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MOSCOW, February 6 (Itar-Tass) —— The first Dragon commercial spacecraft will be sent to the ISS no earlier than April.
Last week, at a meeting of ISS programme participants, the U.S. side informed its partners that the launch originally planned for February 7 was postponed for at least two months, a space industry source told Itar-Tass on Monday, adding that it was a minimal period needed to conduct additional ground tests and prepare the spacecraft for launching.
Late last week, NASA official spokesman Michael Suffredini said the Dragon capsule of the American company Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) will be launched for its first flight to the ISS no earlier than March 20.
A Falcon-9 launch vehicle will be used to carry the spacecraft to the orbit. It will blast off from the Cape Canaveral launch site (Florida).
At the first stage, the capsule will fly 3.2 km away from the ISS to check the reliability of the onboard equipment work. Then, the Dragon will automatically approach the station. The ISS crew with manipulators will take the capsule to dock.
The American spacecraft is planned to dock with the American segment Harmony on the side facing the Earth. At the concluding stage, the Dragon will undock, come off the orbit and land on the water in the Pacific near California's coast. The capsule is designed to descend with a parachute and make a hard landing on water.
NASA concluded a 1.6-billion dollar contract with the SpaceX company creating a reliable vehicle to carry people and cargoes to the ISS and earth orbits. The sum is expected to be enough for 12 missions of the reusable Dragon.
The commercial craft weighs three tonnes with up to six tonnes of cargo. It will be capable to carry seven people.
The company plans to launch Falcon-9 rockets from the U.S. Air Force Vandenberg base in California and the NASA Cape Canaveral spaceport.