Dragon Flight Still on For Tomorrow -- Will There Be Ice Cream?
The chances of the weather cooperating tomorrow for the SpaceX launch of Dragon to the International Space Station have not improved, but today's press conference raised hopes that, whenever it goes, there'll be ice cream for the crew onboard.
At the usual L-1 press briefing one day before launch, technical talk about launch windows, problems on the ISS and the future of space tourism were overshadowed by a cheery thought -- will this CRS-1 Dragon mission bring a "surprise" to the ISS crew? The question was asked early in the press conference and ISS program manager Mike Sufferdini and SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell briefly compared notes and Shotwell said something about ice cream. Other reporters picked up on it as the press conference proceeded and by the end, Sufferdini was trying to dampen expectations, laughingly saying that he'd forgotten to check before he walked into the room so was not certain if the ice cream made it onto the final cargo list. Dragon will be delivering a freezer needed for scientific experiments, so it might be possible.
Shotwell said that the Falcon 9 launch vehicle with the Dragon capsule does not need to be vertical on the launch pad until 1:00 pm ET tomorrow for the planned 8:35 pm launch, giving them plenty of time yet to load cargo.
Apart from potential ice cream, Dragon will take 1,000 pounds of cargo to the ISS. Shotwell said the contract with NASA requires them to deliver a total of 20 metric tonnes (MT) of cargo, but it is looking more like it will be 60 MT by the time all 12 missions under contract have flown. Sufferdini lauded the ease with which NASA can deal with an American company, avoiding customs regulations associated with the other vehicles that can take cargo to the ISS, which are Russian, European or Japanese.
Considerable press attention has been focused on SpaceX's interest in building a launch site in Texas, but Shotwell emphasized that it is only one site the company is considering. Others are in Florida, Georgia, Puerto Rico, and her favorite, she said, would be Hawaii.
Shotwell also was asked about the company's interest in space tourism, especially considering the press reports that Russia has sold a flight to Sarah Brightman. Shotwell said she's always happy when someone buys a ticket to fly into space, but that is not a focus for SpaceX and called the space tourism market "ill-defined."
The reports that Brightman bought a ticket to fly to the ISS came at the same time an announcement was made that the ISS partners have agreed to keep two ISS crew members -- one Russian, one American -- on the ISS for a year-long mission in 2015. The media reports suggest that Russia's desire to resume selling tickets to non-NASA customers prompted the decision for the long duration mission, making a Soyuz seat available.
Sufferdini said there have been preliminary discussions about which two crew members would get the one-year assignment, but a final decision will not be announced until mid-late October.
Meanwhile, the chances that the Dragon launch will take place tomorrow remain at only 60 percent because of unfavorable weather conditions. They improve to 80 percent for Monday or Tuesday.
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