Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, a startup commercial launch services firm founded and run by internet entrepreneur Elon Musk, is still wrangling with NASA over the software needed to berth the privately owned Dragon capsule to the International Space Station.
That issue, combined with the upcoming launch of three new crewmembers to the orbital outpost, is triggering another delay in SpaceX’s trial run to the station, a $100 billion outpost owned by the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada that orbits about 240 miles above Earth.
Since the retirement of the space shuttles last year, NASA is dependent on its partners for flying crew and cargo to the station, a situation it plans to remedy by spurring private U.S. companies, like SpaceX, to do the job.
Cargo hauls are scheduled to begin this year. SpaceX and a second company, Orbital Sciences Corp., share NASA contracts worth $3.5 billion. SpaceX’s upcoming flight is a test run, partly financed by NASA.
The U.S. space agency is in the process of reviewing bids for space taxi designs to fly its astronauts as well.
Image: Engines are ready, but software isn’t. SpaceX’s Falcon 9 rocket is tested fired on April 30. Credit: SpaceX