NASA recently announced February 7, 2012, as new target launch date for the upcoming mission. In addition, NASA officially confirmed that SpaceX will be allowed to complete the objectives of COTS 2 and COTS 3 in a single mission.
This means Dragon will perform all of the COTS 2 mission objectives, which include numerous operations in the vicinity of the ISS, and will then perform the COTS 3 objectives. These include approach, berthing with the ISS, astronauts opening Dragon and unloading cargo, and finally astronauts closing the spacecraft and sending it back to Earth for recovery from the Pacific Ocean off the coast of California.
This mission marks a major milestone in American spaceflight. While our first missions to the ISS will be to transport cargo, both Falcon 9 and Dragon were designed to ultimately transport astronauts. Every trip we make to the ISS from this point forward gets us closer to that goal. SpaceX is incredibly excited for what the future holds and, as always, we greatly appreciate NASA’s continued support and partnership in this process.
SpaceX announced on their web site “For its first mission to the International Space Station, SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft will use deployable solar arrays as its primary power source for running sensors, driving heating and cooling systems, and communicating with SpaceX’s Mission Control Center and the Space Station. Dragon’s solar arrays generate up to 5,000 watts of power — enough to power over 80 standard light bulbs. The solar arrays, shielded by protective covers during launch, deploy just minutes after Dragon separates from the Falcon 9 second stage, as it heads towards its rendezvous with the Space Station.
While many commercial satellites and NASA missions such as the Hubble Space Telescope use solar arrays, Dragon will be the first American commercial transport vehicle to do so.”