SpaceX Aims for March 1 Dragon Launch

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Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, has requested a March 1 launch date from the Eastern Range, which operates the Cape Canaveral, Fla., spaceport from where the company’s Falcon rockets fly.

Like the company’s two previous flights, the rocket will carry a Dragon cargo capsule loaded with food, supplies and science experiments for the International Space Station, a permanently staffed research laboratory that flies about 250 miles above Earth.

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SpaceX has completed an investigation into why one of the Falcon rocket’s nine engines shut down early during the last launch on Oct. 7, 2012.  The primary mission — a cargo run to the station — was not impacted, as the rocket’s other motors compensated for the power loss. Nevertheless, the issue needs to be understood and any corrective actions taken before the next mission is cleared to launch.

“We’ve gotten to root cause and we’ve briefed that to our customer (NASA),” said Garrett Reisman, SpaceX’s Commercial Crew project manager.

“Right now we’re just making sure that all of our i’s are dotted and our t’s are crossed. We do intend to make that information more widely disseminated very, very soon,” he said.

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In all, the Eastern Range’s 2013 launch calendar includes six Falcon flights — three for NASA and three for commercial customers. SpaceX also plans to start flying from its new west coast launch site at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base this year.

Image: The SpaceX Dragon capsule berths with the International Space Station on October 2012 during its first resupply mission. Credit: NASA

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