through the report from the St. Augustine commission, I was left with the conclusion that moving mass to orbit had become secondary to moving cash to old school defense contractors. Ares/Constellation was supposed to be cheaper and faster because it was being built off knowledge and systems we already had, but instead they were blowing through budgets and deadlines. Ares launch cost projections were rapidly approaching the cost of shuttle missions. It has been overdue that we drop the old cost plus contracting methods and swap to cash for proven product (COTS).

        December 10, 2011 at 2:17 am |
  9. planetjavaleo

    Why exactly does the Government privatize the program but the government proceeds to issue grants to these companies??? So the tax payer is footing the bill to get it running, but as soon as it works the tax payer will be paying a private company's crazy bill. The whole process of privatizing the United States space program is a joke that will result in the taxpayers being gouged. Hellooooo..............

    December 9, 2011 at 8:09 pm |
    • Top Astro

      You are ill informed. See my reply above.

      December 9, 2011 at 9:19 pm |
    • cja

      It is like trash pick up. If the city buys the trucks and hires the drivers it costs them a lot. Cheaper to just get a trash contractor. But space is a little different because of the high risk. This move puts the risk on the company. the government can't get hit with an over run.

      December 9, 2011 at 10:08 pm |
    • mickey1313

      Bingo, that is the way america works, socialize all risks and penalities (see financial bailouts) but privatizes all rewards. To you detractors, read a f-ing history book, all the american govermnent has done for 50 years is lie to and steal from its citizens.

      December 9, 2011 at 10:43 pm |
    • Brtty

      The epic smoke of the Shuttle was also the epic fail of the Shuttle. Its cause by Solid rocket orsotebs SRB's. Oversized Estes model rocket engines and unsophisticated. Solid fuel explodes about 2% of the time because of air bubbles in production. One of the reasons Werner Von Braun left NASA was that he was against using solid fuel with manned rockets. SRB's cannot be turned off once started. After the Challenger accident, it turned out that Werner Von Braun was right.

      March 3, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
  10. James

    Now the 1% are gonna Own the Space Station

    December 9, 2011 at 7:43 pm |
    • trackerball

      ...and the remaining 99% with Occupy it asking for free rides to the space station.

      December 9, 2011 at 9:21 pm |
      • Vishnu

        Questo un RPG, Alone in the dark un gioco d'azione.Il paragone non molto tisuciro.Qui inoltre la grafica gi ottima, direi che gi in partenza questo gioco promette bene. Comunque meglio non fidarsi di niente, che meglio.. : )

        April 9, 2012 at 12:47 am |
  11. dragon tamer3

    Go drangon u can do it

    December 9, 2011 at 6:56 pm |
  12. mark

    so whats the deal?? the space shuttles are gone and now the goverment is building space fighters?
    what are they for? is there somthing else we don't know about until its too late

    December 9, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
    • Incredible


      Deal with it. Oh, unless you can do it better. If you've not seen this participation by private industry coming for the last decade, then you need a wake up call. I'm trying to be nice about it, but come on, you find this to be surprising in any way, shape or form. That concerns me more than what's going on now. So please grow up and realize that it doesn't take nasa to take care of business, and in most of history regular people have been the innovators, so grow one and either help out, or at least stand out of the way so that those that can DO. And Happy Holidays to you and your's.

      December 9, 2011 at 7:27 pm |
      • Marv Rippe

        Space fighters? Trying to understand where you even got that. Did I not read this article?

        December 9, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
      • tyron368

        Merry C H R I S T M A S To you and yours!!!!!

        December 9, 2011 at 9:08 pm |
      • Scott

        We need something to direct research and tech breakthroughs. The fact is that the new private space businesses are standing on the shoulders of giants, which is a good thing. It's about time for that.

        The government (meaning the taxpayers) are still subcontracting. It's still a handout to a small and select group of private companies from the government. A few middle-men are gone, but otherwise it's the exact same people doing pretty much the same stuff. This isn't a big revolution. We privatized military supply chain in the 1990s and now, we pay a lot more to feed and clothe the troops.

        Privatization does not always equal cheap. Well have 2 bids for space trips, Russia and SpaceX.
        Russia will be cheaper, because their technology has had longer to amortize, and it's still proven to be sufficient.

        December 13, 2011 at 7:47 am |
    • Tom


      I am an engineer and I can tell you that private industry ONLY INNOVATES when there is SHORT TERM PROFIT involved. They don't do it for mankind, for the future, for knowledge or for any other reason than making quick money. That is why government does some things BETTER than industry. But perhaps you are just another conservative greedy hack that only sees dollar signs.

      December 9, 2011 at 8:26 pm |
      • Generik

        I may normally agree with that thought process but not in this case. I think you have a generation of people who saw the potential of manned space flight get squandered by NASA to the point that it has now been ground to a complete halt. I see a small but growing industry headed by middle aged and overly wealthy visionaries hoping to get humans back on track to exploring beyond our planet. Many of which know the fruits of their labor will probably come after they are no longer around to see it, but such was the case with the pioneers of air flight as well.

        December 9, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  13. 60minuteman

    It's Dave man, open up.
    Dave's not here..... teeheehee....

    December 9, 2011 at 6:20 pm |
    • 112321


      December 9, 2011 at 7:21 pm |
  14. Carl, Secaucus, NJ

    This is good news. Remember that SpaceX was founded by an South African immigrant (Elon Musk). There are still people like Musk and Franklin Chang-Diaz (from Costa Rica) coming to America to help reclaim the manned spaceflight vision of the 1960s. We can't go back to the past–but we can cheer for those who are working towards the future.

    December 9, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • Junius Gallio

      Well said!

      December 10, 2011 at 12:01 am |
  15. vlad

    fart. big smelly space fart.

    December 9, 2011 at 5:58 pm |
    • vlad

      oh, also... im cooking mussels marinara for dinner w/ rigatoni. maybe some type of veggie, but havent decided on that. salad too! gonna be delish.

      December 9, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
      • Juan

        Grow up, idiot.

        December 9, 2011 at 6:36 pm |
      • sharoom

        Keep it simple. You already got tomatoes in the marinara, but add some wine.

        December 9, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
      • vlad

        juan, just bc ur wife is upset with your micropenis doesnt mean you have to call me an idiot.

        December 9, 2011 at 6:49 pm |
  16. Necrofun

    Tourists knock on the front door of the ISS, ISS responds, "What's the password?".

    December 9, 2011 at 5:56 pm |
    • sharoom

      Girls have cooties and boys stink!

      December 9, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
      • vlad

        circle circle dot dot

        December 9, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
  17. AMERICA 1st

    All that money wasted on useless spaceships could be better used to deport the undesireables out of the USA!!!!!!

    December 9, 2011 at 5:52 pm |
    • Adolf Gadaffi

      The technology from all those space missions is what's making your life a hell of a lot better than it used to be. And some of the technology being used from those space missions is being used to better secure our borders.

      Unless you want the Russians to build better rockets and spacecraft... you closet commie.

      December 9, 2011 at 6:13 pm |
      • Pointless1

        Please expand on how space exploration is making our lives better? I would love to hear this one...

        December 9, 2011 at 6:54 pm |
      • Gracko

        There are countless ways that the space program has benefited mankind. FFS, use Google for dozens of them.

        December 9, 2011 at 8:03 pm |
      • Yeah, lots of stuff Tang!

        December 9, 2011 at 8:25 pm |
      • Generik

        @Pointless1 I love this question.. How about the technology that powers CAT scanners and MRI scans? Not good enough? Cordless power tools. Water filtration advances used globally now, including tap filters you can buy for your home. Kidney dialysis machines were the direct result of NASA developed processes. And those are just some of the benefits from the Apollo era of NASA.

        How about scratch resistant glasses, those comfy insoles in your running shoes, and smoke detectors.. Yeah.. NASA and manned space flight has no benefits to our daily lives...

        December 9, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • joe

      Good reply...never mind the technology spawned from the space program!

      December 9, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
      • Pablo

        This truly is one of the most interesting copits around nowadays. On the one hand, you have government funded space exploration. The government has never been all that efficient in any of it's various programs, and this one is no exception. As mathman pointed out, when the government program becomes political in nature, the original mission, or purpose, of the program becomes lost. At that point it becomes more of a political payback machine than anything else. Now, on the other hand, you have the private enterprise outfits, doing everything from putting satellites in orbit to working on private manned space flight. Private enterprise, most of the time, is much more efficient at getting things done than government. The only exception is when the private enterprise becomes part of crony capitalism, and starts relying on public governmental funding for part, or all, of it's operations. Then it is no better than government itself. Hopefully, the private enterprise firms can avoid this. It is sad to see the end of an era, concerning NASA, but there might be some bright spots in the future if the private enterprises work like I believe they will.Reply

        March 3, 2012 at 1:42 pm |
    • joe

      ...besides, if you want them out...change the laws!!!

      December 9, 2011 at 6:21 pm |
      • Doug

        Or just enforce existing laws

        December 9, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
    • D

      Yep. They come here "in peace" and ask for handouts. Then they commit murder and rape, wipe out the buffalo, spill oil all over the beaches, and, just to rub it in, make movie called Avatar (Did you get the ending?). Go home greedy eurotrash.

      December 9, 2011 at 6:39 pm |
    • Junius Gallio

      Unless you are a full-blooded member of one of the First Nations, you too are a descendant of immigrants.

      December 9, 2011 at 11:59 pm |
      • Greycat

        And even they came to what is now America from someplace else. So, in the long run, everyone is an immigrant with possibly the natives of the eastern Sub-Sahara region.

        December 28, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
  18. J R Brown

    The Democrats have had control of the budget for the last five years and the White House for the last three...I'd say I don't know how they can say the deficit is anyone else's fault with a straight face. However, there are dupes who fall for their schtick hook, line and sinker every time.

    December 9, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
    • J R Brown

      My bad...this was supposed to be a reply to Junius Gallio's posting

      December 9, 2011 at 5:50 pm |
    • TJ

      Check for yourself, I believe the republicans have controlled both house and senate for the majority of the 90's through 2007 with a short break in the senate from 2000-2002 under democrat control. W inherited 3 years of a budget surplus and managed to hose that up in less than 1 year. I'll give him that he was saddled with 9-11 but its not difficult to argue that he played with the US miliary like they were his GI Joes. Afghanistan was legitimate in my eyes but Iraq was nothing short of criminal.

      Since I could vote I've voted Reagan, Bush, Bush, Dole, Bush and then it ended... Do the math, read a little and know your history before you run your mouth as someone's brain washed ditto head; a clud which I too was once a member. It's time everyone in this country start thinking for themselves and turn off the damn media. The talk shows and news are what's running and ruinning this country. When we think for ourselves we are collectively brilliant right down to the McDonald's worker. Read something other than fox and CNN. There's some interesting stuff here but question everyone's motivation. You too can find the truth... It just takes a little work.

      December 9, 2011 at 10:34 pm |
    • Junius Gallio

      > The Democrats have had control of the budget for the last five years and the White House for the last three

      Indeed? So...
      1. the Republicans did not win control of the House in 2010?
      2. The deficit did not long predate President Obama or a Democratic Congress?
      3. The economy (which hit the crapper well before Obama took office) does not affect government revenue?
      4. President Obama had no extensive, and expensive, obligations that he was required to continue?

      Are these things somehow not true? It is far more accurate–and far more honest–to say that BOTH parties share responsibility for our current economic issues. Attempting to blame one side or the other is dishonest in the extreme.

      December 9, 2011 at 11:54 pm |
      • Paw

        SarahsFabChannel Posted on I love your videos They make me happy even hotugh I'm not getting married anytime soon. Your brides should check out my channel for help losing the weight for the big day hotugh

        April 6, 2012 at 12:42 pm |
  19. SassyCakes

    I hope that they have chocolate cake. I love chocolate. NO MARBLED CAKES ALLOWED!

    December 9, 2011 at 5:31 pm |
  20. Josh

    It doesn't say.... will Dragon be unmanned and with no cargo/supplies?

    Is there a Dragon docking adapter already on the Harmony node?

    December 9, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Mark

      visa versa, I would assume.

      December 9, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
      • Althea

        Se la grafica si mrnaetr quella di questi screenshot una volta uscito il gioco, diventer uno dei migliori RPg per Wii (ok, non contando il fatto che gli rpg per wii stanno sulle dita di una mano, comunque sar spettacolare).Speriamo solo che queste immagini non siano la classica esca buttata l tanto per attirare l'attenzione, quando in verit il gioco tutt'altro.Se anche sono un'esca, per , devo dire che snano fare il loro lavoro.

        April 7, 2012 at 5:41 am |
    • Top Astro

      Dragon will be unmanned for this flight, though it will be pressurized with atmosphere inside. It will use the standard adapter on the Harmony node.

      December 9, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • Top Astro

      Oh, BTW. No cargo sent up on this flight, but cargo will be sent from ISS back to Earth.

      December 9, 2011 at 5:46 pm |
      • Jimh77

        They are sending all their garbage and waste back for recycling. It will either make it back or burn in the return. Either case, the ISS will be pure again. I hope they do and they resume the role of moving people to and from the ISS.

        December 9, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
      • Where does it go?

        Cargo, like poop?

        December 9, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
    • Generik

      From what I've read, NASA has worked closely with SpaceX and the Dragon capsule has been fitted with a standard docking collar to mate up perfectly with the ISS. I am really hoping this goes well as this could really fast track the US to being able to launch astronauts again without relying on our "friends" the Russians.

      December 9, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
      • Ugo

        lol its alwas about money dude look at the budget of nasa for the alpolo program something like 5 billion dollars a year and that was in 1960 s, 70s today that same budget would equal 11 billion a year we did land on the moon u have to understand it was a whole program with many missions not just the famous alpolo 11 which was a show boat mission to say we landed on the moon the ones before and the ones that followed actually were for science.

        March 4, 2012 at 11:46 am |
    • Maxi

      MistyXoXo Posted on Thank you, Beth! I like the post you made for the member's page. I look fwroard to seeing more posts from you and other participators. <3

      April 6, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
  21. Mark

    I gots a baaaaaaad feeling about this.

    December 9, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Top Astro

      Why? There's not need to have such a feeling. This will be the third flight of the Falcon 9 launcher and second for the Dragon spacecraft. The total cost to the taxpayer for all three flights is a tiny fraction of what was spent on NASA's failed Ares I launcher.

      December 9, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  22. Necrofun

    They will be wearing Hawaiian shirts with camera's strapped around their necks and they will be loud.

    December 9, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • MaryM

      lol Nec, great visual

      December 9, 2011 at 5:36 pm |
  23. louis

    AWESOME SAUCE! If private industry could take over orbital stuff, NASA could focus more on a return trip to the Moon and maybe even a trip to Mars. Of course, money is going to be needed, and a president that believes in the space program.

    December 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm |
    • Junius Gallio

      We do have a president who believes in the space program–unfortunately, he is also a president who is dealing with a bad economy and record deficits. (And no, I'm not going to get into the blame game of whose "fault" the deficits are–fact is, they are there, and President Obama and our current Congress has got to deal with them.)

      December 9, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
      • Edward Gaddis

        Thanks Junius, it's nice to read an adult comment.

        December 9, 2011 at 8:38 pm |
    • Mike

      I love it too! While I'm not a supporter of Obama, I really like this vision he had for the space program. Get NASA out doing exploration instead of dealing with low Earth orbit stuff where we have been stuck since Apollo.

      December 9, 2011 at 9:33 pm |


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