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NEW YORK, March 1 (Itar-Tass) – The American company Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) on Friday will launch to the International Space Station (ISS) the Dragon cargo spacecraft. Its launch from the spaceport at Cape Canaveral (Florida) is scheduled for 10:10, US East Coast time (19:10 MSK). The Falcon 9 carrier rocket will be used to place the ship in orbit.
Dragon is a partially reusable spacecraft developed by SpaceX, an American private space transportation company based in Hawthorne, California. Dragon is launched into space by the SpaceX Falcon 9 two-stage-to-orbit launch vehicle, and is capable of both manned and robotic operation. During its uncrewed maiden flight in December 2010, Dragon became the first commercially built and operated spacecraft to be recovered successfully from orbit. On 25 May 2012, an uncrewed variant of Dragon became the first commercial spacecraft to successfully rendezvous with and be attached to the International Space Station. SpaceX is contracted to deliver cargo to the ISS under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services program, and Dragon began regular cargo flights in October 2012.
At a pre-launch meeting at NASA its experts confirmed full readiness of the spaceship-capsule and rocket for the flight, and the ISS crew – for receiving the Dragon ship. The capsule’s docking with the ISS, which will be conducted by NASA astronauts with the use of a remote manipulator arm, is scheduled for March 2.
The Dragon spaceship will deliver to the station cargoes, including scientific equipment and products with the total weight of about 600 kg, and will take back to Earth the results of experiments, unnecessary parts and waste. According to the expedition plans, the ship is to splash down in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California on March 25.
It will be the third flight of Dragon to the ISS and the second within the framework of the NASA-SpaceX contract to deliver goods to the station. The spaceship performed the first – demonstration flight last May, and the first commercial flight – last October. The agreement between NASA and SpaceX, which built Dragon, provides for 12 expeditions to deliver goods to the ISS. The contract is valued at 1.6 billion US dollars.
On February 12, the Russian cargo spacecraft Progress, launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome, delivered to the ISS more than 2.5 tonnes of cargo, including food, water, fuel and technical equipment. In April, the European cargo spacecraft named after Albert Einstein was launched to the ISS. The ISS crew currently comprises Russian cosmonauts Oleg Novitsky, Yevgeny Tarelkin and Roman Romanenko, NASA astronauts Kevin Ford and Thomas Marshburn and Canadian astronaut Christopher Hadfield. The commander of the 34th expedition to the International Space Station is experienced NASA astronaut Kevin Ford.