2012 is still a few steps away, but, folks at NASA already have massive plans lined-up and have already made announcements about the same, according to an official post on NASA's website. The announcements include, the launch date for Space Exploration Technologies or SpaceX's COTS (Commercial Orbital Transportation Services) demonstration flight, which as per the schedule will take place on February 7th, 2012. Currently, the team at NASA is working at getting final safety reviews, carrying out testings and verification. Also, NASA's ISS will have an interesting visitor, next year. SpaceX has got NASA's approval for sending its Dragon spacecraft to the ISS on a mission. 

Dragon receiving some final touches (Image source: SpaceX)

Dragon receiving some final touches (Image source: SpaceX)

Giving a little more detail about the Dragon mission to the ISS is an official post of the SpaceX website – “This next mission represents a huge milestone not only for SpaceX, but also for NASA and the US space program. When the astronauts stationed on the ISS open the hatch and enter the Dragon spacecraft for the first time, it will mark the beginning of a new era in space travel.

The NASA post further reveals that over the past few months, SpaceX has been relentlessly working towards making it happen. Although, some work still needs to be done to ensure the success of the mission, the post reveals that, “There is still a significant amount of critical work to be completed before launch, but the teams have a sound plan to complete it and are prepared for unexpected challenges. As with all launches, we will adjust the launch date as needed to gain sufficient understanding of test and analysis results to ensure safety and mission success.”

During Dragon's flight to the ISS, the spacecraft will carry out a host of check-out procedures to test its systems before its big day.  These include – “a fly-by of the space station at a distance of approximately two miles to validate the operation of sensors and flight systems necessary for a safe rendezvous and approach. The spacecraft also will demonstrate the capability to abort the rendezvous, if required.

Once Dragon completes these procedures, successfully and reaches ISS, i.e. once it makes its final approach to the ISS, the capsule will be attached to the side facing the Earth of the Harmony node. Just when it has to make its return journey to the home planet, the capsule needs to be detached from the ISS. 

The success of this mission will etch SpaceX's name to be the name behind the first commercial company in history to join with the International Space Station.

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