“Fezzik, you did something right.”*July 27, 2011
So according to Fox News, NASA finally did something that showed a bit of courage. They are going to mash the objectives of two SpaceX unmanned Dragon test flights into one, and actually dock with the ISS in early December on the first test flight of the Dragon spacecraft. (The one flown on the Falcon 9 test was a dummy.)
Good for them. We need to get this thing flying. SpaceX has shown that it will go slow when necessary, and speed up when possible. Maybe the fact that a lot of the risk is using SpaceX’s money has a bearing on it, but they’ve received a bunch of NASA development money, too, so I can’t say that NASA doesn’t care if it fails.
Orbital Sciences says they will have the Cygnus in orbit in 2012. We’ll see. The Taurus II first stage booster is sort of a super-Zenit, with some of it contracted out to the Russian builder of that missile/launch vehicle. It’s not yet been flown. The Cygnus is an unmanned cargo carrier only, like the Japanese H-II and the European ATV, so it will have competition with government-subsidized vehicles. Dragon is the frontrunner for carrying crew.