Private Space Capsule's Launch Debut Slips to Nov. 18
An artist's conception of SpaceX's Dragon craft in orbit.
Credit: SpaceX

WASHINGTON ? The private spaceflight company Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX) has shifted the planned Nov. 8 launch of its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon cargo vessel to Nov. 18.

"SpaceX is targeting November 18th for our next launch with the 19th and 20th as backup dates," said SpaceX spokeswoman Kirstin Brost in an Oct. 23 e-mail.

The flight, a demonstration of SpaceX?s medium-class Falcon 9 rocket along with its cargo-carrying Dragon space capsule being developed under NASA?s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, was originally slated to occur in September 2008 per the Hawthorne, Calif.?based company?s 2006 NASA Space Act Agreement.

The document was later modified to reflect a June 2009 initial demonstration flight. Routine resupply runs to the international space station were expected to follow as early as December of this year under a fixed-price contract worth $1.6 billion, but hardware development has taken longer than planned. [Photos: SpaceX's First Falcon 9 Launch]

The first COTS demo will be a four-hour flight meant to show Dragon can complete as many as four orbits, transmit telemetry, receive commands, maneuver, re-enter the atmosphere and make a safe water landing for recovery.

SpaceX is one of two U.S. companies with a contract to provide cargo delivery missions to the International Space Station using unmanned commercial spacecraft.

The other company is Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corp., which is developing the robotic Cygnus spacecraft and a new Taurus 2 rocket to launch it toward the International Space Station. Orbital Sciences won a $1.9 billion contract to provide eight cargo flights to the space station.

Earlier this year, SpaceX launched its first Falcon 9 rocket on in a successful debut flight test. That test flight carried a mockup of the Dragon spacecraft which did not separate the booster's upper stage.

This article was provided by Space News, dedicated to covering all aspects of the space industry/ Staff contributed to this report from New York City.