This NASA illustration shows the Dragon spacecraft approaching the ISS. The mission is scheduled for May 2012.
Private spaceflight company SpaceX is scheduled to launch its unmanned capsule to the International Space Station on Saturday (May 19) on a mission that marks the first time a commercially built spacecraft will link up with the orbiting outpost.
The firm's Dragon capsule is slated to lift off Saturday at 4:55 a.m. EDT (0855 GMT) from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The flight will be used to test the spacecraft's ability to rendezvous and dock with the space station. SpaceX will also demonstrate that it can abort the capsule's approach to the station in the event of an emergency.
On May 19, NASA Television (http://www.nasa.gov/ntv) will provide live coverage of the Dragon launch, though there are other events set for before and after the launch. Here's a schedule of NASA webcast events for the first Dragon launch to the space station (all times subject to change):
Friday, May 18: A prelaunch news conference with NASA and SpaceX officials will be held at the Kennedy Space Center's press site at 1 p.m. EDT (1700 GMT). NASA Television will provide live and streaming coverage on the agency's website.
Participants in the prelaunch news conference will be:
- Phil McAlister, acting director of NASA's Commercial Spaceflight Development program
- Alan Lindenmoyer, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew and Cargo program
- Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX
- Joel Tumbiolo, launch weather officer for the 45th Weather Squadron at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station
Launch Day - Saturday, May 19: NASA TV's coverage will begin at 3:30 a.m. EDT (0430 GMT) and will conclude at approximately 5:30 a.m. EDT (0930 GMT). Launch information will also be available on local amateur VHF radio frequency 146.940 MHz, heard within Florida's Brevard County.
SpaceX also plans to provide a live webcast of the launch at its website here: http://www.spacex.com/
A post-launch news conference will be held at the Kennedy Space Center's press site at approximately 8:30 a.m. EDT (1230 GMT). The briefing will be streamed live on the agency's website.
Monday, May 21 (Flight Day 3): NASA TV will air live coverage from the Johnson Space Center mission control in Houston as the Dragon spacecraft performs its flyby of the International Space Station to test its systems. [Gallery: Dragon, SpaceX's Private Spacecraft]
The program will begin at 2:30 a.m. EDT (0630 GMT) and will continue until the Dragon passes out of the vicinity of the station. A news briefing will be held following the flyby.
Tuesday, May 22 (Flight Day 4): Live coverage of the rendezvous and docking of the Dragon spacecraft to the station will begin at 2 a.m. EDT (0600 GMT) and will continue through the berthing of the capsule to the outpost's Harmony node. A news briefing will be held once Dragon is secured to the space station.
Wednesday, May 23 (Flight Day 5): NASA TV will air live coverage of the hatch opening and entry of the Dragon spacecraft, beginning at 6 a.m. EDT (1000 GMT). The space station crew will mark the occasion in a ceremony.
The Johnson Space Center will also provide live coverage of the departure and re-entry of the Dragon capsule once a date for the maneuver is determined.