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Space X shoots for May 19 launch for first commercial flight to ISS

Washington - The first commercial spacecraft due to dock with the International Space Station could launch as soon as May 19, the company behind the rocket said Friday.

The launch has been postponed numerous times as the company tests systems that it will use to dock with the station and works through other issues.

"Space X and NASA are nearing completion of the software assurance process, and Space X is submitting a request to the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station for a May 19th launch target with a backup on May 22nd," spokeswoman Kristin Brost Grantham said.

"Thus far, no issues have been uncovered during this process, but with a mission of this complexity we want to be extremely diligent."

Space X’s Dragon spacecraft is to take a three-day flight to the ISS and undertake a series of complicated docking manoeuvres and tests to prove it can safely latch onto the orbiting station.

The unmanned Dragon capsule will blast off atop a Falcon 9 rocket from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida and carry 521 kilogrammes of cargo, mainly food for astronauts living on the station. If all goes as planned it will return to Earth with 660 kilogrammes of discarded cargo.

The Dragon is to remain at the station for several weeks for the ISS crew to unload cargo, before the robotic capsule re-enters the atmosphere and splashes down off the California coast.

The move is seen as a landmark in the development of a commercial spaceflight industry that is to carry astronauts aloft in coming years.

NASA retired its ageing space shuttle fleet last year and plans to focus on developing craft to travel on longer missions, with their sights eventually set on Mars. It hopes to shift short-range flights to the ISS and elsewhere to the commercial space industry, but until then is reliant on Russian Soyuz craft to carry astronauts aloft.//DPA




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